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Pumalek, Lambrusco Grasparossa “Fortunato”Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina 2016 (750mL)

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Pumalek, Lambrusco Grasparossa “Fortunato” Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina 2016 (750mL)

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Alcohol

Wait a minute, let me get this straight: Today’s wine is made from the Lambrusco grape, grown in Argentina’s Mendoza region? And it is not effervescent? Oh, and it also happens to be delicious and…dare I say…complex? Had I not tasted it for myself I wouldn’t have believed it, either, but here we are, putting this other-worldly red up on our platform—with a ringing endorsement, no less! 


I must stress that while the combination of grape and place is indeed unusual, the wine itself is a perfectly normal, well-made, aromatic red that wouldn’t be out of place in some of the Alpine terroirs of northern Italy. And, really, how strange is it? Three out of four Argentines are of Italian descent, and while Malbec may be the grape of choice in Mendoza, Eduardo Aregall’s father, Jorge, preferred Lambrusco. Aregall created Pumalek as an homage to his father, who first planted Lambrusco Grasparossa in the 1970s, following a trip to the grape’s homeland in Modena, Italy. And while today’s ’16 has some of the mouth-watering tanginess of a classic Italian Lambrusco, it is neither fizzy nor inky—it’s Lambrusco as planted in a high desert rather than a low, fertile plain, and while it may be different, it works. There’s nothing standing in your way here: Price, quality, and charm are all on point!



With the memory of his father’s homemade Lambruscos in his head, Eduardo Aregall set out to revitalize family vineyards that had first been planted to the variety in the 1960s. In the mid-2000s, he sourced Lambrusco Grasparossa seedlings from Modena, the grape’s ancestral home in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and brought them home to Luján de Cuyo, one of Mendoza’s most prestigious subzones. His seven-hectare Lambrusco parcel, “Finca Carmina,” is now complemented by an 11-hectare Malbec vineyard, but for the moment, the estate’s wine program is focused on Lambrusco.


There are some soil similarities between the two regions (sandy clay and river stones), but the comparisons between Luján de Cuyo and Modena end there. The Finca Carmina site climbs to nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, whereas the vineyards of Modena rarely reach higher than 100. Mendoza is drier, and, on balance, cooler. And, as I noted above, Pumalek does not vinify their Lambruscos in a frizzante (semi-sparkling) style. “Fortunato” comes from a different place both literally and figuratively.


So, while there are some recognizable Lambrusco traits in today’s 2016—deep, brambly fruit and a pleasing acid-driven crunch—Fortunato is also more restrained and detailed than its inky, saturated Modenese cousins. Part of this, of course, is a function of the production method: Whereas a typical dry Lambrusco from Italy is more about fruity, youthful immediacy (most are vinified in the “tank” method to give them effervescence and released to the market soon after the vintage), Pumalek instead makes a traditional “still” red with the capacity to age. The wine is fermented and aged in stainless steel, but it is aged for 12 months in tank and another 12 in bottle before it is released into the market. That’s a long elévage for Lambrusco, and it shows: there’s a lot more here than just a tidal wave of purple fruit. 


I never thought I’d ever type the words “Lambrusco with bottle age,” but here we are: The wine has a medium ruby/garnet core and a brambly-berry personality out of the gate, with aromas of blackberry, raspberry, and Morello cherry complemented by notes of underbrush, lavender, and black pepper. It’s medium-plus in body and, despite being un-oaked, well-structured, with firm tannins and lots of freshness on the aromatic finish. It is, as all Lambrusco should be, a great food wine: Give it a quick decant 15 minutes before serving in Bordeaux stems with a sausage pizza, pasta Bolognese, or an Argentine-inspired rare steak off the grill. Jorge Aregall was onto something when he made this his “house wine” of choice: it delivers, and at a fantastic price to boot. Enjoy!




Pumalek, Lambrusco Grasparossa “Fortunato” Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina 2016 - SommSelect

  • CountryArgentina
  • RegionMendoza
  • Sub-RegionLuján de Cuyo
  • SoilClay Loam
  • BlendLambrusco Grasparossa
  • Alcohol12.5%
  • OakAll Stainless Steel
  • Service Temp.60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkNow-2023
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingBolognese

  • CountryArgentina
  • RegionMendoza
  • Sub-RegionLuján de Cuyo
  • SoilClay Loam
  • BlendLambrusco Grasparossa
  • Alcohol12.5%
  • OakAll Stainless Steel
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBordeaux Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2023
  • Decanting15 Minutes
  • PairingBolognese