Labyrinthian Treasures - 2011 Tikal 'Natural' Red Blend

2011 Tikal 'Natural' Red Blend
60% Malbec, 40% Syrah
Uco Valley, Argentina

Highly Recommended

This is the first wine from Argentina featured on the blog and it couldn't be a better introduction to the country and its burgeoning wine industry. My relationship with South American wine began like a lot of Americans, guzzling cheap and fruity magnums of Frontera and Concha y Toro over mounds of mediocre pasta with roommates in college. Our palates were unfettered by aroma wheels and 100 point ratings. Price was our only currency. Life was easy and uncomplicated.

As much nostalgia as I may have for that period of my life, the game has changed since college and for the better. Magnums have turned into 750ml bottles, cheap drunk is no longer the pinnacle of a weekend night, and our tastes have evolved in search of something more nuanced and, dare I say, intellectually satisfying. 

Enter this delicious red blend of Malbec and Syrah from Tikal in the Uco Valley south of Mendoza, Argentina. The grapes for this wine come from 100% certified organic vineyards that also achieved biodynamic certification in 2012. No fining or filtration were used, which is evident from the heavy sediment at the bottom of the bottle (pour it through a strainer or in a decanter to avoid getting into the glass). Even better, some of the grapes for this wine were grown in a vineyard shaped like a labyrinth. I'm not sure what to think of the vineyard, but if it's able to produce the deliciousness that's sitting in my glass right now, I could care less what shape it's in. 

Tikal's Labyrinth Vineyard in Vista Flores.

My favorite Malbec-based wines from Argentina are bright and deep in color, focused on the nose and palate with equal parts dark, purple fruit and vibrant violet/floral with a healthy backbone of acidity and complimentary minerality. This wine hits all of those notes but the contribution of Syrah enhances each of those components even further.

In the glass, the wine is a pretty brilliant purple. On the nose, well-integrated notes of pure, dark purple fruits: boysenberry, blueberry, and blackberry. A bright violet floral component lifts the fruit on top of a healthy foundation of acidity and minerality. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with a soft and silky mouthfeel similar to the fruit as the nose: boysenberry, blueberry, blackberry, and blackcurrant. Notes of spice, cassis, and coffee add an additional level of complexity. The alcohol is noticeable but not overwhelming and the the finish is long and well-balanced. This reminds me of a delicious northern Rhone Syrah I had recently and I think it would pair well with rich stews, grilled meats, and even BBQ. 

My only dig on this wine is the absurdly large and heavy bottle it comes in. It's unnecessary on a variety of levels, from increased waste and greenhouse gas emissions to higher product and transportation costs that end up being passed on to the consumer. Increased bottle weight has absolutely no correlation to higher quality wine, as shown by the Academic Wino here, though it's not always easy to find lighter bottles that don't look cheap, as documented by Tablas Creek's efforts to slim down their own packaging.

Bottle size and weight complaints aside, tasting notes do not do this justice, this wine is alive and full of character. It was an absolute joy to drink and it over delivers on quality and price. This wine is everything I look for in a bottle under $20: small production, sustainably farmed grapes, and minimal intervention in the winery. I couldn't get enough and regret not purchasing more. Get it!