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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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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More Patagonian winetasting adventures – Bodega NQN

It´s windy in Patagonia. I mean, really windy. The wind never seems to stop. While it´s not very good for my hair, it´s great for the vines. The desert winds of Patagonia sweep the vineyards clear of pests, make for an antiseptic environment, keep humidity to a minimum and gives the berries a thick skin. Neuquen, Patagonia has some of the newest vineyards in the world, most of them in fact were started less then 10 years ago. San Patricio del Chañar is what they´ve christened the newest wine producing region of Argentina and it sits between two desert plateaus, an oasis in the Patagonian desert, none of which could be possible without extensive irrigation. Fortunately, the Rio Negro runs through the desert and it is from this river that the vineyards get their water.   Following a dusty, narrow,  one and half lane road (it seemed like that to me, every time we saw a bus coming our way, I closed my eyes in anticipation of getting hit by it) we finally arrived at Bodega NQN, situated about 50 kms from Neuquen city. An ultra modern winery, it sits on top of a small hill overlooking the vines. Because there is so much space in Argentina, this vineyard covered hectares and hectares of land. They have over a 1000 hectares to work with, only a fraction of it being currently used but there are plans to plant more vines in the future. Lucas Nemesio, the owner of the vineyard was kind enough to sit down with me for lunch, paired with his wines, in the winery restaurant Malma. Over lunch, Lucas explained to me that their philosophy is to keep the character of their Patagonian wines. They don´t want to cater to any particular markets or styles. For this reason, they don´t have a flying winemaker as many Argentine wineries do, but prefer to go it on their own and see what the grapes themselves are capable of producing.  The vines of Patagonia are very...

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Bonarda and Malbec from Altos las Hormigas

The savvy winery has a twitter account. How else to know who´s visiting your region or who´s in town to try your wines? It was precisely because of Twitter that I found myself in a popular parrilla in a trendy Buenos Aires barrio one Friday nite tucking into a gigantic steak and talking wine with Estefani Litardo, Mkt Manager of Altos las Hormigas in Buenos Aires. First off, the most interesting thing I found out was that the vineyards are in the Medrano region of Lujan de Cuyo. It might not be interesting to you but my last name is Medrano. How could I resist a wine that comes from a region with my moniker on it? It has to be good, no prejudice here, no siree, Bob! Seriously, though, she did have my complete attention after I heard the name of the region, purely out of curiousity as my surname is not very common. Not all the vines are in the department of Medrano, they have vineyards scattered around Mendoza and the grapes for the reserva wine come from Valle de Uco. Another interesting side note, the wine is called Altos las Hormigas because when the vines were young, the winemakers were inspecting the vines and saw millions of ants (hormigas in spanish) in amongst the vineyard floor, something quite unusual for the area. They used herbicides and plant protectors to get rid of the ants but kept the name and symbol of the ant for their wine. Altos las Hormigas is a partnership of Italian and Argentine winemakers. The well known Italian winemaker Alberto Antonini went to Mendoza in the late 90´s to find a suitable vineyard to grow grapes. He was looking for a region that had similarities with his home region of Tuscany. The project was conceived to focus primarily on malbec. At the time, malbec was not the flagship grape of Argentina but Antonini believed it should be and he was one of the first to promote malbec as a premium...

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Un lugar en los Andes, high altitude malbec from Mendoza

I was visiting Mendoza, Argentina as part of my prize for winning the Argento/Bibendum Wine Contest back in March of this year. As you may recall, me and Niamh (Eatlikeagirl) made a guerilla winetasting video and won. Sadly, Niamh had to postpone her trip due to a family illness but I was game to carry on. Part of the trip was a visit to an estancia which was certainly one of the highlights of the trip.  I visited Estancia San Pablo on the hills flanking the Valle de Uco. Our host for the afternoon was Walter Scibilia-Campana, an enologist as well as owner of the estancia.  Walter and his wife, Karinna have carved out a lovely little guesthouse in the foothills of the Andes and welcome guests to take part in horseback excursions into the mountains as well as spend a few days on a working estancia. Walter’s family are big cattle ranchers but Walter decided to break away from that tradition and went to the Univ. of Mendoza to study enology. An interesting story about Walter´s history. Back when he was at the graduation ceremony from the University of Mendoza, he attended wearing the traditional Guacho dress of the region. The school authorities refused to give him his diploma saying he was not dressed appropriately. They told him, he could receive his diploma once he was dressed accordingly. Now, this did not sit will with Walter, who had worn traditional dress throughout his university career. He decided to sue the univeristy for discrimination and won! Rather then take the payout, Walter requested that the university pay for his wine master’s degree at Montpellier in France, which they did. After finishing at Montpellier, he went on to work for wineries in Bordeaux and California before settling in Mendoza to raise a family and wines. Walter has planted vines at some of the highest if not the highest altitudes in Mendoza. His malbec vines are at 1700 metres as well as his pinot noir. The pinot is...

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