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So you’ve just got back from that great trip to Argentina or you’re hearing all the stories from your friends holiday in South America. Hopefully somewhere amongst those anecdotes will be the story of a wine tasting! If so, what made you enjoy it so much? If not, never fear as hosting your own wine tasting is much simpler than it may sound and can be great fun!

 

Step 1 – Chose the wines!

For your home wine tasting you don’t want to select too many wines. This may result in confusion of flavours and tastes. Between four and six wines should be more than enough to get a wide range.

With so much choice, ask if you can try before you buy. Many places offer this and is a great option.

Then determine which kind of wines you want to offer. Everyone will have their preferences, but get hold of a good sparkling or white wine and you may have your red wine lover converting! Then head down to a good supplier or check on the internet for some trustworthy suppliers than can get that great quality wine to you!

 

I would recommend offering a line-up of wines, each one to go with a course of your dinner. A great choice could be a Chardonnay or Torrontes with a starter, a Bonarda or Pinot Noir if you are offering cheese, meants and breads for an apetizer.

 

If yummy meats are not your thing, try a ceviche or a maybe a vegetarian option with nuts and pulses.

Then work to a second and third course, adding in a Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec depending on the heaviness of the food.Finally with chocolate you can pair a red wine, or a dessert wine with a lighter course.

Dark chocolates go great with many red wines.

2, Pair the wine with the dinner food and make notes

This part is more up to your preferences,  your friends preferences and the wine you have chosen. Chose what will constitute each course and write up a small sheet of notes for each wine.

 

OR

 

You could keep it a blind test! This is a really fun option. Be aware though that this may only work to expectations if your friends are concentrating on each wine. Here you could serve each wine, talk about them. Then at the end, serve one again (with the bottle covered or hidden) and ask them to guess which wine they are drinking.

 

 

So you’ve just got back from that great trip to Argentina, or you’re hearing all the stories from your friends holiday in South America. Hopefully somewhere amongst those anecdotes will be the story of a wine tasting! If so, what made you enjoy it so much? If not, never fear as hosting your own wine tasting is much simpler than it may sound and can be great fun!

 

Step 1 – Chose the wines!

For your home wine tasting you don’t want to select too many wines. This may result in confusion of flavours and tastes. Between four and six wines should be more than enough to get a wide range.

With so much choice, ask if you can try before you buy. Many places offer this and is a great option.

Then determine which kind of wines you want to offer. Everyone will have their preferences, but get hold of a good sparkling or white wine and you may have your red wine lover converting! Then head down to a good supplier or check on the internet for some trustworthy suppliers than can get that great quality wine to you!

 

I would recommend offering a line-up of wines, each one to go with a course of your dinner.

 

A great choice could be a Chardonnay or Torrontes with a starter, a Bonarda or Pinot Noir if you are offering cheese, meats and breads for an apetizer.

If yummy meats are not your thing, try a ceviche or a maybe a vegetarian option with nuts and pulses.

Then work to a second and third course, adding in a Cabernet Sauvignon or Malbec depending on the heaviness of the food.

 

Finally with chocolate you can pair a red wine, or a dessert wine with a lighter course.

Dark chocolates go great with many red wines.

2, Pair the wine with the dinner food and make notes

This part is more up to your preferences,  your friends preferences and the wine you have chosen. Chose what will constitute each course and write up a small sheet of notes for each wine.

 

OR

 

You could keep it a blind test! This is a really fun option. Be aware though that this may only work to expectations if your friends are concentrating on each wine. Here you could serve each wine, talk about them. Then at the end, serve one again (with the bottle covered or hidden) and ask them to guess which wine they are drinking.

Of course, if you’re not feeling up to cooking take away the food pairing and offer a post-dinner wine tasting!

3. Make your guest list!

This, unfortunately, I am unable to help you with. Invite your favorite group of friends, family (or maybe neighbors you were looking to get to know) .

 

4. Have a great time

Enjoy your wines and have a laugh! Don’t worry if at first you don’t smell the oak or understand the tannins. Keep trying different wines and reading up on blogs and articles and in time you’ll know your Gewurztraminer from your Gruner Veltliner!

