New Argentinian arrivals from Paul Hobbs' Vino Cobos‘The Steve Jobs of Wine’ is how Forbes magazine coined famed Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs. Vina Cobos is his Argentinian project where he fashions new world style styles of wine. Over recent years the flamboyance of the wines has been toned down a few notches to provide the wines with a touch more freshness and polish. The outstanding 2017 Mendoza vintage offers some of our best South American imports to date.
If you have a wallet fat enough to follow the American wine scene, you'll know there's no denying the excitement of tasting a Cabernet from the likes of Harlan Estate, Screaming Eagle or Paul Hobbs. With prices sometimes in the hundreds of dollars, combined with their hard-to-get status, these wines have been known to generate a kind of hysteria in otherwise sensible adults. Paul Hobbs presently stands out from the pack, not only as a "quality fanatic", but as a trail blazer credited with proving the winemaking potential in Argentina, despite the sceptics. Fifteen years ago, 'Outback Jacks' were turning on the Shiraz tap in the US and UK markets. Now Gauchos are doing the same with Argentinian Malbec. The present scene is a far cry from an industry once content supplying mass produced wines for locals to consume like there was no tomorrow. (Argentinians were drinking a staggering 90 litres of wine per capita by the end of the 1960s) When over production hit, the effects were devastating. Out of the maelstrom, deregulation policies of the early 90s sparked a renewed interest in winemaking with a focus on quality. It was a sobering up of sorts. Argentine vintners were suddenly looking abroad, not only for inspiration but also for new markets as domestic consumption plummeted by nearly half. Elsewhere, the flying winemakers were in full swing and super cuvees and garagiste upstarts were making their mark in places like Bordeaux and California. These hugely successful Cabernet focussed regions became the inspiration for Argentinean vintners all too keen to modernise their practises and premiumise their own offerings - the perfect backdrop for the founders of Vina Cobos to cross paths. Like many winemakers, Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud traveled to the US to work in California where they met Paul Hobbs, “before the fame” as Barraud is always quick to point out. Hobbs was recently coined the "Steve Jobs of Wine" by Forbes magazine - if the analogy seems far fetched, his credentials do speak for themselves. Having started his career as an intern with Mondavi in the 70s, he rapidly climbed the ranks to become winemaker at the iconic Mondavi/ Rothschild joint venture, Opus One. Twice named Wine Personality of the Year by Robert Parker, Hobbs, now 53, owns wineries in the USA (California and Finger Lakes) while operating a wine import business and an international wine consultancy that reaches as far afield as Armenia. Through his consultancy and a friendship with Jorge Catena he became acquainted with Argentina's potential while his fellow countrymen were still swooning over California. In 1997, Hobbs partnered with Marchiori and Barraud - the perfect anchors in the region, as their families were amongst the grower establishment of the Mendoza winescape, as well as custodians of some of the best old vine sites. A 128 acre vineyard at Perdriel is the heart of the operation with 16 - 80 year old plantings of ownrooted Malbec, Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay. Given the creative forces behind this project, it's no surprise that Vina Cobos already has a cult status in its home country and major international wine markets. The inaugural 1999 vintage received the highest score to date for an Argentinean wine upon release. Subsequent releases earned 98 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Rather than resting on their laurels, the founders have extended their talents to different high altitude vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo and the Valle de Uco to the South, not solely focusing on Malbec, but also delivering some tremendous values in Chardonnay and Cabernets. This is where things get serious for Hobbs, a man who was long entrenched at the epicentre of Napa Cabernet culture and who knows as much about the variety as any Bordeaux veteran. The Cobos partners are convinced that while Malbec put Argentina on the wine drinker's map, Cabernet Sauvignon is the variety that could well seal its position as a purveyor of bespoke wines in all price brackets. Malbec has the fortunate position, at least for the moment, of not having much competition from other countries. If Hobbs' legacy is to impose Cabernet in a market place otherwise obsessed with Malbec, analogies with Steve Jobs may not be so far fetched.