Tasting Notes: ‘South America – more than big reds’ presented by Rob Caswell, Solent Cellar, 27 September 2017

Rob works at Solent Cellar in Lymington, and those who know the shop will be aware of what a splendid array of wines they seek out and offer for sale. One area of expertise is South America and Rob put together a very interesting and varied selection of wines, some quite surprising and not what one would associate with this warm and fertile continent.

1)     Miolo Rose Brut 2014 (£15.99 reduced to £13.99 for BWC members) – a bottle-fermented pure Pinot Noir sparkler from Brazil. Very flavoursome and full on the palate – not a lot of brioche compared with a vintage pink champagne but a fraction of the price, really good value. Decanter magazine recently gave very high marks to its stable companion white Brut. Made in the far south of Brazil near the Uruguayan border.

2)     El Albasto Torrontes 2016 (£10.99 reduced to £9.99 for BWC members) From Argentina’s indigenous white grape, of Muscat ancestry, this had a very floral nose but good acidity on the palate to balance it, then a touch of green apples on the finish. A very attractive and easy-drinking wine, a favourite along with the next wine on the night.

3)     Garzon Albarino 2016 (£16.99 reduced to £14.99 for BWC members) From one of the major Uruguayan producers, Albarino has found a good second home here. This wine has the expected tropical fruit notes, good acidity and mineral backbone, although a little short on the finish, possibly owing to the young vines. It should repay some cellaring.

4)     Vina Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2016 (£14.99 reduced to £13.99 for BWC members) A big oaked New World Chardonnay, but not over-rich or buttery as some of the Aussie wines in this style. With a touch of forest floor on the nose and good minerality, it hints just a little at a rich Burgundy. A marmite wine, you either like or loathe the style – I liked it.

5)     Garage Wine Co. Pais 2016 (£18.99 reduced to £16.99 for BWC members)  From the rather quirky young Garage Company, Pais is the workhorse grape of Chile, considered low class and used for jug and communion wine! So, this offering was a bit of a surprise, with quite austere fruit and high minerality from some old vines. An interesting and different rustic wine.

6)     Garzon Tannat Reserva 2015 (£16.99 reduced to £14.99 for BWC members) Tannat was originally a Basque grape, used in the dark wines of Madiran and Cahors and now finding a second home in Uruguay and becoming the best red grape here. Unlike the French versions, where the clue is in the name and which require significant ageing, this dark full-bodied wine is soft and smooth with amazingly velvety tannins, plums and raspberries on nose and palate. Reminiscent of Southern Italian Negroamaro wines, this is a quality and very good value red and one of the best Tannats I have tasted.

7)     Garage Wine Co. Cabernet Franc Lot 62 2014 (£26.00 reduced to £23.00 for BWC members) From a single plot and not blended, quite the darkest Cabernet Franc wine I have ever seen. A big (14% abv) full-bodied wine with excellent structure and complexity, one can understand how Cabernet Franc was the ancestor of Cabernet Sauvignon when one tastes this. With clear but soft tannins, this wine will age well. So completely unlike the Loire style, with no sign of the “green stalkiness” one often gets, this was the wine of the night for me – top class. Only a little made of these lots so get it soon if you want it.

8)     Vina Cobos Bramare Malbec 2014 (£30 reduced to £27 for BWC members) From the signature Chilean red grape, a classic big South American red with relatively smooth tannins and vanilla notes from new American oak. A touch of brandy burn on the palate along with rich red fruit, to me the wine did not seem to be quite balanced, maybe needs some bottle age.  Not especially good value  given the competition in Chilean wines these days.

John Harris