Noemia has been making outstanding wine in Patagonia since 2001. They are overlooked by many sommeliers and wine geeks simply because they make Argentinian Malbec. To overlook Noemia is to overlook perhaps the greatest expressions of Malbec in the world.
The Middle of Nowhere
Hundreds of miles from the nearest city, Noemia’s old-vine biodynamically farmed vineyards in the Rio Negra Valley are one of those rare pristine places left in the world. There is no disease pressure, minimal rainfall and humidity, and the air and soil are completely free of pollution.
Hans Vinding-Diers, Danish winemaker and cousin of Peter Sissik, consulted in Argentina and stumbled upon a wine company founded in the 1930’s (with old vines to match) that had gone bankrupt. He had the fortune of tasting bottles in the original cellar dating to the 1940’s and was impressed. This inspired Vinding-Diers to revitalize the winery, partnering with Countess Noemia Cinzano of Tuscany’s Argiano.
They acquired the winery from the original owner and modernized it. The results have been remarkable – frankly superior to most of the wines from Argiano.
The Noema vineyard is planted with pre-phylloxera vines massale selected from vines dating back to the 1930’s. The oldest estate vines are bottled in their top Bodega Noemia bottling, with younger estate vines (25%) and fruit purchased from the local Agricultural Research Centre and other local growers (75%) going into their entry level, but delicious, A Lisa. The mid-tier J Alberto is made from old vine estate material (planted in 1955) and drinks like a top-tier wine, though without the overt oak flavours most expect from top Argentinian wine.
Irrigation is essential in Patagonia as it almost never rains. Chemical use is limited to copper sulphate once a year. Temperatures swing from 28 Celsius in the day to 9 at night. The climate is continental and seasonal.
Good Wine, Cultured Yeast
The A Lisa is an excellent introduction to the Noemia style and a proper expression of Malbec and its lovely floral aromatics. The fruit is red and juicy – both orchard and berry. The blend is 90% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. The stats speak for the structure of the wine, which is fresh and lifted while also slightly grippy: 13.5% ABV, ph 3.90 and 5.81 grams per litre of acid. Fermented in cement vats and stainless using controlled yeast. Aged in used oak (30%), cement (25%), and stainless (45%) for nine months. Racked and bottled unfined and unfiltered.
To slip briefly into the debate about cultured vs. indigenous yeasts – in my view, comparing this wine to the indigenous yeast fermented J Alberto (which is also 100% estate fruit), I still feel the A Lisa speaks particularly of Patagonia. I have only tasted this blend of florals and unique pomegranate like fruit with Malbecs from this part of the world and so, while not proof, this is at least indication to me that cultured yeast does not entirely obfuscate place. More on these thoughts in a future post.
Very Good+ to Excellent
~$35 plus tax at Kits Wine