2011 Casarena Malbec Reserva Mendoza
Expert Ratings
ST 91 points
WS 91 points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Casarena Vineyards Biting the Bullet and Argentina's Dilemma

A year ago, our pages were filled with stories from our trips to the high ground of Luján de Cuyo, Altamira and Vista Flores. But this year, we waved the Argentine flag far less frequently. The continued weakness of Argentina's economy and the effect it has had on Mendoza's wineries brought price increases that pushed many of our favorite Malbecs out of WineAccess's sweet spot.

In fairness to our winegrowing friends of the Andes, they've been dealt a bad hand by a government that seems hell-bent on dealing from the bottom of the deck. The annual inflation rate in the United States for the 12 months prior to October 2013 was 1 percent. Argentina's annual inflation rate? It's anyone's guess.

In May, The Wall Street Journal published a story entitled "Argentina's Inflation Dilemma." The first paragraphs read:

"Argentina's courts, in a welcome moment of sanity, have overruled attempts by Argentina's government to prevent anyone who isn't the government from publishing a figure for inflation that isn't what the government says it is."

That's how a post from Quartz put the Monday ruling to overturn heavy fines that the government of President Cristina Kirchner had slapped on economists who published their own inflation data, which the government criticized as "inaccurate."

Why was President Kirchner so worked up? The Argentine government claims that inflation is running between 10-11 percent. The nearly censored economists were coming in closer to 30 percent — or 2.5 percent per MONTH — sending shivers down the spines of Mendoza's greatest estates.

Despite what you might hear from the clerk at your local liquor store, there are just a few superstar domains in Mendoza. Each built its international reputation on the making of darkly concentrated, UNDERPRICED old-vine Malbecs. Now all are caught in the crosshairs. Either they increase costs to keep pace with inflation, or they dip into cash reserves to preserve their importer relationships.

While we sympathize with those obliged to raise prices, business is business. Many Mendoza wineries that were featured last year haven't made the cut in 2013, not after they took 15-20 percent price hikes. One that stood firm is world-class Casarena.

Alejandro Sejanovich, the former vineyard manager for Catena who now tends the old vines of Casarena, dropped fruit in February 2011, harvesting less than 2 tons per acre under turquoise skies in April. Then winemaker Bernardo Bossi Bonilla (Tikal, Luca, etc.), took up where Michel Rolland left off, conducting a long, cool vinification, turning out one of the richest, most complex Malbecs of the year.

Only lightly fined and bottled unfiltered, the 2011 Casarena Malbec Reserve was barrel-fermented in 50 percent new French cooperage. Dark purple/black to the rim, with plush aromas of mountain blueberry preserves and licorice, sweetly framed by new-wood cedar. Big, rich and structured on the attack, cloaked in black fruit velour, bracketed by sumptuous mountain tannins. Drink now-2018.

Tasting Notes

2011 Casarena Malbec Reserva Mendoza
"Good bright ruby. Captivating aromas and flavors of blackberry, blueberry, licorice, herbs and mocha oak, plus a hint of fig. Densely packed, fresh and intense, offering very good extract and life in the mouth. Finishes even and long, with supple, building tannins, sweet fruit and a note of coffee oak. Classy and satisfying for the price."
91 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

"This jammy red shows a gamy side, with hints of underbrush and leather accenting the dark cherry and roasted plum fruit, finishing with notes of cedar and licorice. Drink now through 2016."
91 points -- Wine Spectator


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