94 pts Wine Advocate Issue #228 Dec 2016
The insultingly young 2015 J Alberto is the most backward of the three wines I tasted on this occasion. It comes from four hectares of vines planted in 1955 with an ungrafted massale field blend selection, mostly Malbec but with some 5% Merlot, what was planted at the time in Manqué, Río Negro. The vineyard has five separate plots that are managed and harvested differently, as they have different soil characteristics, all organically and biodynamically-farmed. It's also the one wine that shows a little bit of oak in the nose, but that note dissipated quite quickly in the glass. It has perfect ripeness, with a perfumed mixture of violets, red and black fruit, plums and a hint of olives and a spicy touch, showing a pleasant herbal twist, possibly from the Merlot after some time in the glass. Hans described it as a "rebel" within the portfolio, a wine with character, more powerful than A Lisa (one has a feminine name, the other one masculine...), changing with the year, a little capricious. It was fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in used barrels, with some 15% of the volume kept in egg-shaped Nomblot cement vats, which Hans thinks are different from the others, mainly the quality of the components, and are less porous. Hans thinks this is subdued, the first year he has been able to drive the wine in the direction he wanted rather than the wine taking the lead and going where it (he?) pleased. It has very good balance and elegance within its powerful personality, combining strength with finesse. Again, this could be the best J Alberto ever produced. 12,000 bottles were filled in January 2016.