On Wine

Andean myth buster

Don’t listen to the critics. When it comes to wine the new world produces some real works of art

In the summer of 1910, the White Star Line commissioned a fine new painting from the marine artist Norman Wilkinson. It was to be worthy of the first-class smoking-room of their latest and loveliest liner, RMS Olympic. Wilkinson duly obliged, presenting White Star’s chairman J. Bruce Ismay with a magnificent seascape of New York harbour, executed in oil, called “Approach to the New World”. The company was thrilled. Yet for years the legend persisted that the canvas was lost with the Titanic. It was a myth. The painting was never hung in it.

Similar myths persist about that other aspect of the new world — its wines. Not quite first-class, “they” say. No true masterpieces there, “they” claim. Never will win a blue riband, “they” aver. Pish. Whether from South America or Western Australia, there are some real works of art to be admired and, of course, drunk. 

Take, for instance, the output of Mendoza, in Argentina. Four centuries ago the missionaries arrived with their God and their vines. Both put down roots in the tough Andean terroir. These flavour-filled grapes from vines grown in a stony alluvial offer wine of rare richness and intensity.

The Trapiche bodega is not the oldest but it is certainly the biggest producer in the region. Now owned by the Bemberg family and under the stewardship of Daniel Pi, Trapiche has captured a clutch of awards that give old-world masters a run for their money. 

The excellent 2017 Oak Cask won silver in the International Wine Challenge last year. Plummy, peppery and with a long finish, this is a mean Malbec which has rocketed in the last two decades. To me, texture matters as much as taste, and this wine has both in mouthfuls.

It can be served easily with its tablemate the Broquel 2016, another exuberant Malbec of the deepest red. This has more blackberry and is more sweetly smoky but both bottles are perfectly balanced, finish well and are ready now for a winter supper with friends. Approach these new world pleasures in old-world company.

The Trapiche Oak Cask is available at Tesco for around £9.

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