Stephen Tanzer Rates Cepas Elegidas

Argentina: The Cool Years  -- Stephen Tanzer - Cepas Elegidas

Current releases from Argentina are strikingly different from the wines of just a decade ago. In recent years, Argentina’s top grape-growers and winemakers have sought out cooler, mostly higher-altitude sites and soils more conducive to making fresher, more complex, better-balanced wines. Moreover, since 2013 Argentina has experienced a succession of cool vintages, and this weather trend has further intensified the shift away from porty, high-octane reds with dried-fruit character. The result has been a greater number of outstanding bottlings than ever before. 

2011 Suono by Cepas Elegidas

(15.8% alcohol; aged for 28 months in French and American oak): Medium ruby-red. Musky, liqueur-like aromas of ripe plum, red currant, chocolate, mocha and spices. Fat, pliant, sweet and mouthfilling, with obviously elevated alcohol and sweet tannins. 

2010 Brennan Firth Malbec by Cepas Elegidas

(15.7% alcohol; aged for 40 months in new French oak): Bright red-ruby. Very ripe, musky aromas of black cherry, licorice and spices. Broad, spicy and sweet, conveying a strong oak influence to its exotic cherry and currant fruit flavors. A very ripe, somewhat exaggerated wine that has somehow managed to retain decent energy. Finishes with plush tannins, very good length and a bit of alcoholic warmth.

2010 Pinot Noir by Cepas Elegidas

(aged for 23 months in new French oak): Moderately saturated medium red. Plum, cherry, mocha and smoky, spicy oak on the nose. Lovely juicy red cherry and red berry flavors are complicated by savory soil tones and accented by pepper and herbs; the nutty oak element was initially a bit overbearing but the fruit caught up to the wood as the wine opened in the glass, with a rose petal note emerging. This silky, intriguing Pinot Noir finishes with smooth tannins and peppery piquancy. Cepas Elegidas is the "garage" project of Arizona native Brennan Firth, who previously worked for wineries in California as well as with Paul Hobbs in Argentina. He makes limited lots of distinctly low-tech wine from "chosen vines," working with wild yeasts and no enzymes, giving his wines extended aging on their lees in barrel and bottling without fining or filtration.

2010 Con Tacto Malbec by Cepas Elegidas

Red-ruby. Wild aromas of black fruits, leather, black olive, spices and game, plus a whiff of adhesive tape. Concentrated, savory and sweet; a distinctly rustic, funky Malbec captivating sweetness to its plum, spice and leather flavors.  Finishes with sweet tannins and lingering leather and spicecake flavors. Don't lose this wild animal in the cellar; in fact, it can be enjoyed right now--but probably not by the fainthearted.

2009 CINQ by Cepas Elegidas

(15.1% alcohol; aged for 22 months in 60% new French oak; 90 from the 2009 vintage): Dark medium ruby. Bright aromas of blackberry, crushed stone and violet. Sweet, pliant and savory, offering lovely sweetness to its flavors of dark berries, chocolate, spices and mocha. This very rich, mellow wine is balanced to enjoy right now and its sweet, fine-grained tannins certainly won't get in the way. Finishes with lovely lingering sweetness.

-- Stephen Tanzer