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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!

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Two lovely couples joined me on Wednesday for a sampling of 6 exquisite wines. I really got to thinking though, about the idea of renewable energy and how it relates to wine after the conversation over malbec, torrontés and bonarda turned to nuclear power as we had two nuclear engineers on our hands for the tasting.

As an aside, the word “isotope” and “uranium”, seldom used at wine tastings, did make some timely cameos at this fair event, uttered by yours truly, in a reach back into the long term memory banks from OChem and Physics in college. I’m glad that paid off!

In my humble estimation, wine gives energy to people through hope, enjoyment and the ever present “social lubricant” effects of alcohol. Wine, especially new wine that people have at a wine tasting for the first time, conveys a contagious excitment to the tasters and group and even those who do not consider themselves wine enthusiasts or connoisseurs become captivated by the mysteries of fermented grape juice. This certainly happened to me when I came to Buenos Aires in 2004 which prompted me to go to Mendoza immediately.

In addition, the direction that the wine industry in Argentina is going piques the interest of many. Production volumes, types of varietals and price points have been discussed at virtually every wine tasting. And thankfully, vines last at least one hundred years and keep producing better grapes as they age… another form of renewable energy.

It’s a lovely thing to witness the American family on vacation together in Buenos Aires. We had such a visit from last night from a family of 4 (the “kids” are obviously grown otherwise they would not have all come to a wine tasting).

The interesting, but not so surprising thing to me, were the reactions of Dad, Mom, Son and Daughter to the same wines. Dad liked the reserve malbec blend (Don Juan) while Son liked the the young malbec (Naiara). Daughter liked the Finca Morera Cabernet Franc while Mom liked the Anecon Torrontés. They do all agree that the beef in Argentina is stellar, however.

The Anuva philosophy about wine has always been one of a personal and subjective approach. There is no “right” answer when it comes to wine, only what you like. We like Malbec, Bonarda and Torrontés and wine from Argentina in general. So much so that we decided to make a living selling it.

Some sort of strange bond exists between people from Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver BC or pretty much anywhere in between along I-5. Last night I had 5 wonderful wine tasters from Seattle who ventured into the land of Pinot Noir from Argentina, Bonarda, Malbec blends, and of course, THE crowd pleaser, Hom Sparkling White wine. I assure the faithful out there, that as we speak, another half pallet of that stuff is getting loaded onto trucks very soon.

I mention the treehugger aspect because the first bit of our conversation revolved around organic wines and their merits. We do carry an organic merlot, appropriately called Occhioverde, which in Italian means “green eye”, but this is the only organic wine from Argentina that I have ever tasted that has come close to being worthy of club status. Just by the way, there could be an argument made, that since the winemaking region in Argentina is so arid, and thus naturally free of pests, molds and fungus, that the wines here are virtually organic anyway since vintners have much less need to spray. I reiterate, the argument could be made.

After regailing my guests with tales of how our logistics system works, and even making a flow chart for them, I escorted them down the street to one of my favorite parrilla restaurants, El Primo. The only thing that El Primo lacks, I think, is a complete and thorough wine list. The owner assures me that they will soon be carrying one of my favorite nationally (in the U.S.) distributed Argentine Malbecs called Ikella from Bodegas Melipal. As if not having this would deter me from devouring exorbitant amounts of of their luscious carne.

Yesterday afternoon, we were joined by a lovely group of women from Syracuse, NY and Las Vegas, NV. Five jovial sisters, daughters, and friends who all joked and laughed and really dove into the wines we had in front of us. What better way to spend a hot Buenos Aires Tuesday?

We often get a wide array of tasters in here, spanning the spectrum from the curious novice to the more tested connoisseur. Yesterday’s group tended to skew to the latter, which was really great to hear their questions or hear their comments, like how the 2007 Naiara Malbec had hints of clove and vanilla. Or how one of the tasters really hit the nail on the head by saying that the Naiara was a great sipping wine on its own, but with a big steak in front of her, the 2004 Las Perdices Don Juan Reserve Blend would be perfect.

