Wines at Altitude – Carmenere and Malbec

Jan 27, 12 Wines at Altitude – Carmenere and Malbec

Posted by in Argentina, Chile

I don’t hate Carmenere. It’s often referred to as the “marmite” of wine, you either love it or hate it. I fall into the ambivilent category, neither hating it nor loving it. I was given a little more insight into carmenere when I participated in a wine workshop sponsored by Santa Rita Estates, a premium Chilean producer, which sought to shed a bit more light on not only the wines of Chile but also it’s neighbour, Argentina and it’s flagship grape, Malbec. I participated only in the red wine tasting of the seminar but there was a white wine tasting in the morning. The Carmenere tasting was lead by Tim Atkin MW, Brian Croser and Peter Richards MW with Panellists Andres Ilabaca and Sebastian Labbe. Peter Richards MW noted that carmenere is still relatively new and that it needs more time and that he has “…no doubt that quality will increase in time. Lots of different kinds of Carmenere will emerge, as it’s a naturally varied variety…” Viña Casa Silva, Santa Rita Estates, Carmen Winemakers, and Concha y Toro were all on show, an mix of 2008 and 2009 vintages. What was most evident was the slight green notes of the wines and the tannins. I also found that there was a coffee bean character to them, but I liked that! The standout was not surprisingly a blend, 85% carmenere, 10% carignan and 5% cabernet the 2009 Apalta by Carmen Winemakers. Carmenere seems to work best when blended and this wine was fresh, spicy and full of fruit. The added varities seemed to give the wine a lift and extra dimension. Carmenere is still a work in progress for the Chileans. After a short break we reconvened for Malbec. I’ve drunk a lot of malbec, mostly in Argentina, so I was looking forward to tasting these wines. Colome Estate, Bodega Noemia, and Dona Paula were all on tasting. Salta is one of the highest altitude wine producing regions in the world, if not the...

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The Ultimate Box Collection from Moet & Hennessey, winemakers video

Why were 3 winemakers from far flung parts of the globe all in Central London at the same time? They were here for the launch of Moet Hennessey’s Ultimate Collection Box, a collection of 6 iconic wines from MH’s wine portfolio. Although there are 6 different wines, it is hard enough to get 3 winemakers together at one time, let alone all 6 so I felt lucky to be chatting with Manuel Loazada of Numanthia, Nicholas Audebert of Cheval des Andes and Ian Morden of Cloudy Bay, all 3, Chief Winemakers for their respective estates. The Ultimate Box Collection was designed by Argentine artist Pablo Reinoso and is a handsome, handcrafted wooden jewel box designed to showcase the flagship bottles from each of the wineries from its Estates and Wines portfolio which are: Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon, Cloudy Bay’s Te Koko, Cheval des Andes, Newton’s The Puzzle, Numanthia’s Termanthia and Terrazas de los Andes’ Afincado Malbec. The box was created in part to respond to the growing consumer demand for Super Premium New World wines. Why would Moet Hennessey put together such a box and launch it now, I asked Manuel. Well, now is as good as time as any, he replied. And besides, if they waited to get all 6 winemakers together in one place, it would never happen. I had a brief chat with the 3 to see what they thought of the whole Collection concept… The Ultimate Collection Box is available from Harrod’s and at a suggested retail price of £500 so start saving those pennies… Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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The local bus was taking forever. On the map there looked to be about 40 kms between Neuquen and Rio Negro, not far, there in half an hour. However, I forgot that I was traveling in South America and nothing is ever quick or fast on a bus, even if it was the “express” bus, it’s a term used very loosely in this part of the world. I swear we stopped at every other street corner along the way. I was in Patagonia and to get here it takes 15 hours on a bus from Buenos Aires, down a lonely 2-lane highway. It really did feel like the bottom of the world. Isolated, windswept desert vistas as far as the eye can see, with the occasional tiny settlement on the Patagonian steppe. While it may not look like the ideal place to grow grapes and is hundreds of miles away from any “real” civilization, Patagonia has proven to be the place to go for adventurous wines makers. I had been alerted to the vineyards of Rio Negro from the winemakers of Neuquen, which I had been visiting. Go there if you want to try wines from old vines, they said. It was just a short drive away, 40 kms. “That’s nothing”, or so I thought, to the Rio Negro Valley. The Rio Negro Valley is 625 miles south of Buenos Aires but it was one of the first regions to produce wine on a large scale in Argentina. As a matter of fact, 100 years ago, it was the place to go for quality Argentine wines. Over the years, though, farmers found it more profitable and easier to grow apples and pears and most of the vineyards were grubbed up and replaced with fruit orchards. There are still a few wineries in the area and the land is quite suitable for viticulture, being in an irrigated oasis in the Patagonian desert. As the vineyards are in the desert, there are very few, if any,...

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Wine at the beach, Argentina

It’s hard to believe, sitting here in my flat in London, all wrapped up in a heavy jumper and wearing thick socks, that a little over a week ago I was frolicking in the waves and stretching out on the beach in Argentina. Like all holidays, that one had to come to an end and so I find myself flipping through my slideshow on my laptop, hardly believing that I was basking in the sun such a short time ago. Like any wineblogger worth her salt, I took pics of most of the wines we had and even though they were not top of the line, we were at the beach, upon reflection I realized that they were very good value for  money. This being Argentina, a land of good, affordable wine, you can walk into any supermarket or even corner shop and find a wall of wine. Granted, it might not be the best and sometimes, storage conditions are not exactly ideal but for around £3-£5, you can get a decent wine to go along with your pizza or pasta. It being summer, the days are long and we often didn’t get home from the beach til past 8. Bear in mind that in Villa Gesell, where we were staying, the shops have some archaic rule that they cannot sell wine after 9pm! You can imagine the rush then upon returning home, jump into the shower to wash off the sand and then a quick run into town to pick up a bottle before they stopped selling wine. I know, you’re probably thinking, why didn’t you just buy a case at the beginning of the week but what fun is that? The SAME wine every night? No thanks. Plus, I got to check out the different stocks of various shops. The first night was when we discovered that stupid rule but luckily, we found a restaurant that would sell us a bottle of wine takeaway. The Fond de Cave 2009 Malbec from Mendoza,...

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Making wine at the end of the world…Bodega del Fin del Mundo

As I ventured further south into the Pampas and beyond of Argentina, it really did begin to feel like the end of the world. The Argentines  have a phrase, “el culo del mundo”  which roughly translates as the “ass of the world” . Once you’ve gone 15 hrs on a bus on a 2 lane highway that never wavers, never swerves, just one long, lone straight line that disappears into the distance, either side of the highway, not a hillock in sight, flat as a pancake, just the land and the sky. It is a lonely feeling. Eventually, you do come upon a major settlement and that would be the capital city of Neuquen, deep in Patagonia. A dusty, low slung city, once you leave the city limits you are back into the desert and then, trees, a (man made) lake, signs of life. This is where Bodega del Fin Del Mundo is, 50 kms outside of Neuquen at a road that ends in vines. The Bodega del Fin del Mundo winery, like most of the wineries in Neuquen is fairly new, having been built within the last 10 years. Lots of stainless steel tanks, state of the art technology and a good size cave, which houses more than 2000 oak barrels, both French and American, give it an up-to-the-minute feel despite it’s lonely location. The winery is technically in the designated grape producing region of San Particio del Chañar, within the Patagonian province of Neuquen. San Patricio del Chañar is very dry (less then 180 ml rainfall annually) and the winery relies on irrigation to water it’s 800 hectares of grapes. Another definitive factor in the grape production is the strong Patagonian winds that blow constantly, causing the grapes to have thick skins which contributes mightly to the colour without the need for much extraction.   BFDM grow a variety of red and white varietals, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc amongst others. I tasted through their various ranges,...

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A horsey break in the mtns of Cordoba,Los Potreros Estancia, Argentina

“I think it’s gin o’clock, don’t you?” said my hostess and trail boss, Louise (Lou) Begg. After a rough two hours on the trail ( not really, the horses barely broke into a trot) we were back at the estancia in time for a pre-lunch drink. I was spending a few days of R&R between all my visits to various wineries at the Estancia Los Potreros in the province of Cordoba,  in the central/northern part of Argentina.   Los Potreros has been in the Begg family for 4 generations but it originally started out as a farm to breed mules for the Peruvian silver mines back in 1574. It was bought by the Begg family in the first quarter of the 20th century and today the fourth generation of the Anglo/Argentine Begg family (Kevin and his wife Louise) run the estancia as not only a working farm, breeding award winning Angus cattle but also as a country retreat for horse lovers. Horse day trips, working with the gauchos, playing polo, golf, winetastings, trekking, bird-watching or just laying by the pool are all options on the ranch. If you’re a horsey person, this is the ideal retreat. Now, The Winesleuth is not really that much of a horse person but I was game and after the first ride, I was hooked. Lou and Kevin adjust to each rider’s level which means if you’re a beginner like me, there’s nothing too strenuous or long.The two-hour twice daily rides we took were just long enough for me. I asked Lou if they ever get people who don’t want to or can’t ride a horse and she replied that it is actually quite common. Often a partner or child doesn’t want to ride which is why they have plenty of other activities on offer. Of course, if you want to go racing up an down the hills, they cater for that as well. The landscape is just gorgeous, big hills rolling out as far as the eye can...

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