On Saturday, June 8th, the third edition of The Federal Challenge (El Desafío Federal) was held at the NH Tango Hotel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was an evening entirely devoted to Malbec wines, where 93 participants tasted 64 labels from different regions of Argentina. Among the attendees were winemakers, sommeliers, wine distributors, journalists, and wine lovers who enjoyed a long night of wine tasting.
The 64 samples were divided into three categories, according to their suggested retail price:
– Between 50 and 110 Pesos (9 to 20 Dollars)
– Between 120 and 190 Pesos (22 to 28 Dollars)
– Between 195 and 400 Pesos (36 to 75 Dollars)
Participants could choose the method that they considered the most practical to evaluate the wines. They were asked to place them in order from first to sixth in each category, according to their preference. They assigned six points to first place, five to the second, four to the third, three to the fourth, two to the fifth, and one to the sixth. The scores of all the tasters were added up and the six favorites were announced in each category.
Results of Malbec wines between 50 and 110 Pesos (9 and 20 Dollars)
1- Etchart Gran Linaje Malbec 2011 (Salta)
2- Trivento Reserva Malbec 2012 (Mendoza)
3- Noble de San Javier Malbec Reserva 2011 (Córdoba)
4- Durigutti Malbec Clásico 2011 (Mendoza)
5- Saint Felicien Malbec 2010 (Mendoza)
6- Marcelo Pelleriti Reserve Malbec 2008 (Mendoza)
6- Collovati Malbec 2009 (La Rioja)
8- Dante Robino Malbec Reserva 2010 (Mendoza)
9- Huarpe Taymente Malbec 2011 (Mendoza)
9- Renacer Punto Final Malbec Reserva 2010 (Mendoza)
*Note: There was a tie in sixth and ninth place.
Results of Malbec wines between 120 and 190 Pesos (22 and 28 Dollars)
1- El Esteco Fincas Notables Malbec 2010 (Salta)
2- Huarpe Selección de Bodega 2010 (Mendoza)
3- Riglos Gran Malbec 2010 (Mendoza)
4- Colomé Estate 2010 (Salta)
5- Nube Negra 2010 (Mendoza)
6- Lagarde Malbec DOC 2010 (Mendoza)
7- Celedonio Gran Malbec 2011 (Mendoza)
8- Félix Malbec 2010 (Salta)
9- Malbec de Ángeles 2010 (Mendoza)
10- Mundo Revés Malbec 2011 (Mendoza)
10- Laborum Malbec 2011 (Salta)
*Note: There was a tie in tenth place.
Results of Malbec wines between 195 and 400 Pesos (36 and 75 Dollars)
1- DV Catena Nicasia Malbec 2010 (Mendoza)
2- Dante Robino Gran Dante Malbec 2009 (Mendoza)
3- Aleanna El Enemigo Malbec 2010 (Mendoza)
4- Casarena Single Vineyard Malbec Agrelo 2010 (Mendoza)
5- Gimenez Riili Gran Reserva Malbec 2009 (Mendoza)
6- Riccitelli República del Malbec 2011 (Mendoza)
7- Sophenia Synthesis Malbec 2009 (Mendoza)
8- Trapiche Gran Medalla Malbec 2005 (Mendoza)
9- Casarena Single Vineyard Malbec Perdriel 2010 (Mendoza)
10- Monteviejo Lindaflor Malbec 2008 (Mendoza)
The Federal Challenge is organized by Francisco Rivero Segura, a simple wine lover, who every year raises the stakes. He has the huge job of organizing this event, and I give him my sincere admiration; I would not be able to do it. Everything went well at the event: the samples were at room temperature, we had professional service, good catering, and other details that make you feel at ease. As an example, one can choose from leftover wine samples to pair with your dinner, which I think is great, because if a wine got your attention, you have the opportunity to try it again, but in a more relaxed manner.
I have no criticism of the organizational phase, nor could I have any, because I have known Francisco for a long time; he has been a companion through many tastings and meetings. Surely that influences me to see the good and ignore what others may see as negative.
Big Willy and me at the entrance of Federal Challenge 2013
My negative criticism focuses on the 64 samples we tasted that day. It’s not that they were defective, nor am I saying anything about the quality of any of them. Some samples, especially in the first round, were rather artificial, but fortunately there were few of them.
From what we could see in these three rounds, all the cellars were aiming for the same goal, so it seems that the future of the Argentine Malbec wines is sealed. While the wood is felt less than in other years, we observe a pattern of a lot of concentration, a lot of maturity, and a lot of alcohol. Luckily, some wineries are striving for other aspects, but they are few, and the market is closed for those seeking something different. It seems inconceivable that the Malbec would take a different course; I have the feeling that we do not allow it to. I know there are other styles, but at the moment the ones who send wines to a competition opt for this type of label.
Those wines that impact us, even if they fall behind in price, could fight the good fight against the great wines. It was noticeable that a red wine from Buenos Aires or Córdoba can be so similar to one from Salta or Mendoza. Traditional areas have the upper hand, of course, as they have many more years of experience and testing. I also had the feeling that the industry tends to copy the most successful model, without worrying too much about what the soil where they plant the grapes has to say.
I look forward to next year’s Federal Challenge, an event that, at least for me, serves as a guide to where the world of wine in Argentina is going to.