Nieto Senetiner Blend Collection Mendoza 2014

Inky violet-purple color; black cherry, plum, violet flowers on the nose; dark fruits, black cherry, sour cherry, black currant tang, minerality, bell pepper, oak on the palate.

Blend of 60% malbec and 40% cabernet franc. Eight months in French oak helps integrate the malbec and cab franc—Mendoza malbec smoothness and drinkability meshes with the more rustic, powerful darker fruits, roasted pepper, freshness and slight fruit sweetness of the cab franc. Some complexity; relatively tame tannins and good acidity (as expected); rusticity and bit of bite on the finish from the cab franc. This very significantly benefits from air; decant for hour or more to tame things down and extract the more sophisticated layers hidden in the pop-and-pour stage. The evolving transformation is dramatic and worth the wait.

Cab franc is a rising star in Argentina, and this effort surfs that wave. “Blend Collection” is recent addition to the Nieto Senetiner brand; they also makes a 50-50 cabernet sauvignon-cabernet franc in this new series. A winery spokeperson explained: “We know that our consumers are very demanding and that’s why we always seek to surprise them with innovative producers. These two blends represent for the brand Nieto Senetiner a modern vision within the process of winemaking, because the world today prefers blends and because the Cabernet Franc of Argentina is the new attraction abroad.”

The winery’s story begins in 1888 when a group of Italian immigrants planted their first vineyards in Vistalba, Lujan de Cuyo, in Mendoza. Various families managed the operation until the Nieto Senetiner family acquired the property in 1969 and initiated a period of steady improvement of the wine product and expansion of the holdings. The winery became part of the Group Molinos Rio de la Plata in 1998.

Group Molinos is a leader in medium-quality to high end wines in the region, but the much bigger story is that Group Molinos also is Argentina’s largest branded food products company. It is as if E&J Gallo was a sideline of a company that made sunflower oil, noodles, pancake mix, Italian pasta. It gets more bizarre—“Gallo” is a major Molinos brand of parboiled rice. Not the Gallo wine brand from America, the boiled rice Gallo brand, named after chicken (that is their logo), that makes rice products in Argentina and has nothing to do with Ernie and Julio’s largest family wine business in the world. I couldn’t make this up even well into my second bottle of E&J Gallo or Nieto Senetiner wine.

Nieto Senetiner Blend Collection Mendoza 2014 is interesting, evolving combination of Argentina’s signature malbec and its budding star, cab franc. They are still figuring out how these Mendoza grape mates play well together, but after serious air time this budding friendship delivers very nice rewards. Find it. Decant it. Then enjoy a serious red treat. Maybe pair with parboiled rice from a chicken-branded bag? Maybe. Who knows? $15

Nieto Senetriner website

Other photos: Nieto Senetiner winery, Nieto Senetiner vineyard and tasting area