Viva Zapata!

2 Dec

Silence from The Wine Wanderers as running round Israel tasting that country’s finest wines is followed immediately by running around Argentina doing the same.  And there is a link – at least one winemaker in each country producing elegant, complex chardonnay that rivals the best produced in Burgundy and dismissing the myth that in other hands this white grape is crudely processed into a sledgehammer Page Three wine.

Chardonnay probably earned the page three epithet because of the seductive power of the grape, and it is easy to be seduced by Eli Ben-Zaken’s Blanc de Castel. Ben Zaken, a self-taught winemaker who started life in Israel as a chicken farmer, makes the country’s  finest chardonnay, and I was delighted to be offered a glass of it at the country’s best seafood restaurant, Mul Yam in Tel Aviv, where it perfectly compemented a divine dish of razor clams cooked in lemon butter with a judicious sprinkle of samphire and pink peppercorns.

A week later both Wine Wanderers were being seduced in Buenos Aires by a chardonnay named Angelica Zapata, alas a non-export brand of the esteemed Argentinian winery Catena Zapata.   It was so good that even when the meat course arrived at swanky Casa Cruz in Palermo, we didn’t want to switch to red – this is one wine it was hard to stop drinking.

As my fellow Wine Wanderer will reveal when he recovers from a cold caught riding in the foothills of the Andes, Catena Zapata first turned us on to Argentinian wines several years ago, and it’s surprising to find they are a huge winery.   Their fourth-generation winemaker, Laura Catena, was not one of the two dozen we met personally during our week in Salta, Cafayate and Mendoza, but we did get one final glug of her chardonnay.   Back in Buenos Aires at trendy Sucre, we were treated to a few bottles of D.V. Catena – not quite as addictive as Angelica, but almost as good.

The good news for Brits is that the multiiples are getting in some great chardonnay from this winery at astonishing prices.   Both the Tupungato from Marks and Spencer and the Catena chardonnay from Waitrosse are grown at high altitude like the bottles we drank in Argentina.  The first is named for the area it’s grown in and the second is made from grapes grown both in Tupungato and Lujan de Cuyo.   The cheaper Tupungato is actually headier, if a tad less complex, but both are easier to love than the Torrontes which Argentina fields as its own special white wine, which can be as variable as chardonnay, and will stand up to the Christmas turkey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: