When Attilio Pagli arrived in Mendoza in 1992, the Italian oenologist was excited about his new consulting project: to produce high quality wines from what were believed to be old vines of sangiovese growing in Argentina’s mountainous Uco Valley.
Sangiovese is Italy’s most noble red grape, used in the production of world-renowned Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino.
Could Pagli make Argentina’s sangiovese just as famous?
Pagli came, saw, and … made a new discovery.
The sangiovese vines weren’t sangiovese after all. They were Malbec.
Thus, Pagli found a new viticultural love, one that’s grown deeper through the years at Coen Vineyards in Tupungato, one of the most important wine-growing areas in Mendoza province.
Coen Wines produces two 100 percent Malbec reds – Classic and Reserve – made from 100 percent certified organic grapes, as well as a Malbec rose` which debuted with the 2020 vintage.
Now is the time to stock up for World Malbec Day, an annual event that takes place on April 17. (purchase at www.coenwines.com)
Coen’s success begins with its impressive location in Tupungato and a veteran viticultural team headed by vineyard owner and manager Fernando Vera.
In Mendoza, the Land of Mabec, vineyards rise from the valley floor to elevations of 8,000 feet and more above sea level in the Andes Mountain Range.
Conditions are ideal.
There’s plenty of sunshine, daytime warmth and cooling night-time breezes. Soils are sandy and mineral rich in volcanic debris.
Then there are the mountains whose tallest peaks appear to touch the stars at night; they serve as a protective barrier from inclement weather storming inland from the Pacific Ocean to the west.
Most important, however, is the abundance of water.
At Coen Estates, snow melt streaming down from the Andes and is captured in an underground holding tank that supplies water to vineyards totaling about 40 hectares.
Fernando Vera, whose family has owned the property for decades, has managed the land for 40 years. He takes excruciating care to keep the vineyards and soil free of chemicals and pesticides. His grapes are certified 100 percent organic.
It also helps that Coen’s vineyards, located 3,000 feet above sea level, are far from industrial centers and limits any chance of environmental contamination. In a word, the area is “pristine.”
So what’s my take on Coen Malbecs?
Because of producers like Coen Wines, Argentinian producers have elevated this native French grape – used primarily in red Bordeaux blends in Europe – to star status as a 100 percent varietal wine. Coen’s recent releases validate Malbec’s quality ascendancy and Argentina’s growing global success.
Coen Wines Rose` Malbec 2020, $16, abv. 12.2% – Splendid. That’s the best way to describe my introduction to this 100 percent Malbec rose`, Coen’s debut vintage in 2020.
It’s fragrant, refreshing and delightfully smooth on the palate. The watermelon color gives it summer appeal and the ripe fruit flavors of raspberry and dark cherry knit well to a dry, mouthwatering finish.
Winemaker Pagli ferments the juice in stainless steel tanks and then ages the wine in cement tanks for 30 days. There were 64,600 bottles produced in the first vintage.
Vinous wine reviewer Joaquin Hidalgo rated Coen Rose` Malbec a solid 90 points.
Coen Malbec Classic 2020, SRP $25, abv. 13.9% – Malbec Classic is the winery’s No. 2 wine but should not to be tagged “entry level”. In my view, it’s several notches in quality above a starter wine and is well worth the above-average price point.
Grapes are selected from two primary vineyards – Finca Poloc and Finca la Vittoria – and hand-picked by Vera and his team. Stainless steel fermentation is followed by 250 days of aging in cement tanks. The wine sees no oak.
Malbec Classic features an enticing color in the glass – ruby red with violet accents – and pleasant aromas of plum, cherry and sweet spices. My key impression? It’s medium-bodied, soft on the palate and rich in red and black berry flavors that endure through a long, dry finish.
I paired Coen Malbec Classic (5,000 cases produced) with Mexican beef and chicken fajitas and was ecstatic with the result.
Vinous reviewer Joaquin Hidalgo rated it 90 points.
Coen Malbec Reserve 2019, SRP $45, abv. 13.9% – No doubt this is a No. 1 Malbec in every way. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, it is aged in French oak barrels for 400 days which delivers a plush mouthfeel indicative of a Cahors Malbec. Yet, it’s ideally Tupungato – clean, bright, intense and delicious.
While Malbec Classic is good, Malbec Reserve is simply marvelous. The balance is spot on and the tannins superbly refined.
Pour it into a glass and this purple-colored wine disperses deep scents of cinnamon spice, licorice, chocolate and sweet tobacco. Once in the mouth, intense flavors of blackberry and black cherry soar and stimulate secondary notes of coffee, mocha and sweet spices. Complexity reigns. The texture is luxurious. The finish is dry, uplifting and persistently long.
You don’t want the Malbec experience to end.
Coen Estates produced 2,000 cases – 24,000 bottles – of the 2019 vintage, which Pagli says can age gracefully for up to 10 years.
Vinous reviewer Joaquin Hidalgo rated it 92 points.