Perhaps in Ten Years and with the Grace of God: Trapiche Tasting
As you know if you read this blog, I spend a lot of time sampling, thinking and writing about Texas wine drinking, but also focus on another topic: Wine drinking in Texas. Today, I am thinking about what things might be possible in Texas in ten or more years in and around its developing wine industry. What might it be like?
What got me started on this mental juggernaut was a recent opportunity to sample a selection of wines from a far distant land. The land was Argentina and the wine producing area was the region they call Mendoza (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendoza_wine). It is a land of high, dry plains not too much different from our own Texas High Plains (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_High_Plains_AVA). The Mendoza was originally tamed by men of true grit and determination making their livelihoods on horseback. The legacy of the Argentine Gauchos recalls many of the same attributes of our Texas Cowboys.
Texas and Argentina are also linked in history by an ancient grape called Criolla that was brought from Spain to Argentina in 1550s. During the next half century, this grape made its way up South and Central American into Mexico, making changes along the way up north. In this process, Criolla evolved into the hearty red wine grape vine of choice for Spanish missionaries that settled the new Mexican frontier land they called Tejas. What I saw in the Argentine wines that I tasted was a vision of what Texas could become in ten years, maybe more, if we might have the grace of God on our side.
Linked in Time: Trapiche to Texas
The wines that I tasted were from Bodegas Trapiche (www.trapiche.com.ar), a winery started in 1883 an now the largest producer in Argentina. Interestingly (and not trying to carry the connection between Argentina and Texas too far), 1883 was the precise year that Val Verde Winery (www.valverdewinery.com) was started in Texas by the Qualia family and now holds the record as the oldest continuously operating winery in Texas. Based on all of the above mentioned links, it is not unrealistic to expect that we could look to Argentina to see what might be in our future, right on our wine store shelves today.
An Unexpected Sparkler
My Trapiche tasting started with an unexpected experience; a South American sparkling white wine: Trapiche Extra Brut. It was mid-straw in color with yeasty aromas of fresh bread overlaid with a additional toasty note. On the palate, it was crisp with an attack of lemon zest, a steely mid-palate and a tart, snappy finish as if begging for a pairing with raw Gulf oysters on the half shell. The wine was an interesting blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Semillon, 10% Malbec from the Mendoza made with a second fermentation employing batch carbonation (Charmat Process). The yeasty quality of the wine noted in the tasting undoubtedly derived from an extended 120 day contact with the lees prior to bottling.
Torrontes – A Mysterious but Characteristic Grape
Next on the tasting slate was Trapiche Torrontes 2008. Torrontes is a mystery to many American wine drinkers as it is not widely grown outside of Argentina. However, in Argentina, it is a characteristic white wine grape making wines with fresh, aromatic qualities. Recent research has shown that Torrontes is connected with the Malvasia grape that originated in the Eastern Mediterranean. It later traveled westward to the Atlantic coast of Spain and the islands like Madeira. However, how it actually made its way to Argentina is unknown.
The wine that I sampled had a color of pale straw, in fact, it was almost clear, but the aroma floated out of the glass with light citrus notes of magnolia blossom comingled with hints of musk and anise leading to an astonishing intricacy for this pale wine. The wine felt smooth on the palate, not acidic, carrying citrus flavors with a finish of crushed almonds. These qualities make this wine a good match for lighter spicy shrimp and blacked fish preparations, or even chicken enchiladas.
The surprising fruit characteristics of this noticeably light bodied wine was derived from an extended cold soak pre-fermentation maceration that enhanced its volatile profile. Following pressing, the grape must was kept cool and fermented for 21 days at 15 degrees C producing a fresh fruit forward, yet light bodied wine.
The Almighty Malbec
The final wine was Trapiche Malbec 2008. Most wine drinkers have learned by now that Malbec is the national grape of Argentina and that it gives great ripe fruit expression when grown on the high, dry and sun baked Mendoza plains. The similarity in the growing conditions on the Texas High Plains has lead to recent plantings of Malbec in Texas, as well. [We shall talk about this further in one of my upcoming blogs.]
The tasting of the Trapiche Malbec 2008, showed a deep dark red-purple wine in the glass that was best described by one of my favorite wine words: Inky. The aromas from the wine were of red raspberry and blackberry intermixed with a suggestion of cigar smoke, green herbs and mint. The flavors were dominated by red berries and fruits with a pleasant vanilla overtone. From the land of beef eaters, this wine literally screams for a churrascaria grilled beef steak and chimichurri sauce.
Grapes in this wine were selected from the high area of the Mendoza River and were cold macerated extracting the deep purple tones followed by maceration and fermentation for 15 days and then natural malolactic fermentation. It was left to rest in stainless tanks briefly and then selectively oak treated. The process is aimed to produce a fresh, very approachable, fruit forward red wine.
Lessons to be Learned: Quality and Value
Beside the quality of these wines, their next most impressive aspect is their price. A search of local wine shops in Houston and a few online sites indicated that the Trapiche Torrontes is most affordable at $8-10 with the Malbec coming in at about $12. The Trapiche Extra Brut varied between $12-15.
More on Trapiche wines and their recent projects from a CorkSavvy interview with Gustavo Arroyat of Bodegas Trapiche, at: