Old Vines and Savile Row Restraint in Mendoza
Robert Parker's Wine Advocate rates just eight Argentine estates a perfect five stars. Anabelle Sielecki and Roberto de La Mota's Mendel sits at the top of the list.
As to Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer echoed Parker's praise, writing: "The Malbec that I drank more of than any other while in Argentina was Mendel. The surprise of Mendel Malbec is its detailed austerity, a feature rare in Malbecs in Argentina. The flavor is as substantial as Argentina's best. But the delivery is Savile Row-restrained."
While the big wines from Mendel -- the old-vine Malbec and the ethereal Cabernet/Malbec blend called "Unus" -- have seduced collectors worldwide, drawing comparisons to classified growth Bordeaux, at $25/bottle, de la Mota's sensibly priced Lunta ranks among Mendoza's most sophisticated bargains.
Last year we introduced hundreds of WineAccess high rollers to the elegant, black fruit bombast of the 2010 "Unus." Today, Sielecki's importer is thanking WineAccess by sharpening his pencil on what de la Mota claims is the finest Mendel Lunta Malbec to date.
In case you aren't reading the WSJ, the economic situation in Argentina is desperate. Anyone who considers our problems severe need only hop a flight to Buenos Aires to get a bitter taste of true fiscal catastrophe.
Unemployment is said to be 25%, but privately, officials admit that there's a sizable portion of those without jobs that are no longer even counted. Inflation has surged to close to 30%, particularly complicating the business lives of those who grow and bottle high-end Malbec for a living. And Argentina's banks? They're on the ropes and have largely stopped lending. Sielecki couldn't have been more blunt.
"Mendel is small. Just 7,000 cases. We believe we're making world-class wine, but in order to do so, we must farm rigorously -- and expensively. Our wines are rich and lush, but like excellent Bordeaux, they take time to open up. So we need to hold them in French cooperage, and in bottle longer than others. As we wait to bottle our wine, the cost of labor, bottles, labels and capsules goes up 2-2.5% per MONTH! With the internal economy in shambles, we export most of our production and have created partnerships in 25 countries. Still, we struggle to turn a profit!"
Drawn from ungrafted 82-year-old vines, the extravagant 2010 Lunta Malbec is brilliant purple/black in color. More approachable in its youth than the bigger Mendel wines, the aromas are of ripe blackberry and cassis, laced with violets. Big, rich and mouth-filling on the attack, far more substantial and graceful than any 2010 Malbec at anything like today's price tag, it's no wonder that Parker and Kramer are in such perfect agreement.