The Santa Julia Malbec Bonarda Tintillo 2017 is 50% Malbec and 50% Bonarda, the Malbec came from vineyards in the Uco Valley and the Bonarda came from estate vineyards near the town of Santa Rosa in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The Bonarda grape originated in France, it never became particularly popular there, but does quite well in Argentina, if you have not tried it, it is well worth seeking out. The Tintillo is a wine that needs some explaining, it is not the usual Malbec wine you see in this price range, it is produced in a very different manner. There are certain technical wine terms that wine drinkers need to be aware of, if you like Chardonnay, knowing what malolactic fermentation does to Chardonnay is a must, since wine with it tastes different than wine without it. With White wine, knowing what “on lees” brings to the flavor profile is solid information, it can add a beguiling creamy texture that isn’t there with wines not fermented and aged “on lees“. Which brings us to what is different about the Tintillo, carbonic maceration. I will try to explain what “cm” is and does, first you take the freshly picked grapes and you do not crush them, you dump them whole into a stainless steel vat. The vat is pressurized and filled with carbon dioxide, to remove all the oxygen from the vat. With the oxygen gone, the grapes release enzymes that break the grapes down from the inside out. You can actually let this process continue and it will produce wine, here after 4 days the grapes are removed, put into the crusher and yeast is added to the juice and the wine from this point on is produce just like regular wine. The “cm” give the grapes a head start, carbonic maceration produces wine with vivid flavors and solid, but softer acidity. Santa Julia recommends that this Red blend is served well chilled, I think to let you know this is not your expected Malbec blend. As a point of reference carbonic maceration is how the wines of Beaujolais, France using the Gamay grape are made. Those wines are similar to Pinot Noir and are not typically served chilled. The alcohol content is 13%.
The color is almost opaque black cherry red, wines that under go full carbonic maceration are normally a pale red. The nose is ripe berries, raspberry and strawberry, licorice and herbs from the garden. This is a crisp, clean Malbec/Bonarda, fruit-forward with bright acidity, but not as heavy as a regular Malbec would be. It tastes of cherry, raspberry, a light touch of tobacco, a just a hint of herbs. The mid-palate shows raspberry, orange zest, sharp spice, and tart cranberry. The tannins are super soft and the acidity allows the flavors to have good length. The finish is full and sticks around for awhile.
If you have backed off a drinking full bodied Red wine during the hot summer months, you can put Malbec/Bonarda back into the rotation. The Santa Julia Malbec Bonarda Tintillo 2017 is unique, yet familiar, there is a lightness to the body, but not to the flavors. I have had a Zinfandel done in the Beaujolais style that basically deconstructed Zinfandel and while the Tintillo does not turn Malbec/Bonarda inside out it does show a different side of those grapes. There is a persistent herbal edge to the flavors that I don’t find in typical Malbec and the acidity takes center stage, while the tannins are missing. If you are into Malbec you need to experience this very different take on the grape that made Argentina famous.