Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finca Flichman.

Finca Flichman was a prerequisite stop for me in Mendoza. I first tasted the wines in the city of Porto with the Sogrape group, which owns Finca Flichman along with some major Port wine producers and a few other wineries in Portugal, Chile, and New Zealand. They made quite an impression on me there, so I vowed to pay a visit when I made it to Argentina. Upon my arrival in Mendoza I made an appointment with Flichman’s winemaker and took a hired car to the winery in Barrancas, where we enjoyed a very thorough (perhaps TOO thorough! I had to take a little nap afterward…) tasting along with a parrilla lunch (parrilla is a type of Argentine asado with a somewhat disturbing namesake).

Here’s a bit of information on the history of Finca Flichman: The winery was founded in 1873 by Jewish immigrant Don Sami Flichman, a native of Lodz, Poland. After arriving in Buenos Aires he made his way to Mendoza during the area’s first wine rush. He invested in a winery and a market which has since been converted to the Harrod’s of Mendoza. He also purchased a piece of property in Barrancas (southern Maipú) and planted vines in these ravines along the Mendoza river. The farmhouse that still stands on the property was first built by Don Sami behind protective walls to ward off attacks by the Huarpe tribe native to the Mendoza area.

In 1910 the estate was renamed Finca Flichman (finca is a Spanish word for a large farm or ranch). The Great Depression of 1939 forced the estate to downsize, but Don Sami kept the Barrancas vineyards. He ran Finca Flichman based on bulk wine production until it was passed into the hands of his son Isaac, who had studied oenology in France and decided to try his hand at making fine wines here in Barrancas. He created Caballero de la Cepa with winemaker Raúl de la Mota, one of Argentina's first fine wines that brought fame and international attention to the region.

In 1998 The estate was acquired by the Sogrape group. Sogrape’s $7 million capital infusion, extensive winemaking experience, and international presence were all great boons that helped Finca Flichman focus on more terroir-driven wines made for export. Winemaker Luís Cabral de Almeida, Portuguese by birth, has made wines with the Sogrape group for decades and has lent his expertise to the Flichman wines for over 10 years. The Flichman wines are now available worldwide (even in Lodz!) and viewed quite favorably.

The grapes for Finca Flichman’s wines come from Barrancas and Tupungato. The grounds in Barrancas (Spanish for “ravines”) are littered with the kaleidoscopic array of colored rocks that wash down from the Andes via the Mendoza River; the Tupungato soils are similarly stony, with sandy alluvium mixed among the rocks.

Large temperature variations typical of the desert climate in both regions help the grapes ripen and achieve the potential for elegance and structure. At about 700 meters altitude, the Barrancas grapes get loads of sunlight and offer jammy fruit, rich earth, and deep color. Tupungato, sitting at 1100 meters, contributes more structure, elegance, and a touch of floral aromas. Finca Flichman’s extensive line of wines shows each region beautifully, both individually and in blends.

All of Finca Flichman’s vines are ungrafted. This makes propagation easy, only requiring a shoot from a neighboring vine as shown in the picture above. Traditional flood channels irrigate parral-style trellising used alongside VSP trellising in the vineyards, and all vines are of course covered by sturdy netting to protect against the dreaded Mendoza hail (click here for more information). There is no threat of phylloxera, little worry about mildew or fungus, and very few natural pests to fear here. Varietals grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Malbec, Merlot, and Chardonnay, and the estate even produces a delicious sparkling wine.

Here are the wines we tasted with Luís:

Extra Brut Chardonnay/Malbec

This assemblage of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Merlot is created via the Charmat method. Fresh and fruity, but with some yeastiness and an earthy structure, this makes a great aperitif. Though I did not take a bottle with me upon leaving the estate, I did enjoy its refreshing apply character enough to end up buying 3 or 4 bottles throughout my stay in Mendoza.

2010 Malbec Roble

This wine sees a little time in oak, leading to a vanilla spiciness that is atypical of the average young Malbec. Dark fruit and a little violet peer through the oak but are pretty much overpowered. I think this one would be much better off paired with empanadas or a steak.

2009 Misterio Malbec

4 months with oak staves give this wine its slight oaky spice. Lots of chocolate, plums, ripe cherries, and violets. The Misterio finishes off with chocolate covered cherry elegance. This was one of our favorites.

2009 Malbec Reserva

This is a nice example of an Argentine Malbec. Bright red cherry fruit is framed with soft tannins and highlighted with a touch of violet. An excellent food wine.

2009 Gestos Malbec

Made with 50% Malbec from Tupungato and 50% Malbec from Barrancas, this blend gets the ripe plum fruit and rich deep color from one and the structured floral character from the other. 6 months in new oak balance it all out. We took a bottle of this one for sure.

2007 Expresiones Reserva Malbec/Cabernet

Cherries, chocolate, and spice. Very full and heavy mouthfeel. The Cabernet lends a tannic structure that lingers on the finish. This one definitely should not be paired with anything of less substance than a thick juicy steak.

2007 Expresiones Reserva Shiraz/Cabernet

The Syrah character shines through here, with aromas of blackberry and white pepper dominating the blend. There is a hint of wet forest floor and tobacco leaf. The rich fruit is tempered by strong but soft tannins. I actually enjoyed this more than the Malbec blend.

2007 Paisaje de Tupungato

The Paisaje wines are Finca Flichman’s terroir line. Each is carefully crafted to achieve the winemaker’s interpretation of the two regions. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot make up the Tupungato blend. Aged for 12 months in mostly French oak. Roasted coffee spices up the plum and blackcurrant fruit, with a slight touch of chalky and sanguine minerality. An exceptionally long finish. This is a big wine.

2007 Paisaje de Barrancas

My favorite of the day! I had to take some home. Old vine Shiraz (40+ years), Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Blackberries and violets dominate, with a bit of menthol hiding beneath. The full body and soft but powerful tannins won me over instantly.

2006 Dedicado

The Dedicado is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet, and Shiraz made only in the best years. It is aged 12 months in new French oak, followed by 12 more in the bottle. The 2006 is an explosion of berry fruit, smoke, and cedary spice aromas. The palate is meaty and intense, with smooth silky tannins. This is a special wine for a special occasion.

For more information, visit Finca Flichman’s website or send an email.

1 comment:

  1. I just can’t explain how much I loved the whole Province. The most remarkable thing was the Cacheuta Termas. You know those pools with hot water in them taken from mineral extractions. They made me feel really relaxed and I forgot about all my problems. The mountains were indescribably beautiful and the weather was doing a good job. Then I headed the apartment rental in Buenos Aires to continue exploring Argentina. The thing I loved the most about BA is Plaza de Mayo, it is so full of political signs that you almost forget that it is a square, yet you see little birds flying around.
    I just think it was the best trip ever!