 

And remember – you can make your wine tasting so it’s not snobby at all! Tasting wine is about appreciating the smells  and tastes and sharing your personal preferences, whether they agree with others or not. Check out wine tastings being offered in other regions such as france, Italy, Chile,  Mendoza, Salta and Buenos Aires.

 

, take away the food pairings and just hold an all wine tasting!

3. Make your guest list!

This, unfortunately, I am unable to help you with. Invite your favorite group of friends, family (or maybe neighbours you were looking to get to know) .

4. Have a great time

Enjoy your wines and have a laugh! Don’t worry if at first you don’t smell the oak or understand the tannins. Keep trying different wines and reading up on blogs and articles and in time you’ll know your Gewurztraminer from your Gruner Veltliner!

 

And remember – you can make your wine tasting so it’s not snobby at all! Tasting wine is about appreciating the smells  and tastes and sharing your personal preferences, whether they agree with others or not. Check out wine tastings being offered in other regions such as France, Italy, Chile,  Mendoza, Salta and Buenos Aires.

 

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Due to a complicated economic situation certain things in Argentina have become pretty expensive and hard to get hold of. It can sometimes be a great pain, but you can always find a way to get around it. However, one great thing about living in Argentina is the availability of  great  food and wines at great value for money costs.

 

$100 Pesos Argentinos

So, I bring you today the list of the best Argentine wines with the best value for money ratio! I think this is the blog everyone wants to be reading right now! So enjoy:

 

One varietal i’d like to mention is the ‘CIentoquince – Boedgas de La Rosa 2006’. This is a delicate wine with earthy and mineral notes. This wine has a good balance of sweetness and acidity also with well-balanced tannins, Argentina generally had a great harvest in 2006 so this wine is worth trying. A bottle can be bought at $30 dollars… see!

 

Another example is the Carinae Malbec 2006 is from the a CarinaE in Maipu, Mendoza, this Malbec shows a fresh, dry palate with smoky notes and  a hint of fruity notes too. This wine is easy to drink, with a striking finish. Almost unbelievably, this wine is valued at $30 U$dollars.

 

carinae malbec

Carinae Malbec

 

A slightly higher priced wine is the D.V Catena Cabernet-Sauvignon 2002. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 24 months in french oak. This wine shows a beautiful dark purple colour with floral and herbal notes on the nose. This elegant wine is smooth and velvety. With great reviews, this wine can age up to 10 years so add it to your collection or cellar!This wine is valued between $35 and $40 U$ dollars.

dv catena

A few other great Argentine ‘great value of money wines’ are: Rutini Antologia XI 2001, Mendel Unus 2006, Finca Los Nobles Malbec Verdot 2004.

 

 

 

I’m sure each and every winery and bodega in Mendoza, Argentina, will have something special and different about it. Some may be more economic than others, and some may be more cosy while others will have fluent English speakers working there. It really depends on many things and unfortunately I still haven’t been to all of them (this would take a LOT of time but would be great fun!).

wine tour

A great picture here of a group doing a wine tour. I love the focus on the grape bunch and the man in the background taking a picture in the sunshine!

So in the meantime, here’s a few gems I’ve picked out so you can start to get to know a few wineries. If you don’t like the look of these, maybe it will give you some starter tips to look out for others:

Cuvelier de los Andes

 

The bodega Cuvelier de los Andes is a winery that holds family values high. Started when Henri Cuvelier, from the north of France, started sharing his love of wine in the 19th century. With his son the successful family continued on to purchase Chataus’ around France. Paul Cuvelier had come to Argentina and thought the wines ‘pleasant to drink’ but not up to the standards of the French. So he decided to keep a watchful eye on them. And how right was to do so!

 

In 1998 Bertrand Cuvelier and Michel Rolland embarked on the adventure to Argentina. The website of Cuvelier de los Andes boasts its modern technology in the wine making process.

