MENDOZA (2) … KAIKEN
“The best from both sides of the Andes” pranks on the label of Kaiken wines, quite a program. The logo is very stylish, one peak in the middle symbolising the Andean chain, two wavy ‘M’ on both sides: the ‘M’ of Montes on the Chilean side, and the ‘M’ of … Malbec or Mendoza (?) on the Argentinean side. The name KAIKEN seems to refer to wild Patagonian geese that fly regularly from one side to the other of the Andes; a clear symbol for this Chilean-run Argentinean winery. The winery itself is not really a ‘piece of art’ like Montes one in Apalta, but it is very functional and big enough… We were welcomed by winemaker Eduardo Alenparte. After a nice walk in the vineyards and a quick tour of the winery, we went for the tasting.
Look at the ‘kaiken’, left on the picture, behind Eduardo Alenparte
We started with a kind of ‘mise en bouche’, a new sparkling wine made of 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay. Not bad at all, clean and very well made, surely interesting for the Argentinean market, but I am not sure this will be a great success on the export market. The second wine was much more interesting, a Malbec rosé 2009, fresh, ripe fruity, well balanced, structured in the mouth but not too heavy. With a retail price under 10 €, this could be a nice addition to some restaurant wine cards.
Malbec, the pride of Mendoza
The two red brothers of this rosé, the Kaiken Reserva Malbec 2008 (95% malbec, 5% cabernet sauvignon) and Kaiken Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (95% cabernet sauvignon, 5% malbec) seemed to be made for the USA/Canada market: very ripe, very structured, powerful and intense Malbec, with dominant chocolaty and tobacco oak and tannins, not my wine; same story for the Cabernet, but with chocolate, mocha and vanilla oak. For the lovers of char-grilled meat with heavy spicy sauces, absolutely a great value for money.
For more sophisticated wine lovers, a much better pleasure/value for money (twice the price of the Reserva): Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2007 (beautifully ripe, powerful, meaty, juicy, very well balanced, fresh and elegant despite 15% alc.!) and Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (very well balanced, ripe fruity, modern but with an old-fashioned chocolate and butterscotch finish).
The lucky ones may find also a great Kaiken Corte Limited Edition 2008 (80% malbec, 12% bonarda and 8% petit verdot) with a beautiful nose, plenty of red berries with some floral accents, a wonderful soft, round structure, definitely malbec style, but enhanced its complexity with extra freshness and fruitiness of the bonarda and backbone of the petit verdot. With its fantastic pleasure/value for money (between Reserva and Ultra), is this wine absolutely my favourite of the first part of the tasting.
We went on with a blending game, tasting four different vat samples, all from 2009; the 1st from Vistalba, the 2nd from Perdriel, the 3rd from La Consulta and the last one from Vista Flores Lo Sauces. The first two vineyards are closer to the quality heart of Mendoza, Luján de Cuyo; the last two come from southern vineyards in the Uco Valley. This was indeed a very interesting tasting. The oenologist was really amazed when my colleague and I pointed the 3rd wine as the lesser one in the whole range, too heavy, with burning alcohol (16% !!!) and a strange acidity. We definitely preferred the soft, very fresh, mineral and complex Vista Flores Lo Sauces and the crispy fresh, juicy, slightly mineral Vistalba with powerful tannins. Those two would form our blend. Strange enough (or may be not), we elected the two samples with the lesser alcohol percentage (respectively 15,1 for VLS and 14,8% for V) and the lowest Ph (3,57 VLS and 3,64 V), but also the two with the most extreme residual sugar content (1,8 and 2,9 g/l) and volatile acidity (0,81 VLS and 0,48 V). Could it be that not everyone in the world has the same taste and preferences as the ‘US/Canada’ cliché taste of the past decades? Could it be that more and more consumers, even in the US/Canada market, would prefer more fruit, more freshness, less power and a bit less of burning alcohol? Could it be?
We finished this tasting session with a wine which seemed not yet to have a proper name at that moment… It was just called ‘Icono’. Now, it has a name: KAIKEN mAi The First… signed by maestro Aurelio Montes himself. ‘The First’ being just the translation of ‘Mai’ (in the language of the Pehuenche Indians, native inhabitants in Mendoza). This wine is made from 100% malbec, harvested in 3 districts of Mendoza: Agrelo, Vistalba and Uco Valley. It has been aged for 18 months on 100% French oak barrels. KAIKEN mAi shows great, intense purple. The nose is beautiful, with plenty of ripe berry fruit on a background of elegant oaky (cedar wood) tones with a hint of chocolate. On the palate, the wine offers an incredible balance between body, fruit, freshness and alcohol, but also between power and classy elegance, between tannins and minerality, the whole thing wrapped in very well integrated oak tones. Long and sensual finish. The estimated value in the retail market should be at least around 50 €, and this wine is every cent worth! Even though this KAIKEN mAi can be already enjoyed (after 30-60 minutes aeration in a decanter), you really should give it the time to improve. Good aging potential, surely 10, may be 15 years or more. Outstanding wine!