A Rare Bodega Norton Gernot Langes Vertical Tasting and Other 125th Anniversary Gems
Mendoza, Argentina is one of my all-time favorite wine regions to visit.
Because of this I was super excited to be invited to a wine-pairing lunch hosted by Argentina’s Bodega Norton at Portale restaurant in Manhattan to sample a vertical of their library wines in recognition of their 125th anniversary.
If you’re not already familiar with Bodega Norton, they are Argentina’s fifth largest wine exporter with a global presence in over 65 countries.
In 2006 Wine Enthusiast named Bodega Norton one of the “Top 20 Wineries in the World.”
The winery was founded in 1895 and is named after English engineer, Edmund James Palmer Norton, who created the winery using vine cuttings from France.
In 1989 Bodega Norton was acquired by the Austrian, multi-billion-dollar, privately-held company, Gernot Langes-Swarovski.
If the Swarovski name sounds familiar to you, it’s because the company produces the world’s leading brand of cut crystal under the same name.
It is fitting that a company that made its name in glassware would naturally diversify to focus on the wine inside the glass.
To present the wines during our lunch, we were joined by Bodega Norton’s enthusiastic and photogenic Chief Winemaker, David Bonomi.
“I am the viticulturalist at Norton, and I am the winemaker at Norton,” noted David.
Born in Mendoza, Argentina into a family of Italian immigrants with a winemaking heritage, David discovered his passion for wine working on his father’s vineyard.
In the last 50 years Bodega Norton has only had three winemakers, and David is number three.
He enjoys making wine using concrete vats which make up over 80% of Bodega Norton’s cellars.
Bodega Norton has the highest average price-per-case sales of any Argentinean winery, and New York is one of the top three cities for the winery in the United States.
We opened our tasting with a sampling of Bodega Norton’s 101 Bubbles sparkling wine ($13), made from the native Austrian grape, gruner veltliner.
The Swarovski family planted gruner veltliner twenty-five years ago using a pergola vine-training, when they acquired the winery.
Sparkling gruner veltliner from Austria itself is a rare find making this sparkling gruner veltliner from Argentina an even more special unicorn.
Currently Bodega Norton only exports sparkling gruner veltliner with still gruner veltliner available only in Argentina which the winery is slowly releasing.
Next, we sampled Bodega Norton’s Reserva Malbec 2017 ($19) which is produced in a classical, Argentinean malbec style.
This was followed by Bodega Norton’s Privada 2016 ($22), a red blend of 40% malbec, 30% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot.
The Privada line was originally reserved for the Swarovski’s family private cellar to share with friends before eventually being made available to the public.
The grapes from the winery’s oldest vines between 50 to 90 years old produce wines of notable complexity.
To account for a cooler 2016 vintage David changed the blocks for the Privada blend selecting grapes from vines with shallower root systems.
According to David, “Reserve malbec is our heart, and Privada is our mind.”
Bodega Norton’s Flagship Gernot Langes Line
The remainder of the tasting focused on Bodega Norton’s flagship, Gernot Langes red blend named after the winery’s owner, Gernot Langes Swarovski.
We tasted through seven vintages of Gernot Langes (2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006) starting with the 2016 blend ($105) of 50% malbec, 40% cabernet franc and 10% cabernet sauvignon.
The library of Bordeaux-styled red blends was impressive and allowed us to experience the subtleties of vintage variation.
For example, the 2015 and 2016 vintages were the coolest vintages in the last 50 years.
These cooler vintages produced wines that were purple rather than ruby in color with more subtle aromatics, which I found particularly elegant and attractive.
The ruby-colored 2014 vintage was ripe with fuller fruit than the 2012 vintage.
My favorite vintage was 2010 which produced grapes that were ripe but due to heavy rains some of the grapes had green seeds which after pressing resulted in wine with a lovely, herbal character (especially for those like me who enjoy this herbal quality in Loire cabernet franc).
In cooler vintages David prefers to use barrels with more toast and so accordingly medium-plus-toasted barrels were used for the 2010 vintage.
The 2008 vintage had a lovely menthol character while the 2006 vintage shined with concentrated flavors and alluring aromatics.
I can’t help to think that even at $105 a bottle, the Gernot Langes line is a supreme value, especially compared to the price of first-growth Bordeaux and Napa cabernet.
With over 3,000 acres of vineyard land holdings, Bodega Norton offers value within a wide range of price points.
Don’t be afraid to open a bottle, especially in the $20+ and up range.
After all, they have 125 years of experience.