As always, we begin our #WineStudio sessions with some guidelines: Ready your palate. Open your mind. It’s been our tenet from day 1—it’s all about gaining a better understanding of our world through wine and our part in that world. And no better way to begin than to speak to some wine industry folks who have traveled said world.
Weeks 2 and 4 Volume V Argentina Express led us to the Southern Hemisphere. With the Andes as our backdrop and beautiful wines on our minds, we chatted with Mary Orlin @winefashionista and Alyssa Vitrano @grapefriend who had recently traveled to a land where the original Catholic priests had a plan. For a quick history lesson and general running off of indigenous peoples, the Wines of Argentina site paints a wine-soaked picture.
For our first evening 12 November, it was about the experience of a place itself. The word Hammock came up many a time, and I suppose it’s one of those, “you had to be there” moments, literally. We all agreed that Torrontes and Malbec were the most identifiable varieties, although not many had tried Torrontes. As we progressed, however, we did begin to get a bit more geeky and a few wine terms emerged: altitude, designation origin.
@grapefriend [mentioned that] there’s a fun spirit about drinking wine as part of a meal w friends/family. The group agreed that yes, it’s the “being in it” that makes a wine experience truly special. @OWOC [reminded us:] What I think will hurt Argentina is lack of designation origin. Lots of laboratory Malbec in grocery stores. #winestudio
Our Malbec could not be farther from “laboratory.” The Viña 1924 de Angeles 2008 Malbec de Angeles Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo is a joy to experience: rich and plummy, with notes of bacon fat but strong on minerality and acid. Malbec in particular adapts quickly to the varied terroirs offered by Argentina’s landscape and begins to produce wines better than in its original land. Argentina became the only country to have original Malbec vines of true French heritage.
Argentina is currently the main producer of Malbec in the world, with 76,603 acres of vineyards planted across the country, followed by France (13,097 acres), Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA. @vinogger [asked] Any thoughts on why Malbec is the most popular and recognizable Argentinian variety? Marketing? Best of their wines?
We brought up the fact that much like New Zealand did with Sauvignon Blanc, Argentina embraced the variety, and of course the grape does very well in the region. Malbec Luján de Cuyo was the first Denomination of Origin (DOC) of the Americas. Malbec from Luján de Cuyo has an intense, dark cherry red color, which may look almost black. It shows mineral expressions, with black fruit and sweet spices.
Malbec expresses itself very well in regions with broad temperature ranges and calcareous, clayey or sandy soils as those found at the foot of the Andes. These geographic and climatic features make Argentine Malbec stand out particularly for the quality of its tannins: sweet, silky and mouth-filling.
As we concluded Week 1, grapefriend said it best: @grapefriend This is the best thing about Argentina: great wine + good food + FUN! And hammocks.
19 November brought us more of a focused discussion of the grapes themselves and of each region. We began with Torrontes, produced only in Argentina and of course has an incomparable flavour! From the theoretical point of view, this variety had no name or ampelographic description. It simply did not exist. @OWOCWines [reminded us that there are]Lots of options with Torrontes – sparkling, traditional, blended with other whites, steel or oak & sweet. @cliffordbrown3 [said] Torrontés is like Spring in a glass
We mentioned the importance of maps to really cement the entirety of the region in our minds. While at Somm school, I mentioned that to solidify this concept, we drew maps on a cleared floor and walked through them, much like physically being in the space—worked like a charm! @vinogger [agreed that] Using maps is a great idea because to appreciate wine it’s important to understand where it comes from & how it gets its taste #winestudio
Our next big topic of course was water and @winefashionista informed us that water [is] very allocated! [she said]Water such a big issue in ARG. The Andes Mountains are the main source of irrigation, providing meltwater every summer–must be a site to see!
Due to its intense color and dark hues, wines obtained from Malbec were once called “the black wines of Cahors.” Originally, Malbec was known as Cot in Cahors. But the louse killed it. Better in #Argentina anyway! Oh my yes. Cahors & Argentine Malbec totally different beasts. Majority of the vineyards are on alluvial soils; sandy or stony surfaces on clay substrata. #Malbec does well here!
The Cuyo Region (“the land of deserts,”) is one of the driest, yet most productive regions for winegrowing in #Argentina @OWOCWines [told us that] Malbec de Angeles keeps the vineyard traditional to how it was in 1924. Olive tree in the middle of the vineyard + river rocks.
We finished with Patagonia, my Patagonia! discussing the Verum 2010 Pinot Noir Alto Valle del Rio Negro, Patagonia where winters are harsh, summers are cool, particularly at night, and allows winemakers harmonic combinations of acidity and sweetness plus abundant aromas. Patagonian wines are described as having refined flavors, unequaled aromatic intensity and a unique personality that reflect purity of the environment!
Not many folks have ever tried a Patagonian Pinot Noir so it’ll be fun when we finally taste Tuesday 10 December. Everyone expressed the desire to travel to the area and indeed has been designated one of the top 5 wished-for travel destinations in the world!
It’s grapes are equally impressive: while Mendoza yields up to 60 tons per acre, the region of Rio Negro in Patagonia yields a miniscule 20 – 25 tons per acre. This alone has earned the area as “Condemned to quality.” Brilliant. Pinot Noir is the shining star here, as well as Sauvignon Blancd and Riesling which gives some indication of the quality of the area.
Wines we discussed:
Recuerdo Wines 2011 Torrontés La Rioja
Verum 2010 Pinot Noir Alto Valle del Rio Negro, Patagonia
Viña 1924 de Angeles 2008 Malbec de Angeles Vistalba, Luján de Cuyo
As always, fantastic discussions! Find @LeMetroWine and @ProtocolWine on Twitter, hashtag #WineStudio, each Tuesday 6:00pm – 7:00pm Cali time.
Ready your palate. Open your mind!