Argentinian Wine Is More Than Malbec

Gouguenheim Winery is making affordable Argentinian wine.

#malbec #argentinewine #gougenheimwinery

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Nearly fourteen years ago, Patricio Gouguenheim had the come-to-Bacchus moment many do when a career in finance has paid for everything they needed, children were launched and divorce in the rearview mirror: He bought a winery.

“I was traveling to New York for business,” he said during a private tasting at the New York offices of Vias, his importer.

“And I saw it was time for Argentinian wine.

It was true. Popular love of malbec from Argentina was starting to form in North America, and Argentina’s wine industry, which was devastated by an economic crash in the late 20th century and an ensuing vine-pull scheme that reduced acres under vine dramatically, was starting to see some reinvestment. So in 2002 Gouguenheim bought an abandoned winery in the Uco Valley and remodeled it. First was the problem of the name; the winery, which did not include vineyards, was called Valle Escondido, which can be translated to Hidden Valley Ranch. No bueno. But the name Gouguenheim, which came from his forebears, who immigrated when Alsace was under French control — hence the French spelling — is instantly recognizable if one intends to produce only for export, as Gouguenheim did. His first sale, made with purchased grapes — still his practice today — and a team of enologists, was 300 cases in North Carolina. Today he’s selling around 120,000 cases per year, with 50 percent going to the United States.

Gouguenheim is operating as what the French would call a négociant, a producer, who buys grapes (or juice or finished wine) and bottles and markets and sells them under his own name or brand. This is not unusual. Not every wine brand owns vineyards, or a winery for that matter. (On Long Island, producers like Bouquet buy grapes from growers and then make the wine at Premium Wine Group, a winery for hire, also called a custom crush operation, in Mattituck on the North Fork.)

In Argentina, and luckily for Gouguenheim, quality grapes are easier and easier to find.

In Argentina, and luckily for Gouguenheim, quality grapes are easier and easier to find. In the wake of ripped up vineyards, better vines have been planted and experienced growers and winemakers are flocking to the country. And the near desert climate, always moderated by the Andes, provides wide swings of temperature between day and night, which grapes love. Cool nights and hot days keep sugar levels from rising too high too quickly, which can make for flabby wine. And the snow capped Andes provide a nearly limitless supply of water that, due to irrigation systems set since before Spanish colonization in the 1500s, can be summoned on demand.

And the snow capped Andes provide a nearly limitless supply of water that, due to irrigation systems set since before Spanish colonization in the 1500s, can be summoned on demand.

Gouguenheim makes two malbecs, both under $20, that provide great examples of wine meant to be drunk right away and one meant to age.

He also makes two blends, priced in the high $20s, that mimic with a South American flair, a Bordeaux blend, which in its ancestral home in France includes malbec.

For New Yorkers wishing to try non-malbec Argentinian wine, it’s worth seeking out Gouguenheim’s pinot noir and torrontés. The pinot noir, which retails for about $16, is super healthy wine: clean, clear and easy to drink. No oak, not fancy or over extracted. Worth seeking out instead of your usual Oregon pinot in that price range.

Torrontés is an aromatic white grape that has found its home in Argentina. Gouguenheim’s version is like the pinot noir, ripe, clean delicious and affordable. Shoppers can find the wine with the retailers listed below:

In Vino Veritas
1375 First Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Back Label Wine Merchants
111 W. 20th Street
New York, NY 10010

Bottlenose Wine Co.
703 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Grande Harvest Wines
Grand Central Terminal Mc33
New York, NY 10017

McCabes Wine & Spirits
1347 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10075

Odyssey Wine & Spirits
490 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Rosetta Wines
40 Exchange Place
New York, NY 10005

September Wines & Spirits
100 Stanton Street
New York, NY 10002

Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits
505 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10022

Sutton Wine Shop
403 E. 57th Street
New York, NY 10022

Whole Foods Wine
808 Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10025

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Eileen M. Duffy

Eileen M. Duffy DWS holds a diploma in wines and spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust. Her book on Long Island wine Behind the Bottle came out in 2015. Visit her website, eileenmduffy.com, to find out what else she's working on.