Couple of great quotes from the tasting:

“This is primo!”

“Chocolate?! I smell spare ribs.” (I think she was joking…)

Reader Trivia Question:

What is a hybrid grape?

Tori and Ashwin Cheersing to a Great Afternoon.

Tori and Ashwin Cheersing to a Great Afternoon.

We are quickly establishing a reputation as the place to go for wine tasting in Buenos Aires. Last night, a group of Ph.D. students from Cornell accompanied me for 5 wines from different regions of Argentina that tempted and tantalized.

As usual, our chat revolved around wine to begin with, the methods of making sparking white, Mendoza Malbec, what is a Bonarda, and why limited production wines. And then we got into functional groups, politics and where to go to eat the best beef in Buenos Aires. I made a couple of recommendations for lesser known places that are a bit more Porteño and less touristy.

Then I sent them a case of Torrontés and Malbec to bring back to New York with them. I hope to see them there!

“Hark, a bevy of beautiful maidens!” exclaims Frederic, the hero of Pirates of Penzance (I played this role in my 8th grade musical). And so we were accompanied by 3 lovely tango dancing ladies from Wisconsin who felt a need to taste great wine during their visit to Argentina. They found us through the recent Time Out Magazine article on us.

Since the wine tasting was in the early afternoon, I thought our guests should at least deserve the option of spitting the wine, which is perfectly acceptable wine tasting practice as professionals will taste many wines back to back over several hours and lose sensory perception if they consume the wine. I was nearly laughed out of the room for making the suggestion.

No matter, the subject of tango dancing and Argentine food and nightlife quickly switched to other forms of dancing and then actually to psychology, Jung and Myers-Briggs at one point. Fantastically interesting.

We had some clear favorites in this afternoon wine tasting. Not a surprise was Hom Sparkling and Don Juan Reserve, both from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Everyone left happily with bottles and is eager for us to start shipping to Wisconsin.

Thanks Ladies!

Lidia, Leyla and Ed graced the Anuva office with their presence tonight for a lovely evening of wine learning, wine appreciation and, of course, witty banter. My philosophy has always been that wine is something to be talked about and also must be talked over. And that’s what we did…

About wine warmed the room enough to the point where over wine created an intimate chemistry. We began with several “how to’s” and a couple more tidbits of information, and we progressed into a discussion of University, Humanities and Kubrick over lovely, lovely Naiara Malbec, Anecon Torrontés, Hom Sparkling, and other gems.

Sean Connery and other lesser known British and Scottish speaking actors may or may not have made appearances during the evening. We heard their voices, but could not confirm nor disconfirm their presence.

Almost 3 hours went by before we noticed the time and I had to send them off to enjoy copious amounts of beef at El Pobre Luis, one of my favorites for asado.

It seems like a buzz is starting to generate, when groups of 27 random people contact you via internet search and decided to come taste wine with you in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Somehow, the coordinator of this massive group, all doing a “get to know you” excursion through Buenos Aires, Bariloche and perhaps a couple of other stops in Argentina, found Anuva and decided that this was the wine tasting to go with it.

We started with Hom Espumante, which everyone seemed to love, the followed with Anecon Torrontés which surprised and enchanted with its very aromatic nose. Then we moved on to a young Malbec named Ikella–a fruit bomb. Then a full Cabernet. And we finished with the luscious Don Juan Reserve. Everyone commented on the “wow” of Don Juan and after explaining the differences in why a reserve wine is called reserve and the differences in the winemaking practices between making “classic” wines and “reserve” wines, people understood why.

The group was very inquisitive about styles of wine and food combining “rules”. We went over some of the basics, some more advanced ideas, but I pretty much left them alone to drink and get to know each other. That was the whole point of their trip.

And what better way to get to know people than over Malbec, picada and 20% off dinner?

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