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What our expert thought of Atamisque Serbal, Cabernet Franc

about this wine About this wine
This Argentinian red comes from Tupungato, the most sought-after part of the Valle de Uco, which is itself regarded as the best sub-region of Mendoza, Argentina’s biggest and best-known wine region. At a latitude of 33° South and in the middle of the continent far from the moderating effects of the ocean, Tupungato ought to be much too hot to produce quality wine.
But Tupungato’s vineyards are perched 1300m up in the foothills of the Andes, and that makes all the difference. The climate here in the rain shadow of the Andes is very predictable: cold winters, high daytime temperatures in summer but cold nights, lots of sun and almost no rain. Producing healthy, concentrated, perfectly ripe grapes here is a doddle, once the water shortage has been overcome with precisely-controlled irrigation using meltwater from the glaciers above.
Think of Argentinian red and you think of Malbec. It may originally hail from south-west France, but Argentina has made the grape its own. You’ll also have seen wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz. But you won’t have seen a Cabernet Franc.
Cabernet Franc is a very old variety and, as its name suggests, very French. It’s actually a parent of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and with them forms the classic Bordeaux blend, much copied around the world. Yet it’s hardly ever seen as a varietal wine. Only in the Loire Valley is the grape used alone, in wines like Chinon and Saumur-Champigny.
But now Argentinian producer Bodega Atamisque have produced this one. Appropriately enough, this estate was founded in 2006 by French couple John and Chantal du Monceau and their winemaker Phillippe Caraguel. This wine is unoaked and hand-picked, just like the Loire reds that inspired it, and provides us with a rare opportunity to taste Cabernet Franc flying solo... at 1300 metres!
the tasting The Tasting
Tupungato’s climate encourages intensely coloured wine, so while this is a fairly deep ruby it’s much more translucent than a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Malbec would be from this area.
On the medium nose there are very pure black fruits - ripe black plums and blackcurrant jam - with strong herbal notes of thyme and roasted red peppers keeping things from getting too jammy. Despite a whiff of pencil shavings, this is completely unoaked.
On the palate there are quite intense black fruit flavours of blueberries and blackcurrants. Despite the obvious ripeness this isn’t heavy, being not much more than medium-bodied, with fresh acidity and velvety tannins to balance the weight of fruit. There’s a distinctive note of red peppers, too.
Spicy notes - especially liquorice - join the fruits on the medium finish.
This is very primary: it’s all about the flavours of the grape, unsullied by oak or aging. This is what Cabernet Franc really tastes of... at least if you can get it as ripe as this! That ripeness has emphasised black fruit flavours over the red plum and raspberry that appear in cooler climates. The grape’s trademark capsicum scent and flavour has also changed colour, from green peppers to red ones.
Despite that ripeness, the winemaker has managed to avoid making a heavyweight, over-alcoholic fruitbomb. 14% alcohol is actually quite restrained for a Tupungato red, and it doesn’t taste that strong - I’d have guessed it at 13% or 13.5%.
This is still very young, and some more time in bottle will intensify the nose and add depth and some chocolatey complexity to the palate. I know this because I’ve also tasted the 2014, which is likely to be the wine you get if you order some of this one! (I think we got an advance batch of the 2015 by accident.)

Tasting notes

clear deep-ish ruby

Intensity medium

Aromas ripe black fruits (black plum, blackcurrant jam), herbs (thyme), roasted red pepper, hint of pencil shavings

Development youthful

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+

Body medium+

Tannins medium+ but velvety and ripe

Intensity medium+

Flavours blueberry, blackcurrant, red pepper

Length medium

Flavours as palate, liquorice
Other notes
Unoaked. Very primary, pure fruit flavours. Will improve.

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