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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Cheval des Andes, lunch with Nicolas Audebert, winemaker

Back in September I was invited to a polo match and wine tasting in Richmond to meet the winemaker for Argentine winery, Cheval des Andes. I went, met their rather dashing French polo-playing winemaker, Nicolas Audebert, watched a polo match and had the pleasure of trying their wines. I never did get a chance to write it up because before I knew it, I was on a plane to Argentina and then another to Mendoza.  That’s how I came to actually be in the Cheval des Andes vineyards at the foot of the Andes Mtns chatting with Nicolas once again about Cheval des Andes’ wines. Nicolas and I had lunch on the terrace of the Cheval lodge, in the middle of the vines, overlooking the polo field and in the shadow of the Andes. The lodge was built in 2008 to welcome invited guests of Cheval des Andes. An open plan, polished tan wood and glass walled edifice, it’s the perfect place for a drink or to wander out to the terrace that faces the polo field to watch a match. Tastefully decorated with antiques, polo memorabilia and food and wine books, it’s a place to easily while away the afternoon, enjoying your glass of wine. Cheval des Andes is  a joint venture between Cheval Blanc and Terrazas los Andes begun in 1998. Terrazas was bought  by Chandon in the 50’s but it’s winery goes back to the early 20th century and they still have vines reaching back to that time. Cheval des Andes was able to take advantage of these old vines and has a parcel of vines that date from the 1920’s. It is from these vines that Cheval takes it’s malbec for it’s blend. The wine is a bordeaux blend style of wine, malbec,  cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot making up the wine. The hope behind the wine is that they produce a wine that is distinctly South American but has the French wine making stamp on it. Nicolas came from...

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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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A pinot taste-off at The Vines of Mendoza

They always say, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Last week I tried a rather anemic pinot noir from Mendoza, Argentina. I wondered if this was the best that Mendoza could do and vowed to try and find a Mendozan pinot noir with a bit more structure, body and flavour. Well, I succeeded, perhaps a little too successfully. I found myself at the bar of the tasting room of The Vines of Mendoza in the city centre with Emily Camblin, the VoM Director of Marketing and my drinking companion for the afternoon. We were there to have a bit of a taste off. I had come to Emily with my “problem” and challenged her to find me a pinot that was no wilting flower. I had come to the right place as The Vines of Mendoza is the only tasting room in all of South America. What also sets it apart from a run of the mill winery tasting room  is that they source their wines from all over Argentina. So, besides the ubiquitous malbec, there’s syrah and cabernet franc as well as pinot noir and malbec and plenty of boutique wineries represented amongst the bottles behind the counter. They even serve up wines from Brazil. Emily offered me a taste but I’ve had them in London and let’s just say, I’m not a fan. The idea behind Vines is to not only showcase the best that Argentina has to offer but also to do their bit for wine education. They offer wine by the glass and also by the flight with little mini-tutored tastings given by the very friendly, knowledgeable bi-lingual staff. The staff were extremely enthusiastic about their wines and couldn’t wait to tell me all about them. I felt right at home and probably would have spent the entire afternoon there talking through their flights but first, there were other, more important matters at hand – the pinots. “I’m sure you’ll find these pinots are not...

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I really wanted to like this wine…Padrillos, pinot noir from Mendoza

The pinot noir was not a hit. What a shame. My Argentine friends asked me what ever possessed me to buy a pinot noir from Mendoza when I could have bought a perfectly good malbec or syrah from Mendoza. I guess curiosity got the better of me. I´ve had pinots from Patagonia but never from Mendoza so when I spotted it on the shelf I just had to buy it. That and combined with the fact that it had the name Catena on it, I thought it would be good bet. But sadly, it wasn’t. Padrillos is the handiwork of the son of Nicolas Catena Zapata, Ernesto. Going into the wine making business for himself, Ernesto sources the grapes from other growers and makes the wine. Visiting the website, there is a whole story about the Incas and lost treasures etc but it all seemed a bit too much. The back label of the pinot noir also seems to ramble on with a story about a stallion climbing the Andes mountains and some how relating it to the freshness of the wine. This is my rough translation but my friends said it didn’t make much sense in Spanish either. Honestly, if you have to make up such a story, is it a distraction from the wine? In this case, I think yes. I haven’t tried the other wines he makes but I’m not really tempted to based on the pinot. A simple wine with not many defining characteristics other then “tastes like fruit juice” as my friends commented. I thought it had lots of cherry on the palate but I think they were right, it was like drinking cherry cola minus the fizz. Light to medium bodied, it reminded me of Beaujolais but not as good. What a disappointment, I was so looking forward to loving this wine, especially after paying 40 pesos for it. Bear in mind, you can get a perfectly acceptable bottle in the supermarket for 12 pesos and a really good...

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