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Posts Tagged ‘Wine Country of Argentina’

First one must declare one’s bias, or in this case, limitations, which happen to be the same thing when it comes to wine. My novio (Spanish for boyfriend) and I are wine lovers, not connoisseurs.  After 6 days of  wine tours and 14 wineries between Chile and Mendoza, it was very clear to us that there are wines made for wine lovers, and wine made for wine experts.

For example, at the much-lauded  Achaval-Ferrar in Mendoza, where a bottle of Malbec can cost you at least  $100, and where all vintages have received a minimum of 90 points from noted touts such as the Wine Spectator,  we could barely raise a “well that’s interesting”,  between the six of us around the tasting table.  Possibly interesting, but far from delicious.

There are certainly differing  (and firm) opinions on what goes into the making of a delicious wine.   How can the process of growing, harvesting and pressing grapes,  followed by fermenting, blending and aging grape juice require such a dizzying number of variations and combinations?

Are the vines older than the winery owner’s vintage Bugatti? Were they grown on the side of the hill facing the setting rather than the rising sun?  Does the water gently flow daily from artisanal wells or drip continually down each manicured row? Are the grape bunches individually culled by hand by the winemaker himself to ensure the concentration of fruit?

And of most importance, were the grapes hand-picked by virgins at the full of the moon but never when it falls on a Sunday:  those  small fingered damsels who placed their precious cargo in small baskets to protect the  round delicate fruit , cradled gently but firmly like a baby’s skull or a man’s …. Well… you get the picture.

Does it really matter if the juice is moved from stage to stage purely by gravity and not (horrors!) pumped through pipes from press to tank? If the stainless steel for the fermentation tanks is Italian or French? If the wine was aged in French oak from the forests found in the south of the Rhone vs. the north? Or if those oak trees were planted at the time of Louis XIV?  Does it make the wine more delicious if the barrels are softly serenaded by a classical pianist as they rest patiently three levels beneath the ground?

Perhaps not.   In fact, you begin to get the sense that many of these variations have little impact on the actual end product, at least not to the extent that a wine lover can detect. A wine expert may be able to discern and appreciate the nuances.  But it did feel like many of the points of difference were done for difference’s sake.  And so that  the wine tour guide has something special to say about the bodega. Not to mention so the wine consultants from California or France could be felt to deserve their hefty fees!

Wineries in both Chile and Argentina  are canvases upon which families with enormous wealth can play out their fantasies of creating the ultimate winery.  Architects have apparently been given blank cheques to build virtual temples to the making of wines.    Truly, the phrase “no expense has been spared” was said as often as  “we are proud of our wines”.

At gorgeous Emiliana, where the owners race Ferraris, and distribute fine German cars, you get a special edition bottle when you buy your new Porsche from them  (an expensive way to buy wine as Ben rightly pointed out!)   Salentein, the stunning winery owned by Dutch trading family  Pon, has soaring walls 3 stories down, adorned with large-scale original art work.  (This is also where the piano plays for the resting barrels)  At the striking Clos Aplata, brainchild of the grand-daughter of the founders of Grand Marnier, the casks of premium wines are laid out to form a church nave. Above them, a lighting grid echoes the celestial body, the Southern Cross. Her massive private wine cellar gleams with hundreds of bottles, gifts from wine makers around the world.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the wonderful architecture, the magnificent scenery and frankly the hyperbole surrounding the wine making process.  What does all of that have to do with making delicious wine?

We were actually told one thing that made a lot of sense to me:  if the winemaker does not have dirt on his or her shoes, he is missing the point. Everything important happens in the field, with the plants.  Anything done in the lab  or tank or barrel with the mixing of this and that is too late to make a difference. In the end, it really is farming.

Postscript:

We did consider shipping cases of our favourites finds back to Canada, until we discovered that as individuals, we would have to add to the cost of each bottle $10 shipping plus $ 10 handling plus the 110% LCBO markup. No thank you.

It made a $10 bottle of wine into a $40 bottle.

Agents of course can get better pricing, so we will try to source some of our favourites  through with our friend Shawnna at the Wine and Travel Company on our return.  Others are available at the LCBO, and because of their buying power, are very good value,  costing only 20% more on average than we paid at the winery.  Enjoy.

CASA MARIN 04PINOT NOIR LO ABARCA HILLS 2004

VINTAGES 67728 | 750 mL bottle Price: $ 59.95

We liked it so much that we are taking home at bottle in our luggage!

07SAUVIGNON BLANC CIPRESES VY(VINA CASA MARIN

Chile | Vina Casa Marin

VINTAGES 72678 | 750 mL | $ 23.20

Fabulous wine, very New Zealand in style ala Kim Crawford

Everything from Emiliana in Argentina is suitable for wine lovers, and apparently has won over a few critics for it’s excellent value.

EMILIANA ADOBE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008

VINTAGES 169946 | 750 mL bottle Price: $ 13.95

EMILIANA NATURA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009

VINTAGES 61069 | 750 mL bottle Price: $ 15.95

EMILIANA NOVAS LIMITED SELECTION CARMENÈRE/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 VINTAGES 66746 | 750 mL bottle Price: $ 14.95

EMILIANA NOVAS LIMITED SELECTION CHARDONNAY 2009

VINTAGES 4515 | 750 L bottle Price: $ 14.95

And any Torrontes (from Argentina) that you can find makes a wonderful apéritif or wine to go with fish and chicken dishes. Fresh, fruity with pineapple and rose petal aromas, it  had replaced the more expensive Albarino from Spain in my fridge.  Don’t look for our personal  favourite Alta Vista Premium ($13.95) however;  Ben and I have bought out the GTA!

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