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There have surged recent complaints from Chinese wine producers regarding the introduction or “dumping” of European wine on the Chinese market! However, many were unaware of the existence of Chinese wine in the first place!

For years Chinese wine was considered as being of an extremely low quality. However things have appeared to have changed around with them now winning worldwide recognition. So much so that respected wine critic Jancis Robinson named winery ‘Jia Bei Lan’s’ Grand Reserva 2009 as one of the two “most promising”wines she had tasted on a trip to the region.

Jancis Robinson in China.

 

Apparently many wineries that found it hard to produce wines that even tasted nice, are now struggling to keep up with the high demand for their produce. Judy Liessner, Chinese owner of Grace’s vinyard had a similar history.

 

The problem of China’s short start had been put towards the fact that China has a shortage of quality wine grapes. Meaning many wines are filled with low-end grapes that aren’t sweet enough to produce those yummy and interesting wine flavours.

 

China has been named the world’s eighth largest wine producer and expected to be the sixth largest by 2016 and Waitrose supermarket started featuring chinese wines in 2012, becoming the first UK supermarket to stock Chinese wine. The wine is Changyu Cabernet Gernischt and is described as a “spicy, aromatic and juicy red” and will go on sale for £9.99 ($15 USD).

 

A cute blog to get reading up on wine in china is Grape wall of China.

 

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Oh My Verum Chardonnay

I had my first taste of Verum Chardonnay while working at a Argentine Wine dinner, held by the Powder Horn in Sheridan, Wyoming.  It was love at first sip.  In fact, I would have to say that this particular wine is what flickered my interest in South American Wines.

  This 100% Chardonnay Vino comes from the Bodega del Rio Elorza , and is produced by winemakers Alberto Antonini and Mariano Vignoni.  The family boutique is located in the Alto Valle de Rio Negro of Patagonia, which gives the Verum Chardonnay unique flavors of the Patagonian Terrior.  If you notice on the front of the label of Verum there are six birds present.  These birds are black swans and each one represents a Elorza family member, showing that this family are all involved in their winery.delrio

Verum Chardonnay, to me, is a quite unique Chardonnay, giving off hints of hazelnut and some lemon zest on the nose, continuing with a long finish of creamed pears and lime on the palate.  Although, this wine is not very complex it still scored 89 points with Robert Parkers, Wine Advocate.  When I sip on this Patagonian Chardonnay I simply imagine myself on a beach smelling and feeling the sea breeze against my face.

  Another reason I enjoy this Chardonnay is for the wonderful fact that it pairs excellently with one of my favorite dishes.  Quattro quesos ravioli con crema salsa pera, a four cheese ravioli served with a creamy elegant pear sauce.  Although the dish is not a typical Patagonian recipe, nor is it Argentine, when paired with the Verum Chardonnay it tends to bring out the soft pear flavor in the wine as well as some hints of nutmeg, leaving you with a refreshing feeling in your stomach as well as your palate.

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During my time attending and giving Argentina wine tastings, I have seen and heard (and of course, tasted) some of the most interesting wines, some surprising, occasionally shocking but most of the time monotonus…it is the one point that always surprises me; the number of repeat questions or beliefs about wine that I come across over and over again. It appears that you folks out there all have similar queries about the basic aspects of the world of wine. What is right? What is wrong? What is the truth…or did that wine waiter tell me a load of codswallop? Well, I’m going to examine some of these more popular questions and clear it up for once and for all, determine the real myths and truths of wine. 

“Wine is best enjoyed from a wine glass” – YES!

The aromas of wine can “escape” easily from a tumbler glass; however they remain concentrated in a wine glass due to its rounded form allowing the consumer to obtain the best perception of the characteristics of the wine. Wine glasses should be filled no higher than half of the glass so the empty upper half can act as a chamber to capture the aromas, enhancing the different scents, giving more of them to waft up your nose!

Another essential aspect of the wine glass is the way in which we drink from it and how the glass itself delivers the wine to the mouth, entering on the tip of the tongue and continuing down the centre. The tongue is a very important tool for judging aspects of the wine such as sweetness, acidity, bitterness and sourness.
The tip of the tongue is where sweetness is perceived. When tasting wine, the idea is to try to get an idea of the the level of sweetness first, and then let the wine pass to other sectors of the tongue to obtain a fuller picture of its characteristics. Imagine drinking from a wine glass versus a tumbler glass. When drinking from a tumbler you open your mouth wider, while the glass delivers liquid to the mouth quickly and in larger quantities giving you a “full mouth”, therefore wine would miss the tip of the tongue and be concentrated in areas to the sides of and below the tongue where we have more perception of acidity in the wine, which is not always as pleasant.

