Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2011

achaval-ferrer-quimeraPlaced in the preamble to the Andes Mountains in central-western Argentina, Mendoza is home to the country’s most prolific wine region. The grapes grown there – predominantly Malbec – benefit from a medley of favorable conditions including altitude, rugged soils crammed with rock and sunny, arid days that are followed by cool nighttime temperatures. The terrain produces plush and vibrant wines that have a lot to say about their place of birth.

Achaval Ferrer, while one of the finest producers of Argentina, clings firmly to a small production approach. It made its bones from a coveted clutch of wines that stem from low-yield farming practices and a fine collection of fincas (vineyards) spread across the region. The vines are at high altitude, 2,400 to 3,600 feet above sea level, accounting for outstanding acid counts in the grapes. This natural acidity is the byproduct of the extended Mendozan growing season and the moderating effects of cold, crisp overnights in the mountains.

The winery’s outstanding Quimera cuvée, 2011 vintage, is now available in Pennsylvania as a Chairman’s Selection. Be advised and don’t delay as it will be quick to flee the shelves. I can see the Land Rovers loading up by the case as I write this.

Quimera translates roughly as “impossible goal,” meaning it’s the Argentinians’ attempt to match the brilliance of first growth Bordeaux via South American means. Drawn from a variety of Mendoza’s sub regions, it’s blend of, in descending order, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

There’s plenty of truth found under this cork: Unadulterated, fleshy fruit with very little monkeying around with oaky gimmickry. The flavor is ripe with cherry and black and red berries, light leather/tobacco notes and the soil and stone of the vineyards. The acidity – the wine’s structure – is formidable. There’s a flicker of heat from the 14.5% AVB and it’s a little short on the finish but these are hardly fatal flaws.

With polish and tremendous balance, the PLCB’s asking price of $28.99 rings up as quite competitive when judged against online prices that hover between $29-50 (the 2009 vintage, available in PA, sells for $50). A lower-priced alternative to BDX? Sure, but it’s more than that – it’s a standard of South American bottled beauty.

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