I’m a fan of Malbec wines, and because of that I’m definitely a fan of Argentinian Malbecs. Either a 100% Malbec or a Bordeaux blend – the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon – are among my favorites. In the tasting below I enjoyed Malbec and Malbec Cab blends that ranged in price from $15 to $65, and liked them all. And, for Bodegas Caro, they will soon have another Bordeaux grape that may enter the mix in the future, and that is my current favorite varietal: Cabernet Franc. Color me happy. Let me share the details with you, from the invitation, the tasting and what we learned:
Invitation and Tasting (my notes are in italics below each wine listed)
Please join us for a special virtual tasting led by Philippe Rolet, Estate Manager of Bodegas Caro…in 2019 Philippe Rolet became Estate Manager for CARO, a partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the Catena family dating from 1999. Situated in the heart of the Mendoza region in Argentina, Bodegas CARO’s ambition has been to produce a unique range of wines that would combine two cultures, French and Argentine, two grape varieties, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, and the expertise of both families. Together, we will taste the following:
- Aruma 2018 $15 – A pure Malbec made from a blend of grapes from the best terroirs in the Mendoza region. “ARUMA” means “night” in the language of the Quechua, the native Indian population of the Mendoza region. The name suggests the deep darkness of the nights in the Andes and the very pure mountain air: the wines have the same rich, authentic character as their terroir. (EB: 91 points on the 2017 from James Suckling and 90 on the same vintage from Decanter. This $16 sipper was my favorite in the tasting. The nose was rich and velvety smooth with dark ripe plums. On the palate I also got a LOT of spice that was balanced with blue to black fruit. I thought it tasted much older than a 2018. Rolet suggested serving it slightly chilled, with or without food.)
- Amancaya 2017 $20 – Amancaya, like its older brother, presents a harmonious balance between the Argentine and Bordeaux styles. The wine is more fruity due to the higher percentage of Malbec and shorter ageing. The word AMANCAYA is the native Indian name of a flower found at high altitudes in the Andes in the Mendoza area. (EB: Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Red Blend. This 2017 vintage was awarded 93 points from James Suckling. Lots of barnyard when I first opened the wine, which most quickly blew off, made it interesting. Lots of earthiness, brambly, grilled mushroom and oak all on the nose. Tasting the wine I found it a little brighter than the Aruma 100% Malbec, very clean and not as spicy.
Rolet said this one came from a cold and dry vintage, pair with rack of lamb and to stay tuned for a new label. The name Amancaya refers to a flower grown in the region, that is also known as the “engagement flower” a young man would present to his intended during a proposal.
- CARO 2017 $65 – CARO, from Catena and Rothschild, has a strong Argentine identity, characterized by the Malbec grape, which is given further elegance and complexity through blending with Cabernet Sauvignon. The combination produces a voluptuous, refined wine with a harmonious balance between the wine’s Argentinian identity and its Bordeaux style. (EB: The 2015 was awarded 92 points from Wine Spectator and the 2014 got 95 points from James Suckling. Rolet said this was a limited production wine, comes from “specific sub divisions of terroir”, and since they don’t make it every year it’s scarce. I found a beautiful nose filled with lots of dark fruit, spice, tobacco and dark chocolate. Drawn in for a taste I got a rich spicy mouthfeel and that same luscious dark fruit. Rolet said it was also from a cold and dry vintage. The wine is known in the market as very elegant. This vintage spent 14 months in oak barrels, Rolet commented that it was very layered; he recommended that it be decanted – I didn’t decant. 2000 was the last vintage they made and he said the wine could age 20 years.)
My Takeaways from Estate Manager Philippe Rolet
Rolet, with decades of wine experience under his belt – that took him from Switzerland to Chablis to Chile – we learned that he now has 25 years of experience in Argentina alone. He explained that the winery was built in 1884, has underground cellars and, due to Covid-19 is not yet open to the public. During our Zoom session Rolet let the camera roam around in the winery’s “Cultural Center” that was home to many Mendoza-based painters and sculptors. (This is definitely a winery to visit as soon as it’s safe to do so. We are currently missing their snowfall and world renowned skiing.)
Most of their wine is sold between September and December, they have no plans to make a white wine as the terroir isn’t there for it. As far as the Cab Franc I mentioned in my intro, Rolet said that they have been interested in cultivating it for a long time in Argentina – ten years. They only have about two acres and plan to add two to four percent Cab Franc in a future vintage of their Amancaya.
Wines are distributed by Southern Wine and Spirits in Southern California.
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.