The Patient Vintner: Bodega y Cavas de Weinert

24 05 2019

By Peter Vetsch

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

If I was to tell you that I was drinking the current release of a mid-tier offering from a well-regarded producer and from a name region, made from 70-110 year-old vines, and that the vintage date on the bottle was 2006, what would you guess the region was?  Rioja – maybe a Reserva offering from a traditional-minded producer?  Champagne, if you are extremely liberal with your definition of “mid-tier”?  Somewhere in Italy?  Portugal?  You would probably be most of the way through the global wine region Rolodex before you landed on Mendoza, Argentina, and once you did, you would probably immediately discard the possibility, knowing this to be the heart of bold, fruity, approachable Malbecs that are released and enjoyed in their youth.  Bodega y Cavas de Weinert, and its current-inventory $25 old-vine 2006 Malbec, will cause you to re-evaluate all of your presumptions; they are an anachronism in all the best ways.

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This classical estate actually has a rather recent history:  the winery dates back to 1890, but its current identity was tied to its acquisition by Brazilian Bernardo Weinert in 1975. Swiss winemaker Hubert Webber has been at the helm since 1996, when he was ensconced at the ripe old age of 27; his mission has been to craft wines from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines that avoid early showmanship and start to reveal themselves after a decade or more, as it is only then that the Bodega will release them to market.  Lengthy barrel aging (up to 5-6 years in large oak foudres in Weinert’s cool granite cellars), then further time in bottle pre-release, is the estate’s hallmark — Weinert follows the old-school Spanish model of only allowing his wines into the public sphere when they are deemed ready to drink, whether or not this follows the standard chronological vintage release playbook.  In other words, don’t necessarily assume that the 2007 will follow the 2006 as the next wine on the shelf.

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The relatively modest prices of the finished wines might be reflective of advantageous land and labour costs in Argentina, but they are not the result of any lack of care in the vineyard:  Weinert’s vineyards, located in Mendoza’s top subregion of Lujan de Cuyo, feature largely ungrafted own-rooted vines that are a minimum of 25 years old and are exclusively hand-harvested.  Fermentation takes place in cement tanks, and Weinert’s cellar boasts both the largest barrel in Argentina (44,000 L) and the oldest barrel in the world, each of which are a reminder that the goal of the Weinert wines’ extended time in barrel is not wood flavour transference (which increases the newer and smaller the barrel is), but gentle, lightly oxidative maturation.  I had the opportunity to taste a trio of Weinert offerings, all 12-13 years old (as is par for the course in this particular corner of Mendoza), to explore this wholly unique take on Argentinian viniculture.  Malbec first, as always.

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Cork Rating:  6/10 (Nice graphic coverage, but a longer and more daring effort would boost the grade. Still, they’ve held up well.)

2006 Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Malbec (~$25)

Can I dwell one more time on how absolutely insane it is for a wine with a thirteen-year maturation period to clock in at this price point?  Holding inventory costs money because it delays revenue generation while expenses continue to mount, and hanging onto a bottle for this long without attaching some kind of premium to it as a result to reflect those costs is extraordinarily unusual and (one would think) not commercially viable.  But here we are.  The liquid does not emerge from the bottle pale and tawny as one might expect, but instead a healthy half-translucent ruby-garnet colour, giving an early visual hint that this 13 year-old bottle still has life to spare.

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There are still some primary grape and redcurrant fruit aromas lingering, but this middle-aged Malbec is largely trending toward fruit leather (and actual leather, saddle-style – there are some gamey, animal hints that may be suggestive of a touch of brettanomyces yeast, which features in some Weinert wines).  Dried flowers, licorice pipes and grip tape linger around the edges, along with a prevailing sour plum aroma and an empty-pipe-bowl note often found in older Bordeaux reds.  The wine’s satiny texture immediately commands attention, playing off peaky yet weathered acidity and unobtrusive slippery tannin, carrying an initial burst of dark fruit that picks up coppery, dusty and meaty accents as it eases through the finish.  It is somewhere on the back nine of its journey, but nowhere near finished.

88 points

2006 Bodega y Cavas de Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon (~$30)

From one transplanted Bordeaux grape to another, the Cab edition of Weinert’s Varietal line of wines matches the age statement of its Malbec companion.  It is denser and deeper in colour, if still shading towards garnet and starting to thin around the rim.  Cabernet Sauvignon’s aristocracy renders this varietal expression smoother and less pitchy aromatically, its bass notes of mulled blackberry, blueberry and bakers’ chocolate intertwining with the fig, prune and tree bark lurking beneath.  There is more power and less funk than the Malbec displays, leaving the Cab to initially come across as slightly younger than it is.

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The impacts of age reveal themselves more once the wine hits the palate, although not in any blatant way:  this Cabernet’s furry tannic structure remains grippy and well-integrated, its acid restrained but alive.  Maturity is revealed more by a sense of grace and the slight hesitance in its flavour set of black fruit, topsoil, balsamic and sugarless cola, the exuberance of youth replaced by patience, calm and an unbothered sort of attitude, as if the stresses of the world had slid off it long ago.

89+ points

2007 Bodega y Cavas de Weinert “Cavas de Weinert” (~$33)

We reach Weinert’s flagship blend which is only made in the best years and tends to be a fairly consistent mix of Malbec (40%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40%) and Merlot (20%).  The Cavas de Weinert sees 3-4 years of oak vat aging before maturing further for at least that long again in bottle before seeing the light of day.  This is probably the darkest of the three wines, and the most intriguing aromatically, floating a compellingly odd mixture of dill, mincemeat, pen ink and saltwater taffy over the common still-primary blue/black fruit profile that weaves all of these Weinert offerings together.

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But the mouthfeel is the real story here:  utterly seamless and expertly woven, perfectly balanced and harmonious, a weighted blanket of utter luxury.  You want to keep tasting it just to feel it on your tongue; its silken caress is the clearest evidence yet of the benefits of Weinert’s extended-maturation philosophy.  Wet pavement, Sharpie and black jellybean flavours join a dark and penetrating chorus that lasts long after the wine does.  It’s rare to have a chance to look at an entire region (heck, an entire country) a different way, but this total recalibration is precisely what Bodega Weinert has on offer.

91 points

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