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A deep, garnet robe infused with purple overtones sets the stage for the grandeur of the 2000 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec. Scents of wild strawberry, smooth spicy fruit and clean, freshly cut sandalwood waft from the glass in a command performance that can only be characterized as tantalizing. In the mouth, gutsy, full-flavored tannins mingle with lush, refined flavors that must be experienced to be believed. As the wine airs, it seems to form one single, seamless garment that reveals a new, more intriguing flavor with every sip. The 2000 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec is without question one of the finest examples of this exciting varietal we have ever encountered; the wine captures the light and space of the great land of Argentina and reproduces perfectly all of its fruits, remarkable character and vitality all in a single glass. Drink this alluring Malbec anywhere near room temperature and often. Enjoy!
Save the dainty delights of "Nouvelle Cuisine" for a wine other than the 2000 Altos "Las Hormigas" Malbec. Steaks, braised meats, stews and wild game all provide excellent accompaniments to this intriguing Malbec. Venison is a particular favorite; ostrich and buffalo are excellent, too. Yet, the 2000 Altos Malbec is so good, especially after an hour or tow open that it needs no accompaniments. Never before have we tasted such a young Malbec that shows so beautifully, and without any accompaniment or pretense. It makes us shiver, too, to think that this wine may actually be in its infancy with its best yet to come, so why not plan a party some two or three years hence and have a ball.
Altos Las Hormigas is the hottest new boutique winery in Mendoza, Argentina. Situated at an altitude of 2500 feet at the base of the towering Andes, the Altos estate specializes in the cultivation and production of outstanding Malbec. Presently, the 475-acre estate has 75 acres of vines under cultivation, all of them in Malbec. Formerly known as Altos de Mediano when it released its debut vintage in 1997, Las Hormigas changed its name in 1999. This paved the way for the estate to use very old vines of Malbec from outside of the immediate geographic area of the property, which is in the region of Medrano. Now under the ownership and direction of Marco de Grazia, whose portfolio of great Italian estates is second to none, Altos Las Hormigas is producing sensational Malbec from old vines. Indeed, if there is a single great varietal in Argentina, it is Malbec. Malbec is a French red wine grape that traveled to Argentina well over a century ago from Bordeaux. In Bordeaux, where it is sometimes referred to as Cot or Pressac, it plays an important, but subordinate role alongside of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. However, around Cahors in Southwest France, Malbec remains the major player, accounting for the traditional, full-flavored "black wine" of Cahors. It is with this excellent, dark colored Cahors-style Malbec that Altos Las Hormigas excels, transforming the great color, flavor and tannin of the noble Malbec into velvet.
Argentina and the Mighty Mendoza Argentina has long been one of the world's leading producers and consumers of wine. Presently, this sprawling nation, containing some of the world's most diverse geography: tropical jungle, barren desert, towering snow-capped mountains and windswept deserted islands that herald Antarctica, is the world' fifth largest producer of wine and the planet's third largest consumer of the fruit of the vine, placing it just behind Italy and France. It was the Jesuits, with a fervor for faith matched only by their desire to cultivate the seeds of civilization, who first brought the vine to the land of the pampas in the 16th century. Father Cedron, a Jesuit missionary from Spanish Mexico, is believed to have planted the first vineyard in what is now Argentina in 1556. His early plantings survive as the Criollas grape variety, producing light red and rose wines. Once the most widely cultivated grape varietal in Argentina, the ancient Criolla is now giving way to Chardonnay, Torrontes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and most importantly, Malbec. Although Argentina acknowledges its viticultural debt to the early Spaniards who settled it, the modern tale of Argentine wine really begins with the Italian migration of the late 19th century. Settling in the dry Mendoza at the base of the Andes, these Italian immigrants began to sluice the snow waters from the mountains out over the vineyards, causing the desert to bloom. In less than a century, the Mendoza, a state approximately the size of Illinois, has become Argentina's leading wine producing region, accounting for the vast majority of the nation's production and more than half of all the wine made in South America. Driven by Argentina's seemingly insatiable thirst, as well as the burgeoning worldwide demand for wine, particularly well-made reds, the "Mighty Mendoza" now comprises some 700,000 acres of vines, and is still growing. The vast majority of wine from the arid, nearly insect-free environment of Mendoza is red, and happily the quality of these wines continues to grow exponentially. The recent attention to quality is much to the delight of North American consumers astute enough to notice the myriad of fine Mendoza offerings and not hold the region's previous viticultural history of favoring quantity over quality against it. Since the early 1980's, political stability along with the infusion of money and talent from abroad has transformed the Mendoza. With the likes of Paul Hobbs, Jacques and Francois Lurton and now Marco de Grazia, this most recent wave of immigrants and investors is sure to transform this sleepy giant into a treasure trove of fine wine.
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