 

Their wines have exceeded their original hopes with a great harvest from 2003 and one can find a great selection of their ratings including a Robert Parker rating 92 for their 2009 CLA collections.

 

Their selection offers a range of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Blend amongst others.

http://www.cuvelierlosandes.com/newsite/index.php?lang=en

http://www.fincamevi.com.ar/?s=bodega&lang=en

Finca Mevi

 

Rolando Meninato and Oscar Vignart are both partners and the owners at the Mevi Bodega. They built their first winery in 2003 and went on from there! Their curriculums shine out impressively as both have been president of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States in Argentina and the Chemical and Petrochemical Chamber, members of the Union Industrial Argentina (UIA) and Asociación Empresaria Argentina (AEA). This is all great to write about as I really feel this is one factor that shows how hard working these men are. Rolando is an Agricultural Engineer and Oscar a Chemical Engineer.

The Mevi Bodega has re modernized itself, with the new winery being inaugurated in April of 2011. Mevi use stainless steel tanks with “a total capacity of 120 m3”. These tanks also have cooling and heating external coils.

 

However, it’s not just a line of certificates that can show off a life of hard work. I personally love the Mevi San Gimignano Cabernet Sauvignon. I love to have it with some cheese and red meats. They also offer a large range of wines from Malbec Rose, Bonarda to a great Torrontes.

 

In case the name of the line is seeming a little more Italian than Argentine…. you’re spot on! San Gimignano is a location in Tuscany, Italy, and the labels on the bottles show the town and it’s buildings.

Bodega La Azul

 

The bodega Azul is another small Mendoza winery. This bodega lies at the feet of the Andes mountain range (separating Chile from Argentina).

A beautiful photo of the Andes Mountain range.

 

Currently the bodega is run by Alejandro Fadel and Gustavo Larghi. The wines they offer are: Malbec, Cabernet, Azul Reserva and Azul Gran Reserva.

Carinae

The Carinae winery is definitely a gem worth discovering if going down to Mendoza. Run by Brigitte and Philippe Subra (two very lovely people) this winery has such a friendly feel to it!

The name Carinae is after a star constellation that can be seen from the south!

The Carinae star constellation – how beautiful!

 

The boutique winery has a vat capacity of 260,000 litres and concentrates all its efforts on producing high quality wines. When trying the great wines that Carinae have to offer, you can often pick up hints of the French oak casks they keep!

 

Carinae offer: The Carinae Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon blend, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Reserva Malbec, Finca Denza Guarda, Gran Reserva Syrah and Passito de los Andes (just to name a few).

 

A great thing about many Carinae wines is that they are meant to be drunk young. This means there is no need to store away hoping for it to improve, not really knowing if this special occasion really is the right special occasion. Just go on and cork it open! We know you’ll love it.

I’ve only mentioned here a couple of wineries that I thought worth putting down, but in reality there are many great wineries to be visited.

Have you been? If so, where did you go? If not, which do you think you’ll be choosing, as seeing all would be virtually impossible!

 

Wine tasting is great. And what’s even better is that the concept can be applied to many different things. There are olive oil tastings, chili cookoffs, and many other different types of food and beverage comparison formats.

The basic concepts though are all the same. To correctly evaluate foods or other drinks, as it is with wine, you simply have to practice paying attention to your senses and use a system.

Wine tasting uses at least 4 senses (and arguably all 5 as hearing can be symbolized through the clinking of glasses, the utterance of the word “cheers” (or “salud” or “prost”…)) which are sight, smell, taste and feel.

These 4 senses apply to all food and beverage except maybe ice cream, which I have written about quite a bit due to the extremely high quality ice cream in Argentina. The only sense that ice cream would leave out is smell, because its frozen and gives off little or no aroma.

But all other foods and beverages basically have a visual component, aromatic, flavor and texture.

So besides using these 4 senses often, the only other thing to do is to create a system so that you have a basis for comparison.

For the longest time, I looked at (examined really), smelled, and tasted every raw ingredient I used in my cooking. Especially with things like different types of oils, different brands of the same foods and other subtle but easily quantifiable differences, one can train the palate in addition to explore preferences, combinations and recipes.

