Who would have thought it? A fish ceviche goes well with Argentina Malbec!
Paul Hobbs, the ‘Steve Jobs of wine’, has had a glittering career. After studying at University of California, Davis, he made wine at Robert Mondavi – Opus One no less! He had been there for seven years in the 1980s when he was approached by Zelma Long to make wine at Simi in Sonoma, California.
Paul’s first involvement in Argentina was with Catena at a time when Argentina’s wines were not known beyond its borders. Paul says that when he went back to the States his friends would ask him: “Which part of Chile is the winery?”. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Argentina’s wines became better known with dramatic improvements in production.
Whilst in Argentina he was aware of the potential of Malbec, then only producing heavy wines, realising that if the vines were grown at higher altitude than was normal in Mendoza, the warm arid region (it is classified as a desert) abutting the Andes in the west and where 70% of Argentina’s wines are produced, they could be more elegant.
When Paul used to drive through the Andes between Chile and Argentina he discovered Barrancas de Maipú, at 750 metres above sea level with alluvial soils, which could offer a challenging place for a variety of vines.
Then in 2001 he was hired by Pascual Toso, a family company that had been founded in 1890 by an Italian immigrant from Piemonte, Italy, who obviously had winemaking in his blood.
The winery now has 400 hectares of vines in Barrancas, with many varieties planted. Barrancas means canyon, down which the winds blows in the evening, cooling the grapes. The soils are a mix of stony, good for reds, and poor clay soils, good for whites, As with most vineyards in Mendoza irrigation is crucial with modern systems using 75% less water by careful management.
By using furrow irrigation the water sinks in around the vines encouraging the roots to go deep, picking up different nutrients as it travels through a layer cake of soils.
Paul was in full flow so while he talked we tasted several wines, all of them from grapes grown in the Barrancos vineyard, where Pascual Toso has a modern winery producing up to 6 million litres per year.
We started with one white, Chardonnay, attractive with its light oak touch then on to the reds.
Malbec, Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Argentina 2012
Violet, purple ruby. Brambly dark red fruit, dry, gentle tannins, warm black cherries, Hero jam!
40% aged in American oak for 8 months.
Selected Vines Malbec, Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Argentina 2012
Deep violet ruby. Smoky herby dark red fruits, dry, light tannins, warm rich attractive, “with a kiss of new oak” – fortunately American oak, not French…
40% aged in American oak for 8 months
Selected Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Argentina 2012
Dark ruby with purple rim. Minty blackcurrants, dry, spicy tannins, well rounded ripe warm red fruits.
40% aged in American oak for 12 months
Alta Cabernet Sauvignon, Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Argentina 2011
Dark ruby, purple rim. Spicy blackcurrants, vanilla toast, dry, maturing tannins, richly voluptuous!
Aged in new French oak for 14 months
Magdalana Toso, Pascual Toso, Mendoza, Argentina 2010
Dark ruby, purple rim. Warm smooth blackcurrants, vanilla, granary toast, dry, ripe tannins, rich, juicily meaty.
Very low yield 80/20 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in new French oak for 18 months
I enjoyed Paul Hobb’s approach to winemaking, his modern lighter touch using oak as a spice rather than a wooden mallet. As well as Argentina he makes wine at his own property in Sonoma and consults all over the world, the latest challenge being Armenia!
Ah yes, we were served some little tapas with our wines and, as expected, I enjoyed the prawn ceviche with the Chardonnay – then tried it with Selected Vines Malbec. Delicious! It must have been all those oaky kisses…
Thank you Paul Hobbs, Pascual Toso and Gaucho Piccadilly for inviting me.