This year's Decanter World Wine Awards International Trophy for the Best in Show Red Single-Varietal over £15 went to El Esteco, Don David Reserve Tannat, Salta, Argentina 2012 (14%)
- Alpha Estate, Xinomavro Reserve, Amyndeon, Macedonia, Greece 2009
- Spier, 21 Gables Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2011
- Takler, Minden 50 Evben, Hungary 2007
- Toneles, Gran Tonel 137, Mendoza, Argentina 2010
To create a clean sweep for Argentina in the Red Single-Varietal classes, this champion had to overcome considerable challenges set by a host of beautiful wines from South Africa, Greece and Hungary as well as a compatriate. It was a close call in what was a very strong flight, but with its sleek attack, succulent palate with juicy balsamic notes, and concentrated, generous fruit, this wine got the final nod.
The Don David in question here is the founder of El Esteco, David Michel, who chose to build one of the world’s highest-altitude wineries in Salta at 1,600m altitude.
Tannat is quite a new variety in Argentina, and it has taken considerable efforts to yield convincing examples. Famously chewy (Tannat by name, tannic by nature), skilled perseverance was required in the vineyard, as conditions in Calchaquí Valley tend to give overripe varietal characters which, in less capable hands, could result in a unwieldy blockbuster of a wine. As it is El Esteco’s Tannat allies power with impeccable balance, and a distinctive regional touch.
Alejandro Pepa has been steeped in the wine business since birth. A fourth-generation winemaker, he grew up playing in the vines during harvest time until it happily, inevitably became his profession too. He started his career with El Esteco in 2000 in quality control, before progressing to production manager and then in 2006 to chief winemaker.
Pepa has seen his fortunes rise in tandem with the winery, as he notes. The owners have invested serious money, for example by increasing the number of barrels for maturation from 250 t2,000 since he joined the company.
Fruit for this Trophy-winner comes from 20-year-old vines, mature enough to lend an overall balance to the rich wine which has plenty of mineral, herb and chocolate notes.
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Written by Decanter