Familia Schroeder – more pinot, this time in Patagonia

  When I was in Mendoza last month I tried some rather big and brawny pinot noirs. I wondered aloud on twitter if these were the only kinds of pinots to be had in Argentina.  Lo and behold, Twitter spoke and before I knew it, I was on a bus to Patagonia, heading for the vineyards of the province of Neuquen in Patagonia to see what kind of pinots they are producing. The Argentine winery Familia Schroeder have planted 120 hectares and grow pinot noir along with the usual suspects of malbec, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon. First, a bit of history behind the vineyards of Neuquen. Back in the early 2000´s the state government of Neuquen realized that the natural oil and gas that was the bedrock of it´s economy was going to sooner or later dry out. What to do? They decided they needed a long term investment plan and settled on giving money and tax breaks to anyone who would plant a vineyard in the area and make wine. The area surrounding Neuquen consists of high desert plataeus with a narrow valley running between two that has been irrigated for years.  The primary crops grown are cherries and strawberries, people knew that crops would grow in the soil. The not so hard part was to get winemakers to venture south. Many winemakers from Mendoza came down as the climate is similar, desert land with very little rain, lots of sunshine, quite a large thermic amplitude and very few pests. The added ingredient being the Patagonian winds that seem to blow almost constantly and causes the berries of the vine to have thicker skins then their Mendocino kin. How much of an effect on the wines this would have, remained to be seen. The new wine producing region has been christened San Patricio de Chañar and is where almost all the vineyards of Patagonia can be found.   While I was there, one entire day was given over to a dust storm, producing a brown haze and rather poor visibility. They say it´s good for the...

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I really wanted to like this wine…Padrillos, pinot noir from Mendoza

The pinot noir was not a hit. What a shame. My Argentine friends asked me what ever possessed me to buy a pinot noir from Mendoza when I could have bought a perfectly good malbec or syrah from Mendoza. I guess curiosity got the better of me. I´ve had pinots from Patagonia but never from Mendoza so when I spotted it on the shelf I just had to buy it. That and combined with the fact that it had the name Catena on it, I thought it would be good bet. But sadly, it wasn’t. Padrillos is the handiwork of the son of Nicolas Catena Zapata, Ernesto. Going into the wine making business for himself, Ernesto sources the grapes from other growers and makes the wine. Visiting the website, there is a whole story about the Incas and lost treasures etc but it all seemed a bit too much. The back label of the pinot noir also seems to ramble on with a story about a stallion climbing the Andes mountains and some how relating it to the freshness of the wine. This is my rough translation but my friends said it didn’t make much sense in Spanish either. Honestly, if you have to make up such a story, is it a distraction from the wine? In this case, I think yes. I haven’t tried the other wines he makes but I’m not really tempted to based on the pinot. A simple wine with not many defining characteristics other then “tastes like fruit juice” as my friends commented. I thought it had lots of cherry on the palate but I think they were right, it was like drinking cherry cola minus the fizz. Light to medium bodied, it reminded me of Beaujolais but not as good. What a disappointment, I was so looking forward to loving this wine, especially after paying 40 pesos for it. Bear in mind, you can get a perfectly acceptable bottle in the supermarket for 12 pesos and a really good...

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Patagonian Pinot

Patagonia. Howling wolves, wind-driven snow storms over a desolate landscape and survival of the fittest. That’s what I imagine Patagonia to be like, and I’m sure you can find that out there, but it’s not all Bear Grylls and Ironman. Valle Perdido is a new winery/spa resort in Patagonia that has recently started producing excellent wines. Penny Johns, manager of the Bluebird wine shop, recommended today’s vino to me. She says it’s one of her new favs and after gulping it down, I can say I wholeheartedly agree with her. It’s another pinot noir from S. America but this time from the “right” side of the Andes, as the Argentines love to remind me. Argentina’s flagship grape is Malbec but if you scratch the surface of their viticultural portfolio, you’ll find that they are beginning to branch out into other varietals and doing a very good job of it. Valle Perdido has a state of the art facility but their philosophy is to use as little intervention as possible and let nature take it’s course. They get up at the crack of dawn to pick the grapes and use a gravity system to move the must (or juice) around the winery. This helps to preserve the aromas and flavours of the wine. The 2007 Pinot Noir was a pure delight from start to finish. Before we knew it, this little baby was gone, baby, gone. Looking at it, it was a clear, pomegrante red in the glass. A fresh, red fruit nose was the first thing I noticed. Then it evolved into perfumed raspberry and cherry scented aromas with a hint of sweet spice. Swishing it around my mouth, I found spicy red cherry, strawberry and a warm toastiness with a fruity finish. There was one last, lingering, bitter chocolate note that seemed to hang on by it’s fingertips before slipping away. The tannins were very soft, almost velvety which made for an easy drinking, medium bodied wine. An impressive example of Patagonian pinot...

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