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When it comes to pairing food and wine, the secret lies in using all the right ingredients. We all know chocolate and wine are an amazing duo since both have complex flavors, notes, and have similar components and nuances in common. Find the right wine to complement the right chocolate and you will get a winning combo that proves there is a heaven somewhere to be found, and if it exists it´s filled with wine & chocolate. So here are some great tips for whenever you want to match these two gastronomy deities:

When pairing wines with chocolate, try to match light, subtle, elegant flavored chocolates with lighter-bodied wines. Likewise the stronger and bitter the chocolate gets, the more full-bodied the wine should be. The darker the chocolate the more tannins it will display. However, when you pair this darker chocolate with a wine that has stout tannins, the chocolate will often overshadow or cancel out the wine’s tannins on the palate and allow more fruit flavors show through the wine.

But also keep in mind that wine and chocolate  are not a straightforward pairing. Sometimes finding the best wine and chocolate combinations can take some time and a bit of experimenting as well. Remember palate impressions differ from person to person. And your individual perception can be very different from those you are tasting (and testing) with. For some they prefer the wine to be as sweet as the chocolate, for others they might want to find contrast/balance between the two.

White chocolates….
tend to be soft, mellow and buttery in flavor, making it an ideal candidate for a Sherry, Muscats or even a floral/fruity but dry wine like a Torrontes! These sweet wines will pick up the creaminess of the chocolates and the fruity dry ones will pick up any fruit tones on the scene. Another route, for pairing wine with white chocolate is going for the contrast pairing approach which is a little riskier, but when you find a match it can be exceptional. Take a wine like a Zinfandel or a Rose which tend to have a heavier acidic content and often a higher alcohol level, and partner it with a creamy, buttered white chocolate and you might experience an unusually exciting effect.

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I have always loved movies. I am starting to love wine. It is not until recently that I began to recognize how involved one was in the other. Recently, when I returned home from a Buenos Aires wine tasting I sat down with a bottle of San Gigmnanio Malbec Roble 2010 and put on a consensus top ten movie for any American The Godfather. The movie is about the Italian mafia so one shouldn’t be surprised that there is a lot of wine in this movie. In the opening scene at the wedding of the Don’s daughter large pitchers of wine are being passed around. Wine is enjoyable, relaxed, and fun, lacking the pretentiousness that is sometimes assigned to wine.  With my interest peaked I decided to check out other movies that bring wine into the equation.

movies for wine lovers

In most movies wine is used at times of celebration. Whether it is the future realm of Star Trek or the ancient era of Lord of the Rings drinking fine wines during moments of celebration seem to transcend all types of genres. A part of argentine tourism that I have yet to explore yet is their film, but knowing how important the Malbec’s and Torrontes varietal wines are to Argentineans I expect the same could be said for argentine films.

There are some movies that an avid wine lover can indulge in that I can assume were made by wine obsessed directors. If you’re willing to watch a movie in black and white pick up Casblanca. Just about every scene involves one of the characters indulging themselves with Champagne, Cognac, and Brandy.Only a movie whose plot is about wine could have more wine than Casablanca. Luckily, Sideways is just that. Sideways is a movie about two wine lovers and their adventures throughout the California wine country. I myself haven’t seen Sideways but have heard that any wine lover would enjoy the movie. So next time you return from an Argentine wine tasting or other Argentine tourist attractions open a bottle of whichever wine you please and watch a movie about wine or any movie of your choice and try to find the wine it!

Many people ask us at our Buenos Aires wine tastings how we decide which foods to pair with which wines.  Although pairing does require some thought and experimentation, there are some simple guidelines to consider when trying to pair food with your wine at home.  Here are a few tips:

The first and simple rule to follow is to match the weight of the wine with the weight of the pairing.  If your food overpowers the wine, the wine may appear weak in comparison.  Find foods that evenly match your wine to bring out the best qualities in both.  If you are trying to showcase a special bottle of wine and you want it to be the focus of your meal, try foods that are still equal in weight but subtler in flavor.

