What to Drink Now: Bressia

Winemaker Walter Bressia (left) with Vineyard Manager, Marcelo Casanzza (right)

Last week I was invited to an exclusive lunch with a group of Dallas Sommeliers, restaurateurs, and wine buyers at The Mansion on Turtle Creek to taste with one of the finest wine makers in not only his homeland of Argentina, but I would say the world.  Walter Bressia is known as a leader in Argentine winemaking, helping bring the wines of Argentina in to play internationally, while being one of the most decent and generous people in the business.   After decades of working for other, large production wineries in Argentina, in 2003 Walter created Bodega Bressia, his own small production, high quality winery.

I first met Walter three and a half years ago when I visited Mendoza, Argentina for The Masters of Food and Wine.  I had the opportunity to visit his winery, which was under construction at the time, with his importer, Stewart Elliott, Jr. of Bottled Poetry Imports.

Barrel tasting with Walter in his wine cellar in 2008

Sitting in his underground cave wine cellar, surrounded by hundreds of oak barrels filled with his aging Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and stunning Chardonnay/Semillion blend, I learned about what really drives this man who has been making wine for over 35 years. Intense passion, matched by an incredible desire to produce “Vinos de Autor” (Author’s wines in Spanish) or personalized, high quality wines.  Today, his completely family run winery makes some of the most highly rated wine from Argentina, produced exclusively from his 49 acres of estate vineyards situated throughout Mendoza.

Every wine Walter makes is a blend, even if it is 100% of one varietal.  He likes to combine grapes from vineyards in various parts of Mendoza to achieve what he believes is a harmonious blend of textures, flavors and layers, like his Monteagrelo Malbec which combines grapes from Agrelo, adding bold fruit flavors, Lujan de Cuyo, adding floral notes of violets and wild flowers, and Tupungato, adding structure and balance to the wine.

Over lunch we tasted through the latest releases in Bodega Bressia’s portfolio, including a brand new Monteagrelo Cabernet Franc created on Elliott’s urging. Walter had been growing the grapes for years and selling them off to different producers; the 2009 release is the first for the varietal under his label.  Filled with blackberry, black licorice and spice this pleasantly shows the more fruit forward and slightly herbal characteristics found in Cabernet Franc without the big vegatal notes of green pepper or asparagus.

Over classic Caesar or Blue Cheese and Bacon Iceberg salads we tasted the Bressia Lagrema Canela and the Bressia Pinot Noir.  Surprisingly, both the white blend and the earthy, smoky Pinot Noir paired well with this first course.

The Lagrima Canela (or Cinnamon Tear) blends 70% Chardonnay with 30% Semillion, aged 14 months in new French and American oak.  This is Walter’s white wine for red wine drinkers, a medium-bodied wine that can easily pair with anything from light fish dishes and salads, to hearty meat dishes….important in a country like Argentina where beef is such a staple in the diet.  Light golden colored filled with honey, tropical fruit like pineapple, banana and melon with balanced acidity, layers of texture and personality.  The Bressia Piel Negra Pinot Noir is not your typical Pinot.  Named after the black skin of the grape this intense wine, filled with black fruit, pepper, spice and smoke characteristics surprises the palate with every sip, while maintaining overall approachability, good cherry and blackberry flavors and a long finish.

The Bressia Profundo was poured while waiting for the main lunch course.  A lush blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, this complex, concentrated wine really defines Bodega Bressia and the style of wine Walter set out to create – intense, bold and balanced wine with incredible fruit, hints of smoke and touches of dark chocolate, vanilla and rich espresso.

Grilled Filet Mignon with Corn and Fava Succotash and Merlot Sauce

Over grilled Filet Mignon with a Merlot Sauce the Bressia Conjuro was poured.  Conjuro (or Spell in Spanish) is the ideal descriptor for this wine, as it did indeed put Walter under a spell realizing how special it is when it was first made.  A blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, all from fruit grown in the Tupungato area of Mendoza, aproximately 1,100 meters above sea level, this lively wine displays the heart of Argentina with violets, Morello cherry, ripe blackberry and spicy black licorice.  Full bodied, but not weighty, this elegant wine paired spot on with the hearty grilled meat, ending with a silky, delicious finish.

Since production is so limited on many Bodega Bressia wines (only 200 cases of the Conjuro are made annually) they are mostly carried at restaurants, however Pogo’s and select Goody Goody locations around town carry the wine.

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