Wine review: Doña Paula Estate Chardonnay 2013, Gualtallary, Valle de Uco, Mendoza.
I’m coming live to you from Vistalba, one of several wine-producing districts located within Luján De Cuyo, a vibrant and prestigious department Mendoza province. Yesterday I visited Durigutti winery in Las Compuertas, another district found in Luján, while on Thursday I checked out Doña Paula’s Finca Alluvia in Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley.
That’s a lot of name-dropping.
The point of throwing out all these place names is that Argentina’s new mission is to move on from “Malbec from Mendoza” and become more specific with respect to its terroir. “Malbec from Vistalba”, or “Sauvignon Blanc from Gualtallary”, for example, because a Santa Rosa Malbec will differ to a Vistalba one. One bodega, Doña Paula, considers it so important in the next developmental stage of Argentina’s wine-producing industry that it invited journalists and sommeliers to its first two-day seminar – the Argentine Terroir Workshop – on the subject (which is why I’m coming live from Vistalba…).
Terroir. A term that incorporates climate, microclimate, thermal amplitude (day and night-time temperature ranges), altitude and soil in one fell swoop. Dig deep beyond the soil surface, and you’ll see that the same vineyard can be home to clay, stone, limestone or even chalk (a variety of limestone) soils. That means the same grape varietal grown on clay or chalk – even if it’s in the same vineyard – will offer up very different characteristics when it comes to the bottled end product.
Located at 1,350 metres above sea level, Doña Paula’s Finca Alluvia is diverse. Snow-capped Andes soar in the west, while the valley stretches out below in the east. The bodega has planted at least three vine training systems here – vertical goblet, cordon and bush vine – to make the best of the ever-changing terroir, and the Chardonnay brings both grape and terroir typicity together. This Estate Chardonnay is grown in soil with a sandy top surface that turns quickly into larger stones, meaning the vine’s roots struggle to absorb water, and in fact is beneficial for the grapes as their flavours become more complex. (Sometime I think vines are more complicated than humans.)
That’s right, I’m checking out another Argentine white COS THERE’S MORE TO ARGENTINA THAN MALBEC (although we do also love Malbec). And we’re talking about most planted white in the world (third most planted white in Argentina).
I’ve never been much of a Chardonnay fan (probably because I’ve never had the good fortune to try many from Burgundy) and while I’m not a parishioner in her church, I’m now happy to be a chorister, singing her praises rather than preaching them like a recent convert.
To generalise horribly, the grape went through a backlash in the early 1990s in the UK with people detesting overly oaky Chardonnays, the wine of choice for yuppies, for no other real reason than the fact that yuppies loved it. This loathing was further extended when one of the lead characters in trashy epic soap saga Footballers’ Wives, a trollop pf a character if ever there was one, was named Chardonnay.
But we’ve all grown up and moved on. Chardonnay has proven that big buttery mouths aren’t the only style out there, I’m more open-minded – and it’s time for a new friendship to flourish.
This particular wine from Finca Alluvia in Uco Valley could be the bridge leading you from Chardonnay hate to Chardonnay love. Because what’s special about the Doña Paula Estate Chardonnay 2013 is the super integration of fruit and oak – it strikes an ideal balance. A light golden yellow, apricot, minerals and a touch of lemon come together in the nose, while hints of butter, marzipan and vanilla pod represent six months in new French oak. In fact, just half the wine was aged in barrels, which explains why the wood is present yet not intrusive.
With great acidity, this is a frank wine with all that lovely fresh fruit returning, including some pineapple too. Well-rounded, the butter also pops back up, a polite nod to French oak.
Give it a whirl. Highly drinkable on its own, this Chardonnay will pair well with starters such as pan-fried scallops, Caesar salad, grilled fish such as salmon, or even a pasta main with a creamy sauce. See how versatile she can be. Isn’t it time you became friends and said “yay” to Chardonnay?