So it is…the Truth. Wine is best enjoyed from a wine glass!

“Wine should be drunk at room temperature.” 

Define what room temperature is. Certainly the sweltering room temperature here in Buenos Aires during the summer is not the same as the chilly winter room temperatures that we can experience back in the UK. 
This basic element of wine service is one of the main problems that can affect the outcome of red wine in particular. Full bodied red wine should be served between 16 and 18 ° C, where by it should be drank at that or no more than 20 ° C. If you do receive a warm wine in a restaurant, ask for an ice bucket to cool it. Why you ask me? That sounds like it’s is going against everything I’ve been told about red wine? Well, it is necessary due the manner in which aromas, tannins and alcohol function at different temperatures. If a full bodied red wine is too cold the aromas will be suppressed as will the alcohol, but the tannins will be very apparent whereas if the wine is served too warm then again your will have lessened aromas but heightened the perception of alcohol whilst lowering the tannins giving the consumer very unbalanced and unpleasant wines on both accounts. Tannins, aromas and alcohol can work in equilibrium when they are at the correct temperature of 16 and 18 ° C for red wines, however lighter red with less tannins and whites are served at cooler temperatures to suppress the alcohol and to bring out more fresh characteristics of the wines.

The ignorance of this temperature fact contributes to one of the main problems that lead to consumer dissatisfaction, mainly for women, who are naturally more sensitive to high alcohol/tannins in red wines.

So what temperatures are the ‘right’ temperatures?

Sparkling wines: 6-8º C

Sweet white wines:  6 to 10º C

Dry white wines: 8 to 12º C
Rose: 8 to 12º C

Light Reds: 14 to 16º C
Full Body Reds: 16 to 18º C

For those who do not carry a thermometer around in there pocket all day long, the best way to judge if a full bodied wine is acceptable or not is to simply touch the bottle by hand. It should feel neither hot nor cold and it should be fresh. If the wine is too warm, 15 minute in the fridge is normally enough to bring it to the optimum temperature.

So it is….a myth!

There are more myths and truths to come so keep an eye out and (possibly) the wine in the fridge!

If you come to a Buenos Aires wine tasting you will hear a lot of terms you have never heard before. Most of these terms will refer to how to properly taste and analyze the wine your drinking. Of course you can enjoy a bottle of Argentine wine without knowing these terms but for those who want to turn their passion for wines into knowledge the next few terms I will define are the building blocks necessary for one who wants to become a master of wine.

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First in this article I will cover all you need to know about “the nose” of a wine. In the simplest terms the nose describes the scent or the aroma of the wine. However, unless it is a very bad wine the nose of the wine is not simple at all. The aroma of each different wine is distinct. Before attending a few Argentine wine tastings I thought the only thing I could smell in wine was grapes and alcohol. Now when I am trying a new bottle of boutique Argentine wine I get a range of aromas coming from wine. Depending on the bottle I can smell fruity aromas like red fruit and black fruit along with other aromas like chocolate, pepper, and leather. The nose is also important in analyzing if the wine is still good or not. Basically if it smells like gas or burning tires I would get a different bottle.

By looking at the color of the wine you can sometimes predict the intensity of the nose. In general the darker the wine the heavy or more intense the nose will be. It is also important to note that with a good wine one smell is not enough. With a very good wine many complex scents can emerge from the wine over time. These complex scents are usually referred to as the bouquet of the wine. There is so much more that can be said about the “nose” of a wine, but for now I think I have given enough information to give anyone a advantage at their next Argentine wine tasting.

My friend and I have recently made a pact get out of our ‘routine-riddled rut’, vowing that we are going to be more adventurous, get out there and see more of what Buenos Aires nightlife has to offer; bars, restaurants and those hardcore all-nighter clubs. There was no better time to start this gluttonous endeavour then a Tuesday night ‘ladies night’.

As Buenos Aires isn’t exactly known for being pumping on a Tuesday evening (to be fair, possibly one of the only nights where it’s not) we thought it was best to select a chilled out location that has been high on our ‘to do’ list for a while: La Cava Jeffrey, Alamcen de Vinos y Descorche on the crossroads Jufre and Julian Alvarez.

From the moment I clapped eyes on the quaint old-fashioned corner building with its large burgundy wooden door, I was in love. If I were a cartoon character, hearts would have exploded from my eye sockets. The doorway was flanked with two large windows giving us a sneak peak to what awaited on the inside. Two pretty Argentine women sat enveloped in excitable chatter on the small wooden table smoking and having what appeared to be an Argentina wine tasting …I swear, for one moment I could have been in Paris.