If you are going to drink a more tannic wine like a Bonarda, foods with more fat pair well with the wine, because the fat of the food helps cut through the tannins.  Consider pairing meats like salami and creamier cheeses to accompany your more tannic wine.

Another thing to consider is the level of the acidity in the wine with the level of the acidity in the food.  Wines that are not as acidic as their foods will appear weak in comparison.  Try to pair acidic dishes like fish with lemon with acidic wines like a Torrontes or Sauvignon Blanc.

A few foods that are difficult to pair with wine are artichokes, asparagus, and eggs.    The compounds in these foods tend to distort the flavor of the wine resulting in unpalatable combinations.

Even with these suggestions remember wine is an experience meant to be enjoyed and what is pleasing to one may not be pleasing to all.  Do not be afraid to experiment with new food pairings to see which foods bring out the best characteristics of the wine you love.

A horizontal wine tasting is a great way to train as well as test your palate and learn more about wine and different wine producers.  The main requirement of a horizontal wine tasting is that all of the wines come from the same year.   After you decide your vintage, you can experiment with other factors to create the experience you want from your horizontal wine tasting.

First you can choose to do a few varietals or just focus on one type of varietal.  If you do decide to do a few varietals that include both whites and reds make sure to do your whites first so as not to desensitize your palate.  Next you can decide if you want to have wines all from the same region or perhaps try different countries.  An interesting experiment would be to try for example a Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy, France, Argentina, and Chile and not only see which wine you prefer but how the different terroirs and growing styles of each country affect the same grape.  Another experiment we recommend at our wine tastings in Buenos Aires is to try a series of Argentine Malbec from the different regions of Mendoza.  Most people know that the Malbec is primarily grown in Mendoza but there are different sub regions in Mendoza such as Luján de Cuyo and Maipú and each region imparts subtle yet different characteristics on the wine.

One of the main points of a horizontal wine tasting is to compare wine producers and how they did in a given year but also with any wine tasting it is to find out what you like.  If you would do a series of horizontal tastings (not in the same day of course!) of the same varietal, you may eventually learn that you prefer that type of wine from a certain country or region or maybe even more specifically a certain producer because of its consistent quality from year to year.

One of the wines that is a staple at our wine tastings is the Carinae Torrontes. We love putting this wine at our wine tastings in Buenos Aires because it is always a pleasant surprise for people who are traveling through Buenos Aires or new to the city. Why is this?

Well first simply because it is Torrontes. I have been writing about Torrontes for years but it seems to still be a newcomer for most people. Interestingly Torrontes was recently compared to 3 other staple white wine varietals in a blind consumer tasting and beat all of them! It was put up against Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay and yes, Torrontes won.  But the downside was that even though Torrontes was the clear winner among the 4 varietals tasted, only 18% of the participants in the blind wine tasting had ever heard of Torrontes. This is why we feel it is our duty to always have a Torrontes in our wine tastings.

Now why do we pick Carinae Torrontes? Well there are many different Torrontes to pick from and they are certainly not all equal. Others that we really like that we have worked with in the past are Mairena Torrontes, El Pouvenir de los Andes Torrontes, and yes, I will say it (because it is from a big winery I am reluctant) Colomé Torrontes. Carinae, however, we feel demonstrates the qualities of a great Torrontes from Salta.

There are 3 principle regions where good Torrontes is made: Salta in the extreme northwest of Argentina is considered to be the best due to is extremely high altitude. La Rioja, just a bit south of that still has great altitude but the Torrontes comes out a little less aromatic, and San Juan, which is just north of Mendoza, also makes decent Torrontes but the style is much lighter and more elegant.