When scoring different foods or beverages during a competition, I always recommend the 100 point scale, used in the following manner: 10 points for visual, 20 for aroma, 30 for “mouth” (taste+texture), and 40 for “overall”. This is a relatively simple and straightforward way to judge any food and beverage competition or comparison.

So exercise your senses and then apply a system to them!

I have never been a fan of Cabernet that much. I think because I tried too much from Napa. Don’t get me wrong, there are great Cabs there, but they are so big and so oaky. I look for some refinement.
San Gimignano Cabernet 2010 has this. Its actually a fruit forward Cab. What a shocker! What a great price too… only 17.99. Check it out on www.anuvawines.com
Other great cabs out of Argentina…
If you are willing to spend some money, Carmelo Patti. If you want to go economic, Las Perdices. If you want a syrupy fruit bomb, La Madrid.

This kind of ends my list though. I find Cabs around the world to tend toward the under ripe, green pepper and other flavors in this category. This combined with the tendency for harsher tannin and I’m not sold. I think this is why I gravitated toward Argentine wine to begin with. When I first started wine tasting in Argentina a lot, it was the suppleness that got me. The ease of the Malbec.

Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of over oaked wines coming out of Mendoza as well. In fact, the trend might actually be in this direction unfortunately. For as Argentina, Mendoza and Malbec become more well known around the world, the marketing people who are involved in “helping” the wineries in Argentina get into the press and into the major world markets, are giving a message that is a little too common.

I wonder what true uniqueness is in wine? We have to have a discussion on terroir to go there. I was in Burgundy recently and terroir took on a whole new meaning. Ironically, without enough age on most of the wines there I only found a few gems (with my limited budget). The most incredible gem I found was actually a Creme de Cassis. Who knew.

Each wine has a life span. Many peak in their youth and are ready to be enjoyed within a year of vintage, like a high school prom queen. Other wines need a little bit more time to smooth out and become less awkward, like the geeky kid in your algebra class, who surprises you 10 years later at high school reunion. Aged wines offer much more complexity as wine makers look for a balance of three components; bright fruit, acidity and tannin, which comes from the grape skins and oak aging. With high amounts of each in a balanced proportion a wine can age into a complex velvety beaut.

As time passes the fruit fades and tannins break down. In most cases if there is little fruit to begin with the wine will seem dull and less interesting. An aged wine will be recognizable by its coloring. As red wine matures the hues lighten into coppers and browns. While white wines become more dark and golden.

Last week at a tasting I tried 3 wines with vintage dates between 1999and 2002. Our host explained that these wines were on their way out and ready to drink now. As we tried three different varietals the structure of each was elegant and round, while the fruit was mellow, subtle and subdued.

For a bit of fun our host ended the tasting with a young fruity Malbec, which stood in stark contrast to the grandfathers in the first half of the tasting. The fruit was bright but the structure seemed more tannic and less smooth. One of the most exciting things about wine for me is how wine changes, from time on a shelf to an hour after opening it. Aged wines are great to explore to understand how wines evolve, peak, fade and die. Check out this Article from Into Wine to learn more about wine aging. http://www.intowine.com/aging-wines-which-age-well

A heat wave in the dead of winter strikes fear into the hearts of wine makers. Last week Buenos Aires experienced an unexpected spike in temperature leaving all improperly stored wine at risk.

We received several nervous phone calls from wine makers warning us to serve their wine at the proper temperature. We assured them all of the wine is stored in a 12 degree Celsius wine cabinet.

The heat wave caught me off guard as well. I spent my day working around the city in a wool sweater with a long sleeved undershirt.. My wooly inferno reminded me of the Argentine summer and the sensation of being slowly cooked alive.

I passed several supermarkets. Eyeing their wine aisles stocked with out a temperature control system and chock full of Alamos, Santa Julia and Vasco Viejo, I thought that like me these wines knew how a roasted goose might feel.

Some of the best restaurants in town are guilty of cooked wine as well, storing their wine on shelves in the back, or worse yet above the grill.

