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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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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!

 

On Saturday the Anuva team met for a short and sweet in-company tasting. With only 9 wines the tasting took about 40 min to complete. In the line up was a dessert wine. Pink viscous and aromatic. My initial reaction was Halloween candy, like when I was 10 and returning home with a large plastic pumpkin filled to the brim, devising a plan of how to convince my parents that I should be entitled to eat the entire lot. Others suggested tawny port and caramel. I’ll admit I am often apprehensive to try dessert wines. I tend to prefer coffee with my cake and feel slightly ill at the thought of sucking in any extra sugar.

Many a winery can make good desert wines but also make some horrendous sticky sweet syrups. Saturday night’s sample was made very well. And some people love desert wines, like Stuart who later washed down an entire dulce de leche flan with the wine. Dessert wines can be tricky:

http://www.winedefinitions.com/learningcenter/articles/introductiontodessertwines.htm

By definition a dessert wine refers to all fortified wines, with 16-21% alcohol, sweet or not. This includes ports, late harvests, sauternes, sherry and tirades. Production styles vary in Argentina desert wines are called Dulces or tardias (late harvests). Late harvest wines are difficult to make because the Grapes are left on the vines longer and thus are more susceptible to damage and weather. One of the first rules of fruit growing is that everyday on the vine is a risk. Delaying harvest can be a huge loss. But with some luck the grapes ripen, swell and eventually shrink. Flavors are concentrated and sugar levels are high. (Thus higher alcohol) As a result of the production desert wines tend to be more expensive.

In addition from a seller’s perspective moving dessert wines, which often come in 375 ml bottles can be a burden and throw off shipping. I have tried very few dessert wines. I will leave the wineries nameless, but some of the dessert wines I have tried have been pretty awful. But Saturday’s experience sparked my interest and I would be more willing to try other dessert wines in the future. My approach to wine and everything else for that matter is anything can be good if done right.

If you are interested in trying dessert wines I suggest the following -Try various dessert wines in tasting rooms, most wineries will feature theirs -Consult your local wine shop for a recommendation – Consider Argentina, which has been receiving more attention for its dessert wines. The low humidity in many regions allows the grapes to linger on the vines with less risk. To serve dessert wine -Whites chilled, reds partially chilled -Pair with foods, less sweet than wine. For example almond biscotti or pound cake pair easily with most dessert wines. -Fresh fruit like peaches are another option -Consider creamy cheeses, pates as alternatives to desserts.

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

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.

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.

We at Anuva had yet another successful wine tasting in Buenos Aires. The attendance was strikingly international, complete with Sydney-sider, native Argentine, and a wonderful German couple.

The wines tasted, as well, were a big hit. The viticultural quintuplet began with the Anecon Torrontés from Vinos de los Andes. A smooth and flowery white wine, one of the German guests was surprised to find that this typically Argentine white wine was her favorite, as she expected to be most impressed by the more traditional Malbec varietal. The Torrontés paired really well with grapefruit and melon that we served, pleasantly surprise our guests. Las Perdices Sauvignon Blanc followed, and turned out to be even more popular than the first with its marked dryness and intense citrus notes.

A powerhouse trio of classically Argentine reds from Mendoza came next: Familia Mayol Bonarda, Don Juan Reserve Blend, also from Las Perdices, and a Cavagnaro Reserve Malbec. Far and away the last two reserve wines were the evening favorites. The reserve blend was an immediate hit with it’s intoxicating nose of spiced dark chocolates and tobacco which, over the following 30 minutes evolved into a cacophony of plums and raspberries. The Cavagnero Reserve Malbec was an appropriately rich and round finish to the evening. Described as “buttery, rich and hedonistic,” this is a perfect description as well of our satisfied states as the tasting came to a close and the conversation drifted from grape production to laughter and stories of the sobremesa (the table talk “over the table” after food and wine have been consumed).

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.

It turns out that there is quite a fan base out there for Buenos Aires and Argentina in general. A lovely couple from New York visited me today to taste wine, since they weren’t going to go to Mendoza this time around. “None of the wineries there have wine clubs or ship to the U.S.,” said one of them. Well, it’s not exactly that extreme but more than half of the wineries in Argentina still don’t export.

And thus exists the mission of our company: to find the best of the never before exported wines of Argentina and make them available to the U.S. public. Hopefully I will be seeing Arthur and Beth again when I visit New York to share some more of Anuva’s Wines with them and their friends.

We had a very intimate tasting last night: one guest to be precise… But she loved the Bonarda that we served. Having never tried a Bonarda before, I enjoyed explaining the origins of the grape and it’s common charactaristics to her while seeing what foods it combined with.

Bonarda for me has always been the deal maker, along with Torrontés. It was Malbec, obviously, that got me started, and will always have that special place in my heart, but the discovery of this “other red” that Argentina does so well was key to the founding of Anuva.

So when I saw the grin and then heard the comment, “I really liked that Bonarda”, then I smiled.

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