The Carinae Torrontes demonstrates the extremely floral bouquet that is the desirable characteristic in Torrontes. Aromas like orange blossom, jasmin and honey are found… but then in the mouth it changes on you. This is why Torrontes is called the “liar’s grape” (“la uva mentirosa” in Spanish) because in the nose you have sweetness and flowers and in the mouth you have a dry expression with crisp acidity of apricot, peach and grapefruit.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

This system might work for Shakespeare, but it does not work for wine. Why?  Marketing.  Wine consumers young and old are identifying more with the wine varietal, the primary grape used in the production of the wine.  “Old world” wines, especially those from France tend to be identified by their region rather than their varietal, but with the emergence of “new world” wines from countries like Argentina and Australia into the market, even the French are adapting certain wine labels to the varietal naming system.

Although I have always found the varietal naming system very helpful, I did not realize until recently how it initially handicapped me in my discovery of wine.  Unlike Shakespeare I got caught up in the name – the name of the varietal.   Once I found a varietal I liked, it became my “go-to” and I never ventured much outside my comfort zone.   All of that changed on my first trip to Buenos Aires two years ago when I dared to venture outside my “go-to’s” and tried my first Argentine Malbec. .  I had never heard of the varietal Malbec before my visit, but since I was traveling I allowed my palette to venture as well.   I am glad I did, because I instantly had a new favorite!

This unforeseen discovery made me wonder what other varietals I might be missing.  In addition to Malbec, Argentina has many more varietals to offer including Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Torrontés.  Yes, these grapes originally hail from other regions of the world, but the terroir of Argentina –high altitudes, dryer climate, and the runoff water from the Andes – creates an ideal climate for them to grow resulting in delicious wines.

The moral of the story – explore the world of wine!  The varietal naming system, although helpful, can make it is easy to stick with your “go-to’s”.  Attend a fun wine tasting in Buenos Aires and you may discover a new varietal or an old favorite from a new region of the world.  Maybe Shakespeare does have a point after all …

 

I love wine aromas and finding wine’s aroma. When we do our informative wine tastings in Buenos Aires, I tend to harp on this subject a lot because I personally find it so fun and exciting.  While discussing this topic one night I was told a story (by my friend Talia – her blog here) about a group of people who evidently find nostril stimulation exciting (keep in mind that this was after everyone had had a lot of wine and felt quite comfortable with one another). Yes, this was news to me too but I found the stories so bizarre (inserting objects up one’s nasal cavity to induce sneezing – enough so to cause euphoria!!) that I had to read more about it. All I could find were these links on the Urban Dictionary:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nasal%20Orgasm
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=nostril-bating

I cannot believe that there is actually a term for this! I do find sneezing oddly pleasurable (once or twice) and do remember when I used to have sneezing fits when I was a kid in allergy season, but not enjoying this.

Then I thought about how oddly similar this is to the pleasure I get from wine aromas. When doing wine tasting, the aroma (for me at least) is at least 1/3 of the pleasure. Most professional tasters only approximate the aroma as 20% of any score they give, but I really feel it should be more. The aroma is like your sneak preview, your window on what the wine will be in your mouth.

It can also be so surprising what a wine tastes like after inhaling the aroma. A earthy, dirty smelling wine can be super fruity and complex in the mouth and vice versa. This is why we do what we do! Torrontes is even called the “liar’s grape” at times because the nose is so different than the mouth. Usually Torrontes has a super floral and sweet honeyed aroma, but a dry apricot / pear expression in the mouth with grapefruit and citrus flavors to boot.

So can wine cause a nasal orgasm? Well, not in the sense outlined by the Urban Dictionary, but I find it to be super fun and almost as important as drinking wine.

One of the most frequently asked questions at our wine tastings in Buenos Aires is “how do I pick out flavors from the wine I am tasting”? This is an excellent question of course as many many people are intimidated by those who can detect the gooseberry and the pistachio shell and the freesia.

My first response is always “don’t worry about it too much, just worry about whether you like the smell and taste of the wine or not.” That is always step 1… just worry about what you like and don’t worry about what anybody else likes.