As a wine fanatic I could only describe La Cava Jufre vinoteca as the perfect Argentine wine zone as it is so much more than just a wine bar. It felt intimate, cosy, friendly and utterly relaxed. I pretty much melted into my traditional wooden chair while taking in the surroundings. A simple wooden bar is at the heart of the room, normally with the attentive owner, Lito, perched behind it (most likely involved in a deep philosophical chat with a punter), the stunning brick walls supported tall wine racks with an impressive assortment of bottles as well as soft Jazz playing in the background. Dreamy.

We quickly ordered a cheeses plate for two and then enquired to the whereabouts of the wine list…. the response was a point in the direction of a multilevel circular wine rack located near the door. We were like kids in sweet shop, squealing in delight at each new wine discovery; La Cava Jufre has a fabulous selection of small boutique wineries, just the kind of Argentine wine I like to explore, quaff and taste. I also really enjoyed the fact that I could personally handle and inspect each bottle rather than just blindly choosing a name from a long list of Argentine Wines with flowery description underneath. It was simplicity at it’s best!

We finally settled for Las Perdices Pinot Noir Reserva 2010 (more to come about this great young wine in the future), which was a lovely pairing for our generous portion of selected cheeses which included brie, fontina, smoked goats cheese, almonds, raisons and olives. The olives were slightly overpowering for the light bodied wine but the almonds and raison really brought out the characteristics of the wine beautifully…as did the cheese, of course!

The night dissolved and as the last drops of the Pinot Noir were poured we decided we hadn’t quite had enough, La Cava Jufre is just too damn comfortable. So we went back for seconds, this time Tapiz Cabernet-Merlot blend from 2008. As one might expect, this was rather a big contrast from our previous wine selection; this was big, bold and powerful versus the Pinots light, silky, smooth texture. It was a little bit too much for one night and only three little ladies to share (especially as both wines were 14%) so we decided to call it a night with over a half a bottle of wine left. Feeling disappointed at having to leave such a great wine unfinished, Lito put our minds to rest as the cork was promptly shoved back into the neck of the bottle and placed in a bag so we could take the rest to enjoy at home. Perfect. And that is literally how I felt about the whole experience. Perfect.

After we talk about our Malbec blend that has been aged in French oak, a question we often get at our Buenos Aires wine tasting is:  is there a difference between French and American oak in wine making?  The answer is yes.  Similar to other aspects of wine making, slight changes in the production, fermentation, or maturation process, will make a difference in the final product.

American oak tends to impart stronger flavors on the wine especially vanilla and give wines a more creamy texture.  The taste and smell of wood is more noticeable in wine that is aged in American oak.  French oak has more tannins and the wood grains are tighter than American oak.  This increases the flavor and complexity of the wine but it does not affect the wine’s flavor and aroma as much as American oak.  French oak also gives wine a more satin or silky texture.

Just like wine the oak barrel has a production process that can lead to different flavors in the wine.  In France, a huge value is placed on which area the wood comes from whereas in the United States, the value is placed more on who makes the barrels then from where the wood comes.  Another aspect in barrel making is when they fire or “toast” the wood.  The level of “toast” will also affect the flavor of the wine.  A more “toasted” barrel will give more smoky flavors to a wine then a lighter “toasted” barrel.

Even though the wine is affected in different ways by each type of oak one is not necessarily better then the other.  American oak does have the benefit of being cheaper then French oak, but the wood is not of a lower quality nor does it lead to lower quality wines.  Similar to other steps in the wine making process, wine makers decide which type of oak will give their wine the greatest flavor. Some wine makers and wineries even choose to age certain wines in both American and French barrels.

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but I haven’t found the time or inspiration until now… My wife just found a new “obra social” for us as we might be “buscando un hijo” soon (that literally means “looking for a child” but directly means trying to get pregnant. What is astounding to me is what you get for 440 pesos per month (almost exactly 100 us dollars). Here are just some of the things on the list with Accord 310:

1. A hospital stay for an accompanying person in a private room for 4 days. This means that you are so sick or injured that you have to go to the hospital… and with NO additional charge, your significant other or parent or whoever can stay in a private room with you for up to 4 days. Wow.

2. Aesthetic surgery every 2 years. Nuff said.

3. A pair of glasses every year.

4. Home visits by doctors.

5. All exams and labs.

6. The first year of your baby’s life is included + all vaccinations + formula if necessary.

In other words Argentina is a country that believes in taking care of the health of its people. Now 440 pesos per month is a bit high for Argentina, but this equivalent plan would easily cost that same amount in dollars in the USA, which is not an equivalent trade.

