Argentina is best known for Malbec, the Bordeaux transplant grape that found its natural home in the Uco Valley’s high-altitude and sunny climate near Mendoza. However, Argentina has much more to offer besides great Malbec. I recently got to try several wines from Familia Zuccardi which were both eye-opening and truly exciting.
Familia Zuccardi was founded in 1963 by Alberto Zuccardi and is now run by its third generation Sebastián Zuccardi.
The winery has always had a strong commitment to sustainability through its vineyard water recycling programs and use of green fertilizers, as well as through its social welfare programs and energy conservation efforts. Familia Zuccardi currently has 800 hectares of vineyards in the Mendocinian districts of Vista Flores, Altamira, La Consulta, Maipú, and Santa Rosa. At present, 35% of these vineyards are certified organic with the rest of them using sustainable production systems.
Familia Zuccardi is also committed to innovation and has been a pioneer in the production of several varietal wines including Tempranillo, Bonarda, Viognier, Caladoc, Ancellotta, and Marselán. In addition, the first late harvest wine of Argentina (Santa Julia Tardio mentioned below) and the first fortified Malbec wine (Malamado) were made in their winery.
We started our tasting with Argentina’s best-known white grape, Torrontés. This grape has a unique texture and aromatics which make it beloved on a blind tasting. As Torrontés is a cross between Criolla Chica (known as the Mission grape in U.S.) and Muscat of Alexandria, it combines the exuberant florals of the latter with the workhorse nature of the former. I’ve had a few in the past that were uninspiring but this one from Salta, the 2017 Zuccardi Serie A Torrontés, was impressive. Pale lemon in color with green tints, this vivacious wine radiated salty citrus and pineapple aromas cushioned in crisp minerality. Torrontés’ trademark waxy texture announced its arrival with an almost effervescent tingle on the nose.
Next up was the lovely Santa Julia Organic Blanc de Blancs. Made with 100% Chardonnay organic grapes from Mendoza, this wine had an easy-going style with ripe red apple, lemon, and lightly toasted bread notes. At $12 a bottle, this is a steal for a quality sparkling wine.
The 2017 Santa Julia Chardonnay was also very good with mouth-filling texture and a supple body made in a clean linear style. While I’m not a Chardonnay fan, this was very drinkable with ripe lemon, almond and saline notes on a lingering viscous finish. This wine was also made from organic grapes.
We moved on to the reds after that and these were a real treat. We started with a side-by-side tasting of the 2013 Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon (from Valle de Uco) and the 2013 Zuccardi Q Tempranillo (from Santa Rosa). The Cabernet came from two high elevation sites – Tupungato (4035 feet) and La Consulta (3608 feet) in the Uco Valley. Intensely purple in color, this wine tasted of red and black fruit with savory herbs. Firm tannins and zesty acidity supported the ripe fruit in this fresh and spicy wine.
The Tempranillo was a beautifully structured tapestry of black plum, violet, iron minerality, tobacco leaf, and smoky campfire notes. At $21 this is a fantastic value for a well-made wine that will also age several more years.
The 2013 José Zuccardi, from the Valle de Uco region, was named for Sebastián’s father José and made from 90% Malbec (from Paraje Altamira) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon (from Gualtallary). This robust wine was excellent with concentrated blackberry and plum notes, vibrant acidity, and a spicy elegant finish. Vinified in concrete vats and fermented with indigenous yeasts, the wine was then aged in oak foudres and bottled without filtering.
The 2012 Tito Zuccardi from Paraje Altamira and Valle de Uco was the star of the show rivaling many good Napa Cabernets and Bordeaux-style wines in complexity, elegance, and its myriad of black fruit, tobacco leaves, licorice, and dried herb nuances.
Named for founder Alberto Zuccardi who was known as “Tito” (Sebastián’s grandfather), this wine earns its noble name. Made from 66% Malbec, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Ancellotta and 10% Caladoc, this wine was made from fermentation in concrete vats with malolactic fermentation in barrel. Different lots were then aged in French oak of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th usage for 12 months before blending. In addition, part of the Malbec was fermented with its stems contributing to the freshness and spice flavors in the wine.
Last but not least, we got to try the 2016 Santa Julia Tardio (Late Harvest Torrontés). What a cool wine this was! At only 7.5% alcohol but 130 grams of residual sugar, this wine was shockingly dry on the palate with a svelte body and the Torrontés trademark texture. Fresh peach, pear, orange peel, and apricot flavors interlaced seamlessly with honey and almond notes, all backed by vibrant acidity and an ample yet lightweight feel on the palate. This was a very unique and sumptuous wine, perfect with cheese and dessert.
This tasting was fantastic and gives a tiny glimpse into the great diversity and quality that Argentina has to offer. Look for these selections and enjoy the history and pride behind Familia Zuccardi’s terrific wines.