The end of the world

Fear not, I am not joining in the Armageddon, or end of times debate, but merely referring to a windswept, cool and lonely land that is far, far away — the weather here for early March has given me this mindset.

Its name is Patagonia and this area, which stretches across the southern regions of Chile and Argentina, owes its name to Fernando de Magallanes who used it to describe the Indians that he discovered there in 1520.

I would like to tell you about four wines that we import from the Valle del Rio Negro and it is only around these river valleys that agriculture can survive, due to the desert-like lack of rainfall. Without those magnificent snow-capped Andes towering to the west and the resulting rushing rivers, there would be no vineyards.

The multi-award-winning winery of Fabre Montmayou was founded in the early 1990s by winemaker Hervé Joyaux Fabre when he moved to Argentina from his native Bordeaux and he was one of the first foreigners to recognise the potential of Argentina.

The wines of Fabre Montmayou demonstrate real purity of fruit with complexity, freshness and elegance. His partnership with his wife, Diane (Montmayou), has enabled them to produce exceptional wines that have achieved international acclaim.

I will always remember an evening when my wife and I arrived at what we considered a rather late hour of 9pm, at a restaurant in downtown Mendoza City only to find that we were the first patrons of the evening.

We soon found that the “normal” time to commence the meal is between 10pm and 11pm in Argentina. Anyway, the point that I wish to make is that it was in this establishment that we were quite bowled over by our introduction to Fabre Montmayou wines.

The majority of their wine that we sell comes from Mendoza, but we do stock two that originate in Patagonia and they represent exceptional value.

For instance, their 2016 Barrel Selection Patagonia Cabernet Sauvignon has what I consider “expensive treatment”, but sells for only $18.55. And what do I mean by this? De-leafing for one thing. This is the time-consuming practice of removing leaves by hand to let more sunshine fall on the grapes and also allow the constant winds to better dry the vines and prevent mildew and mould. They also exercise “green picking” and here a certain amount of the green, unripe berries are removed and as less fruit now enjoys all the energy of the vine, more complexity is created and this is passed on to the wine. Meticulous sorting is performed by hand prior to vinification to select the best grapes. Sixty per cent of the wine is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.

This 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon is an intense red colour with charming aromas of red fruits with hints of vanilla and chocolate. A fantastic wine with an elegant and round finish. Great with red meats, rich dishes and cheeses.

The 2014 Barrel Selection Patagonia Malbec enjoys all the same attention and is an intense red colour with violet tones. Elegant and attractive aromas of liquorice, violets and spices. A very rich and complex wine, a true Malbec from Patagonia. Great with red meats, games and cheeses. $17.60.

Verum wines from Bodega Del Rio Elorza come from a boutique family winery with 45 acres of densely planted vines that produce shining examples of the awesome potential of Patagonia. I often mention that Pinot Noir likes to shiver and Verum 2014 Pinot Noir thrives in this cool land. It is bright ruby red with orange tones. Aromas of red fruit and roses follow and it opens up in the middle of the palate with elegant red fruit notes. It has round and silky tannins and is balanced and elegant. It is medium bodied, fresh and smooth. $27.90.

I have been hearing for some time now that Cabernet Franc will be the next great wine of Argentina although it has not knocked Malbec off centre stage yet in sales volume.

We have the Verum 2013 Cabernet Franc Reserva that is deep red with violet tones. Here is the report from the Wine Enthusiast magazine: “Cool, breezy Patagonia is the home address for this light-coloured but full-flavoured Cab Franc. Cherry, berry and woodsy aromas set up a firm, wide palate with lightly herbal, leafy flavours of berry fruits and chocolate. Cocoa dust and a pinch of saltiness are noted on a full finish. 92/100. Drink through 2022. $35.90.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit