Amalaya Brut Nature NV, Argentina
Cost: $11-13
I love blends, especially when the winemaker creates an unusual blend. The result is even better when the new wine is a sparkler.
I have enjoyed the Amalaya wines for several years, but discovering the Brut Nature sparkling wine was a pleasant surprise. It is a refreshing wine loaded with bubbles and a beautiful taste. It is an unusual blend of Riesling (80 percent) and Torrontes (20 percent), and a steal at this price.
Some sparkling wine can be too acidic or tart, but the Amalaya is well rounded and smooth. In the glass it is a gorgeous pale golden color, with plenty of fine bubbles. I don’t usually pick up much of a scent with sparkling wine but this one had subtle hints of orange blossom and green apple.
Minerals and fresh acidity highlight the delicate flavors of green apple and pineapple. I would serve this well chilled, around 45 degrees.
Torrontes provides the subtle aromas while the Riesling delivers the fresh fruity notes. Riesling often is overlooked in this country, but it is one of the most popular grapes in the world. It can produce outstanding wines in many styles. This crisp version with some softening by the Torrontes produces a wonderful wine.
The grapes are grown in some of the highest vineyards in the world, nearly 6,000 feet above sea level in the Cafayate Desert, Salta Province. After whole cluster pressing fermentation occurs with special yeasts at low temperatures for 35 days. The fermentation method generates high quantities of glycerol to increase the mouthfeel and create lively acidity.
The wine is made by the Charmat method with the bubbles created in a sealed tank under pressure.
Former head of the company Donald Hess spun off Amalaya from another winery in Argentina, Colomé. One of the oldest working wineries in Argentina, Colomé is home to the highest vineyards in the world.
When Hess bought land in the Salta region for Amalaya, it had never been farmed before, not even by the Incas, so it looked like it would take a miracle to grow grapes there.
The label features a holistic circle which stands for the fertility of the “pachamama” or mother earth. The winery says the hoped for miracle is revealed from the heart of the Cafayate desert in a mystical and magical way resulting in excellent wines.
Among the indigenous people who have called the Calchaqui Valley home for centuries, Amalaya translates as Hope For a Miracle.
Winery: Bodega Amalaya is part of the well-known Hess Family Wines, a Swiss firm that owns wineries in the United States, Argentina and South Africa.
The company has been around since 1844 when Hess Family Estates was founded in Switzerland. Hess Family Estates has specialized in making and marketing top quality wines in constant association with art, food and tourism.
The wines grew out of an experiment at another Hess winery, Bodega Colomé, where Donald Hess tried to find varietals to blend with Malbec. He brought Colomé into Hess Family Wine Estates in 2001.
While many others didn’t think the rugged terrain in the Calchaqui Valley could produce wine, Hess saw the potential for great wines. He expanded Colomé and continued to experiment with New World blends for his white wines as well as his reds.
Eventually Amalaya became its own winery and brand. Amalaya’s new home features a modern winery and a trio of vineyards, each with distinct soils and micro-climates that produce compelling fruit. The winery produces a malbec, a rosé, a Torrontes blend, Blanco Dulce (a sweet wine) and the Amalaya Gran Corte and Single Corte, two Malbec blends. All are wonderful wines.
Amalaya and Colome produce flavorful and complex wines that make a case for the Calchaqui Valley as one of the great wine regions of Argentina.
Bodega Colomé is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina. The Spanish governor of the Salta province is believed to have founded the winery in 1831. In 1854 the governor’s daughter brought the first French pre-phylloxera malbec and cabernet sauvignon vines to Colomé. Grapes from three vineyards planted that year are still used in Colomé Reserva wines.
In 2011 Donald Hess formally retired from The Hess Collection and Hess Family Wine Estates.  His son-in-law Timothy Persson was named to lead The Hess Collection as Chief Executive Officer, the fifth generation of the Hess family to provide leadership.
The company also owns wineries around the world, including Peter Lehmann Wines in the Barossa Valley of Australia, Colomé and Amalaya in Argentina, Glen Carlou in South Africa and Hess Select and Artezin in Napa.
Goes with: Because the wine was so inexpensive we thought we would splurge on the entree so we had broiled lobster tails. These days it’s not much of a splurge, though, because you can get lobster tails for $5 or $6 when they are on sale at our grocery stores.
I have fried them and prepared them other ways but this time we just split the shell and broiled the tails in the oven. It is one of the easiest ways to cook them, and the meat always comes out tasty.
After they are cooked, we sprinkle the lobster meat with lemon juice and dip each bite in melted butter. It is a fabulous meal. We added baked potatoes and a tossed salad.
The Amalaya Brut Nature made the evening even more festive. After a bite of the succulent lobster, the bubbles dancing on our tongues kept everything light and lively. Sparkling wines usually are good palate cleansers, so the butter on the lobster and baked potato don’t clog up the taste buds with annoying stickiness.
This elegant sparkling wine is ideal with just about any food, including green salads, soft cheese, sea food, sushi, and ceviche or as an aperitif. Some sparkling wines don’t do well without food, but the Amalaya Brut Nature has a lively, crisp taste on its own.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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