Tasting the Wines of Argentina’s Salentein
Salentein is a strange name for a winery in Latin America, right? Turns out the Salentein family is Dutch, relocating to Argentina in 1996 after falling in love with the land here in the country’s Uco Valley. Salentein’s estates are located at the highest elevations in Mendoza, where it operates four fincas, or estates: El Oasis, La Pampa, San Pablo, and El Tomillo.
Recently, Salentein’s winemaker Jose “Pepe” Galante visited San Francisco to show off a wide range of his production (spanning some 200,000 bottles per year), with a specific focus on, of course, Malbec. Thoughts on all the wines tasted follow.
2016 Salentein Reserve Chardonnay – Bright, with restrained wood and bold green apple notes. Notes of herb-crusted chevre peek through the high acidity en route to a racy finish. Really delightful. A / $19
2015 Salentein Single Vineyard Malbec La Pampa – The next three wines are all 100% malbec from the same vintage and are made with the same winemaking techniques, but hail from different vineyards. Dark chocolate, brooding, with restrained acidity and tannin — though both are still present in the glass. Fruit is dialed back. B+ / $58
2015 Salentein Single Vineyard Malbec El Tomillo – Considerably fruitier, bright and more acidic, with blackberry and spice notes. Tight on the finish; could use some cellar time. B / $58
2015 Salentein Single Vineyard Malbec Los Basaltos – Heavier and extracted, approaching a cabernet quality. Blackcurrant and cocoa notes, with lots of tannin that makes this more ageworthy. B+ / $58
2015 Salentein Numina Gran Corte – 68% malbec, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 7% merlot, 8% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot. Bordeaux style, upside down. Slight cocoa notes, a touch of green pepper, lightly sweet. B+ / $41
2014 Salentein Primum Malbec – 100% malbec. A selection of Salentein’s best malbec lots; seductive and powerful, with notes of gunpowder, truffle, and just a bit of acid. Boldly expressive and easy to enjoy. A- / $65
2013 Salentein Primum Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% cabernet — a grape that Galante professes deep love for. Intense and extracted, this wine combines overwhelming blackcurrant and chocolate sauce notes today, and could use some time to settle down. B+ / $65
2013 Salentein Gran Vu – The top of Salentein’s lineup; 62% malbec and 38% cabernet sauvignon. Lush, silky fruit leads to notes of pepper, dark chocolate, some eucalyptus, and lingering herbs. Silky but dense, this is a wine with lots of life ahead. A / $110