The circle of life has suddenly become a lot more present and important in our lives, thrust itself upon us (in Argentina, at least) mid-March and forcing us to reassess our own mortality, as well as our lifestyles and behaviours and decisions. Shit got real.
So when it came to tasting two 20th-century vintages as well as from the dawn of the new millennia alongside their 2018 counterparts, the circle-of-life timing from Bodega Lagarde was impeccable.
The Pescarmona sisters, chief executive Sofía and California-based brand ambassador Lucila, had the brain wave of pairing the past with the present to taste evolution with a vintage Lagarde line tasting, subtly throwing a little future into the mix.
It’s a rare treat – certainly for me, with a youthful past in Argentina (14 years and two days, but who’s counting) and an even more youthful relationship with Argentine wine as a sommelier (seven or so years) – to sample any local vintage that has clocked up double digits, history captured inside bottle.
Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, Malbec 1999 and Merlot 2001: hot damn, who were you and where were you then? The former, at secondary school; the second, living in Argentina for my year abroad; and the latter, weirdly I was back in Argentina on holiday when the economic shit hit the fan and the travellers’ cheques I’d brought with me were impossible to change and I had to travel to Uruguay to get cash. (I’m sure you get the irony.)
First was Lagarde Merlot 2001 and its 2019 present; both sourced from the same Luján de Cuyo vineyard. Brick red with luminous reflections, 2001 is delicate, elegant, evolution in its prime, but still brimming with life. It had surprisingly marked tannins that surpassed my expectation, as well as prunes and other dried fruit, nutty hints and tobacco. Its 2019 counterpart was just as delicate but with delicious round tannins and some additional floral notes.
Second up was Malbec 1999, which underwent more intense extraction and remontage back in the day, according to head winemaker Juan Roby, also in on the online tasting, followed by its 2018 self, perky and vigorous as to be expected from a Luján Malbec.
As for the 1990, it was fascinating to learn that 30 years ago Cab Sauv was Argentines’ red grape of drinking choice, according to Sofía, with 60 percent of production given over to the world’s most-planted red. “Cabernet Sauvignon is my first love,” she added, and it’s easy to understand her long-term romance with this elegant and noble Luján number, pure evolution.
Lagarde’s emblematic and eponymous line, from which all six vintages where selected, has just undergone a makeover for 2020, updating the label that continues to respect 123 years of winemaking heritage with a beautiful image of the original red-brick bodega, while also adding Red Blend 2019 to its ranks, a new addition comprising Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Malbec (33%) and Syrah (27%).
If you’re feeling reflective, in the mood to drink some heritage or would like to further your wine education, Lagarde has these – and four other – ‘older’ vintages as well as two magnums available from its online store from 20 July; they are available now – and you can buy a single bottle – but by emailing email@example.com until that date.
Prices at time of writing are Merlot 2001, 6,080 pesos; Lagarde Malbec 1999, 8,040 pesos; and Cabernet Sauvignon 1990, 28,200 pesos.
Some years ago I suggested to Pablo Rivero, owner and sommelier of Don Julio steakhouse in Buenos Aires, that he should name the list’s well-aged section ¡Viva la evolución! He did, and I stand by those words: Long Live The Evolution!