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Altos Las Hormigas has been one of the benchmark producers of Malbec in Argentina for nearly a decade, fashioning balanced, flavorful wines that set a high standard of excellence. However, the estate's 2007 Malbec has once again raised the bar several notches. Unequivocally, the 2007 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec is the finest regular bottling of Malbec that this estate has made to date, and it is richly deserving of the great critical acclaim it has already received from the wine press. Not only is the 2007 Altos Malbec a supremely balanced wine, it is endowed with a rich, royal robe. It also possesses a haunting aroma of black cherry, blueberry, and sandalwood and a flavor profile that simply won't quit. Ripe, mouth filling fruit, sizzling bacon fat or what the French refer to as gras coat the palate and tantalize the tongue. And on the palate, the Altos Las Hormigas is as smooth and refined as any young Malbec can possibly be. Yet, even more enthralling are the layers upon layers of flavor that unfold with every sip. Deep, pure Malbec fruit, spice, sweet tannins, and inexorable charm pour from the glass. Moreover, this beautiful Malbec is accessible from the moment it is opened. Nevertheless, the wine improves with aeration, as it continues to reveal complexity, nuance, and true subtlety of flavor with a bit of time and patience. With an hour or more in a decanter, one single, seamless garment emerges from this sexy potion, which leads us to suggest very strongly that you stock up on this little treasure while the limited supply lasts. You will be glad that you did. As always, we suggest serving the Altos Las Hormigas Malbec at cool room temperature (62°-66° F).
Malbec is rarely a wine to stand on ceremony, nor is it a wine to serve with Nouvelle Cuisine. Rather, it prefers simple, hearty cooking, with which it shares a natural affinity. Consequently, we strongly suggest that you introduce the 2007 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec to almost anything that comes off the grill: steaks, burgers, kebobs, even lamb chops. Meats, stews, and wild game also provide excellent accompaniments to the exemplary 2007 Altos Malbec. Keeping with the Italian influence and tradition in the Mendoza, we also recommend this hedonistic Malbec with full-throttle pasta dishes and most tomato rich, southern Italian specialties, including pizza, as the staples of a Mediterranean kitchen: garlic, olive oil and fresh, ripe plum tomatoes will not overpower this flavorful but balanced Malbec. So, why not have a party and invite a few friends for dinner? Enjoy!
Since its inception, Altos Las Hormigas has been one of the hottest boutique wineries in Argentina. Situated in the midst of the mighty Mendoza, the Altos estate is located at an altitude of 2,500 feet, which puts it high into the foothills of the towering Andes, as the estate's name implies. Altos is unique among Argentine wineries. First, it specializes in the cultivation and production of just one grape varietal. In fact, this winery produces only one kind of wine – outstanding Malbec. Presently, the 475-acre Altos estate has 75 acres of vines under cultivation, all of which are devoted to Malbec.
Formerly known as Altos de Mediano when it released its debut vintage in 1997, Las Hormigas changed its name in 1999. This modification 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 solely within the Medrano region of Mendoza. Now under the ownership and direction of Marco de Grazia, whose portfolio of great Italian estates is second to none, Altos Las Hormigas produces sensational Malbec from selected old vines.
Indeed, if there is a single great varietal in Argentina, it is Malbec. Malbec is a French red wine grape in origin that made its way to Argentina from Bordeaux well over a century ago, before the phylloxera scourge devastated the vineyards of Europe. In Bordeaux, where it is often referred to as Cot or Pressac, it still plays an important, but now 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 in mind that Altos Las Hormigas excels, transforming Malbec's great color, flavor and tannin into tasteful velvet.
Argentina: Where Quality and Quantity Abound
Argentina has long been one of the world's leading producers and consumers of wine. Presently, this sprawling nation, which contains 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's 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. As an interesting comparison, Argentina consumes more than five times the amount of wine per capita as does the United States, (10.5 gallons per capita in Argentina versus just 2.00 gallons per head in the United States). Moreover, Argentina is no longer just a source of good, plentiful, every day plonk; it is increasingly a treasure chest of world-class wines.
Although Argentina has cultivated the vine since the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries in the 16th century, the modern tale of wine in Argentina really begins with the Italian migration of the late 19th century. Sparked by political strife and economic stagnation in their homeland, many Italian growers and winemakers headed for Argentina. Settling in the dry, rain-starved Mendoza at the base of the Andes Mountains, these Italian immigrants began to sluice the snow waters from the mountains onto their 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 wine production and more than half of all the wine made in South America.
Driven by Argentina's seemingly insatiable thirst for wine, as well as the burgeoning worldwide demand for fine wine, especially 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 savvy North American consumers, who are now gobbling up the wine wares of Argentina at an ever-increasing rate.
Since the early 1980's, an infusion of international talent has transformed the Mendoza. With the likes of Paul Hobbs, Jacques and Francois Lurton and more recently Marco de Grazia, Argentina and the "Mighty Mendoza" are finally coming into their own. This once sleeping giant now houses a treasure trove of fine wines, with the wonders of Malbec in the vanguard. Excellent Cabernet Sauvignon is also being fashioned here; and in recent years, Argentina has made great strides in the production of white wines, too, most notably with Chardonnay and Torrontes, an Argentine specialty. Viva Argentina!
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