More Patagonian winetasting adventures – Bodega NQN
It´s windy in Patagonia. I mean, really windy. The wind never seems to stop. While it´s not very good for my hair, it´s great for the vines. The desert winds of Patagonia sweep the vineyards clear of pests, make for an antiseptic environment, keep humidity to a minimum and gives the berries a thick skin.
Neuquen, Patagonia has some of the newest vineyards in the world, most of them in fact were started less then 10 years ago. San Patricio del Chañar is what they´ve christened the newest wine producing region of Argentina and it sits between two desert plateaus, an oasis in the Patagonian desert, none of which could be possible without extensive irrigation. Fortunately, the Rio Negro runs through the desert and it is from this river that the vineyards get their water.
Following a dusty, narrow, one and half lane road (it seemed like that to me, every time we saw a bus coming our way, I closed my eyes in anticipation of getting hit by it) we finally arrived at Bodega NQN, situated about 50 kms from Neuquen city. An ultra modern winery, it sits on top of a small hill overlooking the vines. Because there is so much space in Argentina, this vineyard covered hectares and hectares of land. They have over a 1000 hectares to work with, only a fraction of it being currently used but there are plans to plant more vines in the future. Lucas Nemesio, the owner of the vineyard was kind enough to sit down with me for lunch, paired with his wines, in the winery restaurant Malma.
Over lunch, Lucas explained to me that their philosophy is to keep the character of their Patagonian wines. They don´t want to cater to any particular markets or styles. For this reason, they don´t have a flying winemaker as many Argentine wineries do, but prefer to go it on their own and see what the grapes themselves are capable of producing. The vines of Patagonia are very young and Lucas sees his job as learning what the grapes can do, working within the parameters of what they´ve got. They have to deal with the wind, the sun ( which can be so fierce in summer that they protect their more valuable vines with netting so they don’t get sunburned!) and the challenge of navigating a new wine producing region. Everything is a work in progress for them. They are producing very good wines but Lucas feels that this is just the beginning. He thinks in 15 -20 years time, the wines of Patagonia will start to really shine. His main points being that the region is already producing wines that are naturally high in acidity, have an innate minerality, and are fruity without being overbearing. He knows they can build on this already impressive framework. Until then, he´s happy to watch over them, experiment and tweak his wines along the way. Below are the highlights of lunch…
My tasting notes:
2010 Malma Pinot Noir – from their entry level range, an unoaked red, the berries are from the youngest vines and is an easy drinking pinot, jsut the right balance of acidity, fresh and fruity but slightly confected. A pretty little wine, Lucas has high hopes for this pinot.
2007 NQN Reserva Malbec – a dark coloured wine, the thicker skins of the grapes due to the constant winds give it lots of colour without over extraction, this is a dark and minerally wine. Lucas thinks the mineral notes are key to and very characteristic of his wines. The red and black fruits of the wine hang in the background of this medium bodied wine.
2007 Malbec Coleccion NQN – the premium wine of NQN, this wine spends between 12 -15 months in oak and a further 2 years in bottle although Lucas says they are still experimenting with both oak aging and bottle aging of not only this wine but all of their wines. A supple and smooth wine, full of dark chocolate notes, it reminded me of a Black & Green bitter chocolate bar, with rocky mineral notes and juicy black fruits finishing it off.