Bodega Septima in Mendoza Argentina acquired its easy-to-pronounce name in a rather
straightforward way. The winery is the seventh member of Spain's far reaching
Codorníu Group; septima means “seventh” in Spanish. Beyond
the connection between the number seven and the concept of luck, Septima has been working
hard to bring quality wines to the American market at impressive price points. I recently taste
three single varietals from the winery as well as Septima's new Gran Reserva blend.
Septima was founded by Codorníu in 1999 with the purchase of 470 acres in the
Luján de Cuyo area of Mendoza at a stunning altitude of 3400 feet, concentrating on
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec and the Spanish Tempranillo grape. The winery
acquired additional acreage in the Valle de Uco in 2007. Mendoza native Rubén Calvo
is winemaker. The “high and dry” climate is the key to the success of the
venture. Big swings in day and night temperatures make for excellent color and flavor
development; the stony humus soil cooperates to keep the vines in place in what is otherwise
a harsh arid climate. Irrigate this soil to the optimum degree, add state-of-the-art modern
equipment both in field and winery, and you have a recipe for success.
Mendoza is well populated with wineries of course. The wine itself should be allowed to have
the final word in two key ways: the statement it makes in the glass, and the statement it
makes on the price sticker. We can positively resolve this latter issue right here: the single
varietals are $15, the Gran Reserva $25. The effect in the glass takes more looking into.
The Septima 2008 Chardonnay is the product of vineyards situated at 3,900 feet above sea
level. The grapes are whole clustered pressed, fermented in stainless steel, then racked in new
French and American oak barrels in which they undergo full malolactic fermentation. The
result has personality; color is a pale greenish straw; aromatic notes are primarily lemon and
grapefruit citrus with some peach and a tropical touch of ripe mango. The dry Chardonnay is
light to medium bodied with good acidic backbone that supports a salad of fresh ripe fruit:
cantaloupe, pineapple, chunks of peach. The finish is dry and yet ripe with a touch of pastry
crust. The bottom line is balanced fruit that complements food.
The Septima 2007 Malbec is hand harvested, cold macerated for 20 days in stainless steel
before fermentation, then aged seven months in American oak. This Malbec is a medium
intensity violet in color with a nose of black cherry jam, red cherry, blackberry, some
chocolate, vanilla and an accent of black pepper spice. Mouthfeel is light, body medium,
acidity medium, tannins nicely rounded, with flavors of red fruit, cocoa and cedar, the wood
showing nicely on the finish. This wine is well balanced in every respect: acid to tannin to
alcohol; fruit to wood; initial attack to mid-palate to finish. I've been too technical here;
suffice it to say that this is a pleasant, tasty wine that has the potential with a few years of
cellaring to become a truly elegant offering.
The Septima 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep ruby. It has a “Cabernet
nose,” that quality of cassis so often engineered out of popularly-priced New World
Cabernets, with black raspberry, pepper, cocoa and nutmeg. The respectable acidity here
supports fine-grained but energetic tannins. The fruit on the palate is tasty ripe rather than
tangy: a good mix of red and black berry fruit with baking spice and pepper. The finish has a
ripe jammy fruitiness to it, combined with a layer of sweet wood and lightly roasted dark
chocolate. As a food friendly wine, drink it now, but if you want to savor it on its own, give
the wine a few years. The factors that come together well now will be seamless when you
dust off the bottle down the road. If you can wait.
The Septima 2006 Gran Reserva is a blend of 58% Malbec, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9%
Tannat; these grapes were sourced from three different vineyard blocks, vinified separately
and aged twelve months in French and American oak. In color the wine is a profoundly deep
ruby. The nose has violet and rose flowers, nutmeg and black pepper spice, brambly red berry
fruit, and chocolate. As in the case of its single varietal cousins, this blend is superbly
balanced. The medium-body and smooth mouthfeel was the first quality I noticed; the acid is
firm, the tannins round. Flavors, none of them too pushy, swirl around each other in turns:
red cherry, blackberry, chocolate, sweet cinnamon. The finish is lengthy, showing restrained
but lasting acidity and tannin with ripe red fruit and vanilla-laced chocolate at the end.
Despite excellent flavor, however, it is the elegant feel of the wine in the mouth that catapults
it into a league far beyond its $25 asking price.
Cost effective and delicious.