Last month, along with a few other wine writers and sommeliers, I attended a private tasting of Argentina’s Zuccardi Wines at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Two hours, and eight single-vineyard, terroir-heavy wines later, and the bottle I wanted a second taste of was off to the side. “Can I have that bottle of Tito red and spend some time with it?” I asked. They obliged.
I fell for wine in large part because of varietals — the nebbiolos of Piedmont, Germany’s Rieslings, California and New Zealand and Oregon Pinot Noirs. As a beginner, drinking varietals is a good exercise to get a feel for the flavors of different grapes in their unadulterated form.
But as I go along and become more experienced with buying and drinking wine, I am discovering that more often than not, I enjoy blends just as much, sometimes more. A handful of this year’s stand-out wines have been unpredictable, surprising, eye-opening blends. And after that second (and third, and fourth) glass of the Tito Red, I have to say, it is one of the top wines of the year.
Made from a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Ancellotta grapes grown in the La Consulta sector of Mendoza’s Uco Valley, everything about the Zuccardi Tito is luscious. The color (inky purple), the aroma (blackberry and licorice), the texture (forward yet smooth) and the flavor profile (see below) create a seductive progression. The next thing you know, the bottle is empty.
I think the secret to this wine’s brilliance lies in that small 15% portion made up of Ancellotta grapes. An Italian variety from Emilia Romagna that is most commonly used to blend into Lambrusco — the wine equivalent of Pluto to Argentine Malbec’s Mercury — it adds a delicate sweetness that takes the edge off the usually gruff Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Tito blends vary from year to year, so unfortunately the 2011 won’t be duplicated. At least not exactly. Let’s hope they consider another recipe with Ancellota from now on.
2011 Zuccardi “Tito” Red – La Consulta
Valle de Uco (Mendoza), Argentina
Grapes: Malbec 68% / Cabernet Sauvignon 17% / Ancellotta 15%
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2 (out of five)
• Profile: ★★★★ 1/2
• Food Friendliness: ★★★★
• Value: ★★★ 1/2
Recommended for: Sausages and roasted peppers are a great fit, but I also kept thinking this wine would nicely match the ambiance of a winter’s night in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Go figure.
Tasting notes: Just looking at the Tito blend is intoxicating: a deep, inky purple color with thick tears on the glass. Expressive and refined on the nose with blackberry and licorice aromas. On the palate, things get very interesting with a healthy amount of blackberry and currant, resin, hazelnut, violet flower and piñon smoke. Ultra smooth texture with tannins present at the front of the palate, but no searing dryness. A long finish. Make that a looong finish. Extraordinary.
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