The buzz on Achaval Ferrer, from a critical standpoint, is seemingly approaching a zenith, yet I believe their wines still get lost in the shuffle w/ regard to many fans of old world wines. The fast appeal of Argentina’s flagship grape seems closely linked to value, their immediacy of primary fruit and easy going supple textures. Flying winemakers like Paul Hobbs & Michel Rolland (not to mention a project involving Cheval Blanc) have flocked to South America, making wines of exquisite polish and explosive flavors. While their success certainly speaks for itself, I don’t believe that is all Argentina has to say. Achaval Ferrer is a case and point, and is a producer that I believe Old World fans should not ignore.
The reasons I think Achaval Ferrer lines up nicely w/ Old World palates (unlike several popular Malbecs from Argentina):
· Low alcohol, low pH (high altitude vineyard sites, early harvesting)
· Serious, legitimate minerality
· Potential longevity (how many producers actually recommend decanting their wines on the back of the label?!)
· Familiar thread (old, pre-phylloxera vines, poor soils)
· Lazy wine-making (judicious use of oak, minimal S02, wild fermentations)
· Singular wines (they don’t taste like Cabernet or Merlot…they don’t seem as if they could have been made from ‘just about anywhere’)
That being said, their profiles are unique and of course, aren’t for everyone. While the single vineyard designates are pricey, the entry level Malbec blend is a qualitative equivalent to a good vintage of Vieille Cure or Chateau D’Aiguilhe (for less money). If you haven’t tried a Malbec from Achaval Ferrer or if you have any preconceived notions w/ regards to what Argentina is all about, give a recent vintage of their entry level Malbec a shot. It’s a low risk, high reward proposition….and as the team at Achaval Ferrer recommends, please decant.
Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza '08
The most fresh Malbecs almost always come from Achaval Ferrer, w/ their '08's 'typicity' blend (the SVDs are more about showing off each particular parcel) revealing about as dark a robe as any, yet clocking in under 14% alcohol. The fresh and lively perfume is filled with lilac, basil, cedar, wild blueberry, cassis and roast beef notes. In the palate, the wine has mouth-watering acidity and laser-like focus, gliding w/ ease to an elegant mineral-bath of a finish (the likes of which I seldom notice in any red wine of this intensity). In my opinion, the only other appellation that can produce wines with this remarkable level of clarity and finesse at this price point is Bordeaux, 91 points.