Archive | April, 2011

Argentina Wine Review

26 Apr

For my first four days in Argentina I didn’t taste a bad wine! Had I lost my abilities or was I just being lucky or is it all this good!?

Like Chile there is a huge amount of unremarkable Argentinian wine flooding the UK market. But Argentina has been better at looking after it’s more boutique offerings as well. And with the good fortune of meeting some people already on my travels who had given me some great recommendations prior to arriving in Argentina, it turns out that it was this good fortune that meant I didn’t taste a bad wine for four days rather than anything else.

The Mendoza region really is a unique wine growing region. Set between 800 and 1600 metres above sea level in a desert that sees something like 340 days of sunshine it really does get a huge amount of sun and heat. The desert though brings great variation in temperature from the day and night ensuring the grapes ripen slowly and maintain their vibrancy and acidity.

While the Uco valley is the new kid on the block so to speak, at just about 15 years old and the highest area in the Mendoza region, it is offering premium wine at a slightly lower alcohol level than the lower and warmer regions. That’s not to say the wines in Lujan and Maipu are not also potentially brilliant it’s just they offer a fuller bodied wine. Never have I seen such a good quality to price ratio, believe the hype, when it is good it’s really good!

The other rather fashionable, and rightly so, growing region is Salta for its aromatic and vibrant Torrontes. With it’s altitude it can keep the necessary acidity levels while offering a juicy and refreshing aperitif wine growing hugely in popularity in Argentina’s own domestic market. But not all Torrontes comes from Salta with some good examples picked early in the Mendoza region and at a more economical price point. There is some great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir too if you can believe it! Is there nothing they can’t produce?

After the proper meetings earlier in the week I met up with some friends and we did some more of the touristy wine tours and in some sense there was a relief that these wines reminded me more of what I was used to back in the UK and just reiterated that the wines I had tasted earlier in the week were justifiably in their price bracket the best I’ve tasted. Watch this space!

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26 Apr

Chile historically has always tendered to go down the corporate route of wine manufacturing. Large wineries making gigantic volumes of well made but unremarkable wine. We all know that Chile has a perfect wine growing climate with unlimited irrigation from the Andes snow melt. But while you can grow grapes practically anywhere between the right latitudes in Chile that doesn’t mean that everyone has planted vines in the right area. 

A new movement is growing in Chile. Small independent wineries who are standing up, if not against, then alongside the Goliath that is the corporate industry. 

Their aim to offer an alternative market to the consumer. Wines with identity, character and most importantly a personality behind the wine. After researching their soils and focussing on their micro climates we are now seeing some really interesting developments. Not just with the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon but also Carmenere, Cabernet Franc, Carignan and Riesling.

That’s not to say I didn’t meet with giant corporations too and whom still serve an important and vital purpose in the Chilean wine industry as long as it remains sustainable and profitable (see previous reviews that show this). 

But it is also exciting to have a new market in Chile that believes Chilean wine can be more than bulk house wine. We have regions that have incredibly old vines, that don’t use irrigation which produce incredibly rich complex wines. And other newer regions where elegance reigns. Wines of excellent quality. 

Let’s hope the UK market is willing to expand the Chilean profile and start selling Chile Real!