“Love moves in mysterious ways”
Though politeness often stops them from telling you, I can assure you the question most people who work in wine dread the most is, ‘what’s your favourite?’ Or in my case, its occasional second cousin: ‘what about your other half – does she have a favourite?’
Not only is my wife a lifelong teetotaller, she is also an enthusiastic eater of meat, whereas I happen to be a lifelong vegetarian. On paper it’s a disaster, but we have always adopted the ‘all the more for me’ principle to our steak and our wine respectively, and happiness wins.
Her Argentine father has no such aversion to alcohol. Good red wine has been a part of the blend in many of our most important and enjoyable conversations over the years. If the bottles of Bodegas Weinert we’ve enjoyed could talk... But in another sense, they always do sing.
“Love is unexpected”
On paper, Weinert’s debut 1977 vintage was at one point shaping up to be a disaster too. Despite the excellent situation in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo and the obvious quality of the crop, calamity appeared to strike when the building of the winery became delayed, meaning the grapes had to remain on the vine. As it turned out, they too employed the ‘all the more for me’ principle but with sunlight; and the extra ripening, combined with the efforts of founder Bernardo Weinert and renowned winemaker Roberto de la Mota ended up producing something very special. Vinous tastemakers of the day, quite rightly, took notice, and the winery’s name was made in part by this happy accident.
Aged generously in large oak foudres in their underground cellars, Weinert’s reds strike a balance many don’t: they are fascinating, but they are also fun. On first taste, I was impressed by their almost paradoxical mix of cask-aged European-like funk and full-throttle dark Argentine fruit. They wear their often high alcohol percentages lightly, and are made available at quite remarkable prices.
“Love can unlock many secrets”
But it was a trip to Buenos Aires, a city that’s hard not to fall in love with, that revealed a new side to these wines. It took Jesús to show me the way: a lovely, knowledgeable and very accommodating wine-shop proprietor. After I mentioned Weinert, he put down the extraordinarily heavy bottle of similarly heavy wine he had been recommending (‘forget this’) and ushered me to a darker corner of his establishment.
There at the bottom of a wine rack lay a treasure trove of dust-covered 1990s Weinerts, available for about a tenner a go. It seemed too good to be true, but I took the punt, the neck and the cork and lugged them home to investigate.
The aged wines were beautiful: like claret, traditional Rioja or Lebanon’s legendary Musar, they had acquired a haunting, delicate and smoky quality that sits somewhere between slipping into a comfy armchair in a leather-bound-heavy library and a bracing walk through autumn woodland. My Argentine love affair had gained another new colour and it was the brick-like red of Weinert.
“Love is blind”
Weinert’s idiosyncrasies are never more apparent than when you line the reds up next to their fellow countrymen (or, for that matter, continent-men). As I write, we are preparing for the 20th edition of our Wine Champions blind tastings, a process I’ve been lucky enough to be part of for some time. Along with Elio Perrone’s off-dry frothy moscato d’Asti and that dessert red that comes in the stumpy bottle meaning it couldn’t be anything else, there is no wine that leaps out for simply being what it is, and with such delightful unabashed distinctiveness. It’s simply a case of whichever taster reaches it first. ‘Ah, Weinert’.
“My love is your love”
If you’d like to invite one of Weinert’s wines over for dinner, romantic or not, then the 2008 cabernet offers an excellent introduction to the house style: 12 years young but still full of rich ripe dark fruit, jacketed in the suave, leathery, smoky hallmarks of the winery.
I drank a bottle with my father-in-law just before lockdown, in fact. It sang.