Wine lovers seeking value for their house tipple should look to Argentina, and to Familia Zuccardi. This family-owned winery produces a bewildering array of wines that combine consistently high quality with extremely reasonable prices.
José Alberto Zuccardi is currently at the helm—the winery near Mendoza, in the Andean foothills of western Argentina, was founded in the early 1960s by his father—and José Alberto’s eldest son, Sebastián, is in line to take over as the third generation. A gregarious man in his late fifties, José Alberto is a walking party. Fun follows him around the way paparazzi swarm TomKat.
Zuccardi is a tinkerer, too, experimenting with different grape varieties in much the same way Dennis Horton in Virginia constantly tries to discover which grapes work best in the Old Dominion. He even invented his own grape-trellising system, a variation on a rarely used technique that has vines growing overhead instead of low to the ground.
Zuccardi is a leading exponent of organic viticulture in Argentina. At about $10 a bottle, the Santa Julia Organica line of wines represents the best value—worldwide—in the increasingly popular organic category. My favorite is the 2007 Torrontés, a white varietal that combines some of the flowery characteristics of Gewurztraminer with the body and zest of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2007 Chardonnay is unoaked, a nice unpretentious expression of fruit. The 2006 Malbec is a soft, stylish red that should pair well with anything from the grill this summer or next.
The winery has just launched a new line, Zuccardi Serie A, which retails at about $13. The 2007 Chardonnay-Viognier blend is zesty and refreshing, while the 2006 Bonarda and 2006 Malbec are worthy reds. The Malbec, however, tastes a bit closed now, revealing its blueberry fruit and enticing tannins only towards the end of the bottle—a sure sign that it needs another year or so to reach its full potential.
The winery does have higher ambitions. The Zuccardi Q line, retailing at $17 to $20, features dense fruit and lots of new oak in the Tempranillo and Malbec. Zeta, the winery’s top wine, is a powerful and sophisticated blend of those two red varietals. It retails in the $40s and competes well in its price range.
But it is in the lower price ranges where Familia Zuccardi excels.
Familia Zuccardi wines are imported by Winesellers Ltd., Skokie, Ill.
Just because the dollar is tanking against the euro doesn't mean we should forsake European wines when hunting for bargains. Yes, we may have to pay a little more than we used to, but that enticing $8 Minervois you bought at the start of this decade is still a good value at $12. In my May column for Washingtonian, I give some suggestions of where to look for Europe's best values under $20. You can find it on my newly revamped Web site, dmwineline.com.