2014 Bodegas Norton Privada Family Blend

Year: 2014

Producer: Bodegas Norton

Region: Mendoza, Argentina

Grape(s): Malbec (40%), Merlot (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%)

Alcohol: 14%

Body: Full

Dry/Sweet: Dry

Tasting Notes: Baked blackberry, cherry, blueberry, spice, subtle tobacco

Pairings: Blue and Taleggio cheeses, chocolate, teriyaki beef

Price (approximately): $18


My Musings:

Bodegas Norton has developed a reputation in Argentina and beyond for consistently high-quality, value wines. This Privada family blend continues that trend. While Mendoza means Malbec in the minds of many, this wine invites a few old friends to the party. A blend of Malbec (40%), Merlot (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), the Privada blend opens with an aromatic bouquet of baked blackberry, cherry and blueberry, accented by milk chocolate and spice.  On the palate, the ripe, baked fruit still leads the charge, but smoky tobacco, spice and earthiness combine to provide wonderful structure and complexity of flavors. Malbec and Merlot drive the experience, producing a full-bodied wine that is velvety on the palate with medium, round tannins and the perfect amount of acidity to keep everything balanced and fresh. A pleasant, lingering, sweet finish keeps you anxious for the next sip.

Native to France, the Malbec varietal has traditionally played a supporting role in the prestigious Bordeaux blends. In the high elevation vineyards of the Andes Mountain Range, however, Malbec has found its vinous second home. Here, Malbec is king. Its success raises the question of what sets this region apart as a preeminent location for Malbec and other varietals?

Planted in some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world, one may ponder the possibility of venturing too close to the sun. Icarus would be inclined to answer in the affirmative, but grapes at these high altitudes have adapted to the unique climate and increased ultraviolet exposure by developing thicker skins and deeper pigmentation. This translates to a greater concentration of pigments, tannins and phenolic compounds. In other words, elevation helps to produce tasty grapes. Discerning viticulturists facilitate the process with canopy management practices that can provide optimal protection from ultraviolet radiation and strong winds.

Some aspects of the weather in these high altitudes can be unpredictable, but one can consistently rely upon a cool, dry wind, plenty of sunshine and minimal risk of disease. This combination contributes to a long growing season and significant crop yields.  Grapes have plenty of sunshine and time to ripen a their leisure. 

The warm, sunny days quickly give way to cool, brisk evenings. This diurnal temperature variation is a key to this region’s productivity. Temperatures drop sufficiently at night to permit grapes to ripen slowly, preserve acidity, and develop deep, rich flavors.

The high elevations of Mendoza afford unique conditions, climate and terroir. Winemakers are harnessing these attributes to create balanced, complex and delicious wines at bargain prices. Bodegas Norton is a consistent and splendid example, but there is value in every corner waiting to be uncovered... 

This particular wine can easily be uncovered at Costco in Honolulu. While there, you can also pick up the Norton Malbec for only $12.