My second response is that if you are really interested in being able to pick out specific characteristics in wine, especially the “rare” descriptors, then what you are really interested in is exercising your palate. This is a basic and simple thing to do that you can do every day, usually best when you are cooking.

My process has been to smell and taste every single ingredient that I ever use when cooking. You have to do this raw. So try smelling a raw onion, then taste it, then cook it in olive oil, then smell and taste it again. Before you use olive oil again, smell it and taste it. And smell and taste the different types of olive oil (yes olives have varietals) and the same varietal olive oil but different brands (who probably use slightly different processes).

Stop and smell all the flowers!

Right now in Buenos Aires all the jasmins are blooming and you can smell this intense jasmin aroma when you pass the plants while walking somewhere.

Another thing to do is to do a wine tasting with essential aromas. You can get essence of rose or many other flowers, flavors, trees, smokes, woods, etc and take these essential oils out when you do a wine tasting.

Enjoy!

This wine is simply ridiculous.

We are going to start serving this wine in our tasting room in Buenos Aires on about November 1st of this year, but here is a sneak preview. This 100% Malbec wine is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels and produced in limited quantities of about 10,000 bottles.

Why do I say this wine is ridiculous? First of all, for such a young reserve wine, it has a nose to die for. This is one of the most aromatic wines I have ever tried in my life (and I am including some 96 and 94 point Wine Spectator rated wines that I tried at a portfolio tasting in New York City last week). The highly rated California Cabernets have nothing on this wine in the bouquet category. There is an incredible abundance of ripe raspberry and plum with a floral quality as well. After breathing for 20-30 minutes, we progress into a light cigar aroma with some vanilla background and a touch of pepper.

The color at the moment is a bright violet and is quite brilliant.

In the mouth there is also a lot going on. Big fruit and bold flavor all the way around. Malbec is always associated with plum flavors and plum jam. This Malbec takes these plum flavors to another echelon. The super developed fruit flavors consist of raspberry jam, ripe red plum, and thorny blackberry on the attack. On the mid-palate we get some of the oak notes like cedar and toast. A nice full body with soft tannins make this wine quite easy drinking. Where I compare the fruit and the aroma of this wine with the highly rated California cabs I tried, the structure is much more feminine and soft. The California cabs had much more aggressive tannin and more masculine feel.

A really long finish on this wine gives a slight pepper flavor along with clove and cherry.

This big time winner is going to be a hot seller in November.

The phrase well balanced wine is totally overused. I think about 99% of all wine labels actually say this somewhere. That would mean that that phrase means nothing. The actual meaning is as follows, and the key is that you will simply have to find out for yourself whether a wine is well balanced.

Balance has to do with the 4 components of wine: alcohol, acid, tannin and fruit (or sugar if you are getting technical). A well balanced wine is one that takes all of these components and blends them harmoniously into one beautiful beverage.

A wine that has too much alcohol is called “Alcoholic”. This can usually be determined by smelling the wine. It will smell like alcohol (surprise), but it may also taste too sharp or cause a burning in the back of the throat. One way to practice detecting an alcoholic wine is if you ever get a red wine that is served too warm, you will notice a sharpness which is the alcohol. At higher temperature the alcohol expresses itself more.

An overly acidic wine will also have a sharpness and bite, like a lemon or vinegar. This is termed acidic.

An overly tannic wine, also called “hard” or “harsh” wine will have an abrasive mouthfeel to it. This is not necessarily a flaw, as some people, especially veteran drinkers may actually prefer a lot of tannin in their wine. It keeps things interesting for some people. The varietal Tannat, which is the Uruguayan national varietal is named after tannins because it is the most tannic of grape varietals.

Finally we come to fruit or sugar which is the most subjective of characteristics. Not residual sugar mind you. Residual sugar is easily quantifiable. But one’s preference on how much fruit one wants in a wine is why we do so many wine tastings to find out what we like.

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