Some French producers are not content to make wines in France alone and have ventured across the pond in search of new and intriguing terroirs in which to play. Two such wineries include Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Chilean brand Anderra and the Bonnie family’s Argentine Bodega DiamAndes.
The Bonnie family, owners of two well regarded wine properties in Bordeaux, were previously in the laundry detergent business, but decided to invest in wine in 1996. Among their first tasks as owners was to hire Michel Rolland as their consultant enologist. They first purchased Malartic-Lagraviere in the Graves appellation and, then, in 2003, they added Chateau Gazin Rocquencourt, within Pessac-Leognan.
Their next expansion came as a result of their connection to Rolland, when they accepted his invitation to purchase vineyard land in Mendoza, Argentina. The Clos do los Siete property was established in 1999 with seven (siete) plots, with 850 hectares divided among the various owners – all of whom are French.
The Bonnie family named their plot DiamAndes for nearby Diamond Lake, in which the reflection of a volcano appears as a diamond and the imposing Andes mountain range, They launched their new brand with the 2007 vintage. At the same time of this acquisition, they brought their children and son-in law, Bruno LaPlane, on board to manage the growing business.
Formerly in the export business in Lyon, LaPlane presently lives in Bordeaux and serves as Executive Vice-President for DiamAndes. Now actively involved with distribution, since LaPlane has gotten involved in the family business, they have removed the middle man and, consequently, cut prices by 30%. The wines are now available in 12 U.S. states and their distributor is Wineberry.
Today, the Mendoza property has been fully planted and a state-of-the-art winery built was completed on-site as well. Thirty percent of their production is given over to the Clos de los Siete project annually, which brings together fruit from all of the partners. The remainder is bottled and labeled as DiamAndes. In addition to the debut Malbec, they have since added a red blend, Chardonnay and Viognier and recently planted some Cabernet Franc.
DiamAndes does not produce Argentina’s other claim to fame – Torrontes – because, as LaPlane explained, it is the wrong area and climate for this variety. Similarly, he further noted, the region is not good for Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon either; it is simply too hot. However, despite the warm climate, the high altitude of the property results in cool nights and the preservation of acidity in the white grapes that they do grow.
When planting the Viognier and Chardonnay, they had originally planned to blend the two grapes together. Instead, they decided to do a mono-varietal wine of each. The result is the Gran Reserva Chardonnay yielding only 3,000 bottles annually as well as the 20,000 bottle Chardonnay Perlita, both of which are sourced from only four hectares of fruit. The Viognier is even more limited with only two hectares planted and 800 cases made.
The Malbec wines are produced in three tiers: Gran Reserva, DiamAndes de Uco and the Perlita, a Malbec-Syrah blend.
I met up with LaPlane on a frigid afternoon in March, where we had the opportunity to taste through some of his wines, which are on the list at the historic Delmonico’s steakhouse. As one might expect, the wines were an excellent companion to the fillets and short ribs that graced our table. While not quite an aperitif wine, the Chardonnay was a great accompaniment to the appetizers.
Chardonnay Perlita 2012, Mendoza, Argentina, $12.00
The wine is very clean with medium acidity, medium+ body, well integrated oak, melon and citrus flavors and long length.
Perlita Malbec-Syrah 2013, Mendoza, Argentina, $12.00
A blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Syrah, this wine spent 8 months in 2nd and 3rd use oak. It is spicy and fruity, yet, despite the ripeness, it is dry on the palate and very enjoyable.
DiamAndes de Uco Gran Reserva 2008, Mendoza, Argentina, $29.00
The wine brings together 75% Malbec and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and spends two years in oak, 70% of which is new, plus an additional three years in bottle before release. As a result, the wine is much more developed on both the nose and palate, with slight oak and black fruit aromas. The dry palate is less fruit forward in character than the Perlita and culminates in very long length.
Taking a similar approach, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild brand has pursued a quest to find an ideal terroir in the foothills of the Andes Mountains and set about crafting wines in Chile.
Like DiamAndes (DIAMond Lake + ANDES), Anderra takes its name from the joining of “ANDes” and “tiERRA. The Anderra winery is located in Maipo, Chile and the grapes are sourced from the Central Valley, grown at altitudes as high as 3200 feet. The current range includes: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère.
Anderra Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Chile
Pronounced citrus aromas greet the nose. On the dry palate, the fruit is ripe, but balanced with notes of tangerine, grapefruit and peach/melon, joined by vibrant acidity, medium body and long length.
Anderra Carmenère 2013, Chile
This wine initially displays notes of plums and dried herbs, while the medium-bodied palate is dry with a very ripe attack of bright red fruit (plums and cherries), herbs and a hint of anise in the finish,