The 2007 Auka Argentine Malbec and 2010 Penfolds Australian Bin 2 Shiraz/Mourvedre were the tasting winners from last night as far as I could tell. The Penfolds may have been the better wine but for the price differential, I would have opted for the Malbec, especially if there was a steak in the picture anywhere.
We just bought a quantity of Auka wines and while the Malbec seems pretty hard to beat, as I recall, the Syrah from them is even better. After looking at several reviews on-line, it may be a toss-up. Reviewers use the same " full-bodied, oak, and smoke" for both wines, but the Syrah features both red and black fruits (raspberry, cherry, plum) along with black pepper and notable structure. The Malbec was all about rich black fruits in my opinion.
Auka is from the San Polo Winery in La Consulta in the Valle de Uco in the department of San Carlos within the province of Mendoza, the best wine growing region of Argentina. On the map it appears to be near the middle of the western side of the country. It is a 180 hectare vineyard at 33 degrees latitude and 1000 meters above sealevel. It is at the foothills of the Andes and receives its irrigation from melting mountain snow.
The winery was founded by three european immigrants in the 1880s who settled in Mendoza and gave San Polo its corporate name in the 1930s. Today two great grandchildren of the founders operate the winery.
At the San Polo website the winery gives credit to the Auka indigenous people for the wine label art. The Auka people, according to the website, would carve into the earth the design on the label which features a sun, moon, and star over a hill, which meant the people were beseeching the deities in the sky for rain.
I thought that was interesting so I started researching the subject and found nothing to indicate there ever was a tribe of Aukas in Argentina. There was a notorious Auca people to the north in present day Equador but even that people was not known by that name. They were the Huaranis and if you google them, hold on to your stomach. Supposedly the neighboring Jivaros tribe, which used to shrink heads, would cower when confronted by the Huaranis. According to my research, "Auca" is a pejorative term for the Huaranis which means "enemy".
My dad was a lifelong avid hunter in the upper penninsula of Michigan, by the way. At his funeral his buddies told me my dad would go deeper into the woods than anyone else. My dad told me his greatest fear was coming upon a wolverine, which he called the meanest animal on earth. Something like the Auca maybe?
Here is the thing, though. Indigenous new world people everywhere invariably get overwhelmed by "civilized" european immigrants everywhere in the western world. If they survive at all, they are displaced, marginalized, and reduced to poverty...and we call them savages. So where does the truth lie?
Last night we tasted the 2009 Auka Torrontes also. Last year that wine was ultra-popular and made it into my semi-serious Tasting Hall of Fame. The regular retail for the Aukas is $9.99. Say you read this article and they are $7.99/btl.
Tommy Basham of Continental Beverage joins us with his fine portfolio of Spanish wines 5 to 7pm on Friday August 24th. Be here.