They are divided into those designed to retail at under £8 in the UK and those in the £8-12.99 bracket. I asked Wines of Argentina's man Andrew Maidment, recently moved back to London from Argentina, why if all producers were allowed to submit a wine for this particular selection, there were only 62. 'The only answer for this', he said, 'is that Argentine winemakers are often not known for their efficient email response skills!! :-)'
In any event, it was an illuminating line- up. There were few really impressive white wines (although I have been impressed by some Argentina Pinot Gris, for example, such as the Argento 2009 from Catena). I found myself much more convinced by the Chilean whites in the vaguely similar tasting I reported on in Does Chilean regionality exist? than by Argentina's rather less assured renditions of various varietals, other than its speciality Torrontés.
However, Argentina really comes into its own with red wines (few rosés had been selected for this showcase). As American wine lovers have rapturously discovered, and as Richard Hemming wrote in Argentine Malbec from north to south yesterday, Argentine Malbec delivers considerable flavour and punch for a price that is extremely reasonable compared with the price of most comparable California Cabernets. And I for one discerned a huge difference between the wines of poleward Patagonia - much leaner, driven and more mineral - and the richer, fleshier wines of Mendoza and other more northerly wine regions.
I would also put in a strong plea on behalf of Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon in all this Malbec- mania. Because Cabernet vines were typically planted in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the Argentines were so keen on this French variety, the vines have good age on them now and can produce lovely wines with more backbone than many Malbecs - ripening to produce much fleshier wines than the typical Bordeaux Cabernet, for example.
Quite a number of producers decided to submit an example of the widely planted Argentine Bonarda, which has been proved by DNA analysis to be Douce Noire/ Corbeau rather than the grape known in Piemonte as Bonarda. These are generally much softer, fruitier wines than even Malbec and it is great to see producers taking the variety more and more seriously, within a range of styles.
There are some great buys below. Search for GV (good value) and even the occasional VGV (very good value). I find that the wines of Catena and Fabre Montmayou are drier and more 'European' than most - horses for courses though.
UP TO £7.99
Finca El Origen Syrah 2009 Mendoza 16.5 Drink 2011-2014
Very dark. Light nose. But a bit of grunt and quite rich. Hint of leather on the end, good package and just a bit of alcohol on the finish but sufficiently savoury.
£8 TO £12.99
Finca El Origen Malbec 2009 Uco Valley 16 Drink 2011-2014
Scented and rather fine. Sweet and polished. Quite together and focused. 14.5%
Full Wines: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/