Luigi Bosca: 2013 Malbec Value Tiers

1 09 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

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Now THAT’S a label rebrand. Thing of beauty.

Once you dive deep into the world of wine and start devoting more time and money than most people deem sane into bottles and glasses and books and storage systems, it can be a challenge sometimes to maintain a sense of discovery about larger-production brands, the workhorse wines you see on the liquor store shelves.  In part that can be valid:  some of them aren’t very good, a fact thrown into stark relief after you’ve learned about production differences and downed a quality bottle or three.  But others have found a way to keep that quality and that sense of vinous wonder despite stepping up in scale and availability, and the best of these manage to do this at an easily accessible price.  It may be as hard to create a well-made, interesting, varietally accurate bottle of 100,000-case $20 wine as it is to create a small-production luxury showpiece bottle at $100.  I’ve been able to try a few different Luigi Bosca wines over the past couple years, and they are making the former happen on a consistent basis.

I say this a lot and apologize for repeating myself, but if you want to learn about a grape or a producer or a region, buy a representative bottle and pay careful attention as you drink it.  If you REALLY want to learn a lot MORE about that grape, producer or region, buy TWO different representative bottles, drink them side by side, and note the similarities and differences.  Comparative tasting is probably the biggest educational gift you can give yourself…plus you also get to open two bottles at once, which can never be bad.  Tonight’s comparative tasting should be particularly illustrative because so much about the two Luigi Bosca Malbecs sitting in front of me are alike:  same producer, same grape, same vintage (2013), same general region (Mendoza, Malbec capital of the New World in Argentina).  What’s different?  Price points ($18 vs. $35), site specificity (general regional wine vs. single-vineyard wine from quality subregion) and grape-growing/winemaking techniques.  What shines through – the similarities or the differences?

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Check out that colour difference (no filter) – Finca La Linda (L) vs. Los Miradores (R).  Both 2013 Luigi Bosca Malbecs.  Unreal.

Before I dive in and try to answer that question, a quick preliminary word about the new artwork on the Luigi Bosca labels – stellar.  These are somehow both modern and classically beautiful at the same time and are a significant upgrade over the previous packaging.  More producers should pay better attention to this facet of the game:  it’s what gets your wines off the shelf.  Anyway, onward.

2013 Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda Old Vines Malbec ($18)

This is a new wine to the Luigi Bosca portfolio this year, made from 30 year-old vines but yet still in the entry-level category of the Bosca lineup.  The spec sheet and the back-of-bottle notes state that the grapes come from Argentina’s Mendoza region, but the primary label cites only the country name and not the region’s name, which makes me wonder if some of the grapes come from outside of Mendoza’s boundaries.  There is a marked, highly geekily interesting colour difference between this wine and the one below, with the Finca La Linda coming across as a surprising half-translucent ruby, thinning to transparency about halfway up the glass…not your standard super-violet Malbec hue.  The aromas are pretty varietally spot-on, however, leading with dark currant and grape fruit (intriguingly laced with watermelon) and trailing with a sort of struck-match smokiness and wisps of flint and date.

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At only 13.3% abv, this is the lowest-alcohol Argentinian value Malbec I have come across in some time, and this results in a springier, more agile body, a sharper, redder fruit profile and a levity to the tannins and finish that are uncommon to this category, but highly welcome.  Eight months of oak maturation lends some dark chocolate and coffee bass notes, but the wine remains crafted to ward off palate fatigue, a style the sub-$20 Malbec class can lack at times.  Very solid.

87 points

$15 to $20 CDN

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Cork Ratings: 3/10 (top) & 5/10 (bottom) – maybe a forthcoming cork rebrand too?

2013 Luigi Bosca Terroir Los Miradores Malbec

Now we take it up a notch.  Rather than being from the wider Mendoza area (or beyond), the Terroir Los Miradores Malbec is from a single high-altitude vineyard (1,150m elevation!!) from the top Uco Valley subregion in northwest Mendoza, where lower yields, sharp day/night temperature changes and careful manual harvesting combine to create a more distinctive expression of Argentina’s signature grape.  Of course, you pay for that privilege:  at $35 or so, you could buy two of the last bottle for one of these.  Argentinian Malbec has done so well establishing itself as Australian Shiraz’s successor in the value pleasure red category that it sometimes faces knee-jerk pushback when it tries to get people to pay higher prices for more premium expressions.  Is it worth it here?  I say yes.

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The instantaneous colour contrast I mentioned above becomes almost laughable when you study this wine:  it’s an almost wholly opaque blackish purple, with almost no thinning at the rim to speak of, an impenetrable void compared to the largely see-through Finca La Linda.  Without even smelling or tasting it, its look is suggestive of a bigger, more concentrated wine, which it almost surely is at 14.5% abv.  Part of the colour difference likely comes from the 5-7 days of cold maceration pre-fermentation (where the crushed grape skins sit in the juice and leach their pigment into the steeping liquid).

What makes this bottle worth twice as much as the last one?  Apart from higher production costs (better site, more careful picking and sorting, longer oak maturation in new pricy barrels), the answer to me is complexity.  There are layers to this wine that the other doesn’t aspire to, particularly on the nose, where one sniff pulls in fruit (saskatoon and blueberry, even tangerine), exotic spice (cardamom, coriander and bergamot), confection (angel food cake, icing sugar) and incense, as well as a distinctive malted chocolate twinge, that kind of aroma that keeps you coming back to figure out what it is.

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Los Miradores is also fuller, denser, richer and sweeter in the mouth, more what a backyard BBQ Malbec drinker would expect, but with a dexterity and panache not often seen in this particular sandbox.  There is enough acid to keep things flowing and gorgeous molten blackberry, anise, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and pavement flavours, anchored by subtly assertive tannins.  It is just delicious, but with the substance to match, casting aside Malbec and large-brand stereotypes and easily earning its price tag.

91 points

$30 to $35 CDN

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