60 days of interned psychiatric care’

I don’t think anyone would disagree that every country, to varying extents, seems to have its own preferred alcohol or alcohols. Whether it’s a unique characteristic of the country’s geography which makes for special ingredients or agriculture capabilities, a particular tendency or cultural habit of the people, or perhaps the mere presence of certain alcohol from immigration, you find different drinks in different areas.

Argentina certainly has a little of each of the above characteristics when it comes to their alcohol. The wine industry and culture is especially unique and beginning to flourish worldwide. This of course is due to its incredible geography with the Andes Mountains and varying temperature ranges as well as the impressive influence form Italian and French immigrants.

Immigration and lifestyle hasn’t’ just influenced wine, however. Sometime in the 19th century Italian immigrants brought a very particular hard liquor known as Fernet Branca. This dark, black licorice flavored drink is certainly not found all over the world. Argentines in Buenos Aires and all other provinces gravitate toward it and identify with it as a distinct symbol of their country. It is entirely a product of immigration, as is Argentine culture in general.

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While wine certainly maintains its elegancy, craftsmanship, and diversity over Fernet, some would say its not as ideal for a social, bar-type setting. Mixed almost exclusively with Coke, Fernet for many offers a tastier alternative to the harsh flavors of Vodka and Whiskey. On the other hand, many find it incredibly bitter and unbearable. Personally, a cool wine tasting in Buenos Aires beats a Fernet sampling (the factory is just outside of Buenos Aires) any day of the week. Wine tastings demonstrate the art and complexity in delicious wine. While Fernet may be ideal in certain scenarios, it is just one drink and one brand. Wine is an entire industry and culture in Argentina, which churns out thousands of brands and makes tastings special and useful opportunities.

Wine fairs have always fascinated me. I totally get it from the buyer perspective. You have hundreds if not thousands of wineries to see all at once, you take copious notes, and you figure out how you can construct your offering within the realm of what the distributors are offering.

This is what is going to happen today with the Portfolio tasting I will be showing the Anuva Wines at in New York. Our distributor will have about 2800 (yes two thousand eight hundred) other wines to show at the same time. This led me to ask the question “how many wines are available in the USA?” The usual figure that I hear is about 70,000. And this makes sense on an intuitive level because of the number of wineries out there and the number of private labels as well.

But how are people supposed to decide between hundreds of different brands of a single kind of a singel varietal from a single region. This is where I think winemakers are making mistakes. Too often people follow the California model of putting varietal on the label. While varietal does tell the customer what they are getting, it also puts the product in direct competition with any other product that has the same varietal.

Today, under one single distributor, hundreds of industry professionals in one of the most competitive wine markets in the world will try to pick out what is best from 3000 (three thousand) different products. How do they do it? Well most of them already have an advantage over the consumer: they already spend most of their time worrying about and thinking about wine! They taste wine every day and they make a living picking good ones. They also will come with an idea of what they want to find. They know that on their list, they are missing a high end Malbec or a Sparkling so they will taste those first, then see what else is new.

How should the consumer decide? More on that next time.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that every country, to varying extents, seems to have its own preferred alcohol or alcohols. Whether it’s a unique characteristic of the country’s geography which makes for special ingredients or agriculture capabilities, a particular tendency or cultural habit of the people, or perhaps the mere presence of certain alcohol from immigration, you find different drinks in different areas.

Argentina certainly has a little of each of the above characteristics when it comes to their alcohol. The wine industry and culture is especially unique and beginning to flourish worldwide. This of course is due to its incredible geography with the Andes Mountains and varying temperature ranges as well as the impressive influence form Italian and French immigrants.

Immigration and lifestyle hasn’t’ just influenced wine, however. Sometime in the 19th century Italian immigrants brought a very particular hard liquor known as Fernet Branca. This dark, black licorice flavored drink is certainly not found all over the world. Argentines in Buenos Aires and all other provinces gravitate toward it and identify with it as a distinct symbol of their country. It is entirely a product of immigration, as is Argentine culture in general.

While wine certainly maintains its elegancy, craftsmanship, and diversity over Fernet, some would say its not as ideal for a social, bar-type setting. Mixed almost exclusively with Coke, Fernet for many offers a tastier alternative to the harsh flavors of Vodka and Whiskey. On the other hand, many find it incredibly bitter and unbearable. Personally, a wine tasting beats a Fernet sampling any day of the week. Wine tastings demonstrate the art and complexity in delicious wine. While Fernet may be ideal in certain scenarios, it is just one drink and one brand. Wine is an entire industry and culture in Argentina, which churns out thousands of brands and makes tastings special and useful opportunities.

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