QUIMERA (2012) ACHAVAL FERRER
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” …… Audre Lorde
Achaval-Ferrer doesn’t seem particularly Irish, but it certainly helped me elevate my St. Patrick’s Day meal of asparagus soup (it’s green - such is expected) and the not-so-really Irish Corned Beef & Cabbage traditional plate with the aid of their (2012) “Quimera” Bordeaux Blend from Mendoza Argentina. It’s 24% Cabernet Franc, 16% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot and 50% Malbec. Each of these grapes is allowed in Bordeaux blends, though seldom are all used. And while France is the original home of Malbec, Argentina has since become the area of choice among consumers worldwide.
I enjoy both styles, but there’s no denying the finished wines are different. Think Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio, or Syrah and Shiraz. Same grapes, but different wines. Malbec from France (sometimes called Cot or Auxxerois there) generally has more structure and firmer tannins. Within the terroir of Argentina however, the grape yields a wine that is softer, more velvety and fruit forward. Quimera is a Bordeaux blend for those with a bent toward “new world” character, but who still appreciate “old world” essence. The wine offers a slightly fruit forward profile but without being jammy. It also accomplishes this without being aggressively dry or tannic. A nice and balanced mid-point.
Deep purple in the glass, the nose offers cassis, green pepper (from the Cabernet Sauvignon), and notes of mixed dark berries in bitter chocolate. Silky in the mouth, but with just enough grip to be pleasant, the wine offers a hint of rosemary with layers of blue and blackberry with some black pepper spice and red cherry that announces itself as you slurp air through the wine. I’ve tasted and written about Achaval Ferrer wines before and remain impressed throughout their line. From entry to top label, Achaval Ferrer produces value at each price point, making wines that can be enjoyed for special occasions or everyday enjoyment. A 2012 ”Finca Altamira” (my favorite) is a single-vineyard Malbec by Achaval Ferrer and retails for about $115. But they also produce a 2015 Malbec (rated 91 points by Robert Parker) and available retail for just $24.99.
Check out the photo of the bottle’s back label. Any winery that provides such detailed information on the back label, instead of marketing foo-foo, is obviously very dedicated and proud of what they put inside the bottle. The Cabernet Franc and Merlot are from their vineyards in Tupungato at an elevation of 3445 - 3600 feet. Cabernet Sauvignon (old vine) is from the Medano vineyards (2400 – 2625 feet) and the Malbec and Petit Verdot from Medrano and the Lujan de Cuyo (3150 – 3400 feet). Good sun but with cooling breezes and occasional cloud cover allow for slowly ripening fruit with delicious ratios of acid to sugar. Malbec, in particular, can produce a wine that is flabby and under structured when vines are given too much sun.
Grapes were hand harvested from March 7 to March 21, 2012 and yields were restricted to 1.3 tons per acre. Put in terms that we can all appreciate, it takes two vines to produce enough juice for one bottle of Quimera. In a nod to “old world” winemaking, Quimera is fermented in cement tanks (with pump overs for maximum extraction). Aging is 12 months with 60% in one year French oak and the balance in new French barrel.
Quimerais $34.99. It earned 92 points from Wine Spectator, 90 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Vinous, and 17.5 (out of 20) from Decanter. It’s always reassuring to know that one’s impression is shared by others considered experts in the field. But for me, the decision was easy. One taste and I recognized that this was a classy but classic Bordeaux.
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TECH SPECS FOR QUIMERA
(Total) Acidity: 6.71 g/L
Brix at Harvest 25
Vine Training: Vertical shoot positioning, 1.7 – 1.8 meters high (5.57 – 5.9 feet)
Winemakers: Santiago Achaval; and Roberto Cipresso
Production: 7,212 cases