On a hot night last February I learned the importance of proper wine storage. I buy wine from every price range and try to keep an open mind. I found a blend for 8 pesos and proceeded to the check out. To my surprise the wine had been discounted to 6 pesos.

Suspicious to say the least. If you wonder what cooked wines tastes like imagine the fruit knocked off the pallet and a dull syrupy sensation lingering in the mouth. Cooked wine also tends to make me feel ill. After a few sips I sent half the bottle down the drain and half into the oven over a roasted prime rib.

Proper wine storage requires a cool dark space. For more tips on how to keep your wine check out http://www.basic-wine-knowledge.com/proper-wine-storage.html

When shopping for wine be sure to note conditions. Is the space climate controlled? Most local supermarkets are not and it is well worth the extra stop to a wine shop.

As for me, after a long day of suffocating in my own clothes I looked forward glass of nice crisp white wine.

This week we had the distinct pleasure of hosting 4 Changs for a wine tastings of Argentina’s best. It turns out, though, that they were two separate groups of two who happened to find us on the same day. How ironic.

Naturally all of our wines were Chang approved, especially the Don Juan Reserva by Perdices. We poured classic favorites from our collection and allowed our guests to choose from the selection opened earlier for an in-company tasting. A very expressive Sauvignon Blanc from Las Perdices could not have been more appropriate as Peter and his wife are building home in New Zealand. We were excited to show how well Argentina does New Zealands most popular variety.

The groups hit it off. Turns out all the Changs have a real flare for gourmet food. Conversation about the West Coast dining scene ate up most of the conversation as the groups shared stories about their time in Oregon and Washington. We ended the tasting with the Changs exchanging contact information and writing down Anuva’s own recommendations for several nearby restaurants.

It seems that the phenomenon of the shotgun approach to winemaking is not limited to California producers. Here in Argentina, we also find tremendous numbers of wineries dropping of or shipping Anuva samples of the 12 different varietals, 6 bi-varietals, and 6 blend 1st or 2nd vintage.

The suprising thing to me is how similar all the wines turn out to be. Medicinal Malbec, cough syrup Syrah and Cabernet, overly oaked Chardonnays, and none in the bunch actually speak to me.

It kills me to pour so much wine down the drain. Especially knowing how much effort and money goes into making each bottle, designing each label, selecting corks, driving the logistics process, etc.  But the reality is that I don’t even want to cook with these.

Several examples of new wineries, however, do exist that have a distinct focus. Naiara, Las Perdices, Cavagnaro, Vinos de los Andes all make either exclusively one varietal or only 3-5 different wines in total.

Las Perdices is actually an example of a winery that could do 18-30 different wines. Carlos Muñóz, the owner and winemaker there, has tanks of Tannat, Bonarda, Cab-Franc and other varietals just sitting there to play with in his blends. That to me says careful winemaking and well thought out products and thus it is rare that any of his samples ever get tossed down the drain.

Our tasting last night in Buenos Aires had everyone focused on the nuances of the wine and the terroir. Terms like acidic, oily, fat, hard, harsh, tannic, round tannin, soft tannin, hard tannin, and so forth take so much time to understand because of their previous meanings to people, and the lack of the use of these terms as they pertain to wine. I love it though, when they really have a revelation about how they taste wine and what they like.

Abundantly apparent to me was the acidity in the Hom Espumante, the sweet apricot and white flower aroma of Anecon Torrontes, the blueberry pie (we like pie in wine) burst in Durigutti Bonarda, the tobacco and leather in Cavagnaro Malbec, and the alluring pleasure of Don Juan Reserve.

For all the guests, the Torrontés surprised, the ladies favored the Bonarda and the Reserve, and the gentlemen the Malbec and the Reserve.

The learning experience, as usual impressed me as well as our guests, who tell me that only the bottom of the barrel of Argentine wines arrive to the UK. I find that tremendously disappointing in the worlds most competitive wine market. I guess those of us promoting wine from Argentina must simply work harder to get the word out about the greatness that is produced here at the moment.

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