Chatting with Edgardo del Popolo of Dona Paula Estates, Argentina
“Blends are definitely the next step for Argentine malbec.” That opinion was voiced to me by Dona Paula winemaker Edgardo del Popolo while we were tasting a few of his wines the other day. Edgardo (or Edy as he prefers to be called) and I were at The Only Running Footman in Mayfair for a small tasting and we were chatting about not only Dona Paula’s wines but also meandered into the future of Argentine wine.
Edy was referring specifically to malbec/cabernet franc blends. He thinks that consumers today are looking for not just everyday wines from Argentina but also for premium, high quality wines. And that is where blends come into play. Dona Paula have found some great vineyard spots in the Uco Valley of Mendoza and it is here that he’s planted not only cabernet franc but also chardonnay and malbec. Edy thinks that the cabernet franc lifts malbec, giving it the structure that it needs. He compares it to Bordeaux blends, merlot and cabernet sauvignon are fine on their own but put them together and it’s a whole different dimension.
So what about these great vineyards that Edy was talking about? He was referring to the Altamira and Gualtallary vineyards of the Uco Valley. Dona Paula has such confidence in Edy that about 15 years ago he was tasked with finding the best region both in climate and soil for Dona Paula’s wines. Edy found both areas by flying over them and once identified, they had to ride in on horseback to inspect the soil as they were in a completely isolated region. Dona Paula then bought 160 hectares, each hectare going through extensive analysis to decide what would grow best there. Edy liked the region because the soils were particularly poor but full of calcium carbonate which he believes gives his wines the minerality he prizes.
One of the grapes he thinks do well in the Gualtallary is chardonnay. Edy wants to make a chardonnay that is not the usual over oaked, buttery, tropical fruit bomb. He has in mind more mineral driven, almost Burgundian style of wine. The vineyard is situated at about 1300 meters so it has a cool climate which are good for the grapes. It rarely gets about 26C in the day or below 10C at night, which for Mendoza is quite impressive. We tried the 2010 Dona Paula Estate Chardonnay and it was a very tasty example. Subtle, integrated oak, bright and fresh fruit with citrus notes, a crisp and clean wine, not at all what I was expecting. The wine also had good acidity which Edy says naturally comes from the grapes. £10.99 from greatwinesdirect.co.uk and winepoole.co.uk
We also tried two of his malbecs, the Paula 2011 Malbec and the Dona Paula Estate 2010 malbec. The difference in the two wines being that the Paula wines come from the Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza which tends to be about 2 degrees warmer then the Uco Valley. The grapes are riper and that was reflected in the wine, having a lot of sweet fruit but still tasting fresh with a savoury herbal aroma, almost garrigue in character. I detected thyme and lavender,surprisingly. On the palate, a medium bodied wine with lots of red berry and strawberry flavours and a hint of spice. An easy drinking wine and all for around £8 a bottle available from strictlywine.co.uk and greatwinesdirect.co.uk
The Dona Paula Estate 2010 Malbec from the Uco Valley was a much more complex wine. It’s a blend of the best blocks in the Altamira and Gualtallary vineyard, the fruit grown at between 1100 -1300 metres. Edy thinks this is a great expression of the region. It had a complex, spicy nose, with fine grained tannins on the palate, fresh and lively fruit on a finely structured, balanced wine, there was no jammy or cooked fruit to be found on the palate of this wine. An excellent wine and even better is the price, a snip at £10.99 available from slurp.co.uk and greatwinesdirect.co.uk
It seems that Edy and Dona Paula have found a great sub region in Mendoza, now I can’t wait to try the malbec/cabernet franc blends….