Achaval Ferrer was my favorite winery when I visited Mendoza region in 2014. It had been sold to SPI, the maker of famous Stolychnaya vodka at the time, but the wines I tasted were still made by the original team of Santiago Achaval and Roberto Cipresso. The Malbecs were characterized by intensity and elegance.
This time turned out to be different. It was obvious from entering the winery. There were a number of customers, but staff was very disinterested. The brands and typical very low yields in the vineyards have remained unchanged, but the taste of the wines was certainly different.
The 2014 Quimera is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The wine had good fruit intensity, but was very alcoholic with a hot finish (85 points). The 2014 Malbec Bellavista was somewhat brutish, with the 100% new oak not well integrated - a concentrated wine with firm tannins and a sweet finish. This wine might appeal to some, but did not to me (90 points). The Mirador was fresher, with significant acidity and some complex flavours of chocolate and tobacco, but again lacking balance (91 points).
The star of the tasting, as five years ago, was the 2014 Altamira. This wine comes from the Uco Valley, from a vineyard at 1300m altitude and volcanic soil. It showed dark fruits, an elegant expression, and a long finish (94 points).
The new winemaker is a young Argentinian. It seems the focus is on power, high alcohol, and new oak, clearly aimed at a certain American palate. Unfortunately, the subtleties in the wines I enjoyed many years ago, have been lost.