Posts Tagged ‘Argentina’

Malbec. Tango. Steak.

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
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I confess.  I have a glass of big bold Malbec red wine from Argentina beside me while I write this article.  What. A. Fabulous. Place.  The wines – both red & whites.  The steak.  The landscape.  The history.  I have told everyone since my trip that if you have the opportunity, jump on a plane and GO!

Argentina holds many mysteries.  Before I embarked on this trip, I did not know what to expect. I did not expect that I would learn about the wine industry while riding horseback in the Andes Mountains.  Nor did I expect that I would be touring the wine regions in a classic Citroen ‘Slowkar’ that was nearly the same age as me! I did not expect that I would be treated like a rockstar at one of Argentina’s largest wineries – Zuccardi Valle de Uco.  I did not expect that most days breakfast with coffee would cost more than a delicious steak dinner.  I also did not expect to see couples dancing tango under a tree that has been the meeting spot in Beunos Aires for over 300 years. And never did I imagine that the blue skies would dramatically turn into a hail and rain storm that pelted down so hard that collapsed the roof in the Buenos Aires airport.  Click here to see my travel photos >>

“Come and visit me at my winery anytime”.  Those words was all that I needed.  When Jose Zuccardi, Owner & President of Familia Zuccardi invited me to his homeland over a 3 hour lunch when I met him at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I knew that this was a business card that I was going to keep.

The name Zuccardi may ring a bell, and so it should.  Like Yellow Tail and Jacobs Creek, Zuccardi’s wine – FuZion – quickly became a household name in Canada when it WOWed everyone of its quality as well as its incredible price of $7.45.  It still to this day baffles me the economics of how a bottle of delicious Malbec-Shiraz red wine can be made in the southern hemisphere, travel the world by boat and still land in my hands for less than $8.

 

“Malbec is Argentina’s emblematic grape because it is like a friend who will never let you down” – Edgardo del Pópolo, Argonomist

 

Winemaking in Argentina has a deep-rooted history.  For over 400 years, various grape varieties were grown for domestic consumption.  In the 1960 and 1970s Malbec wine was jug wine that was considered rustic.  Winemakers focused on quantity production not quality. This all changed in the mid-1980’s when famous consulting winemakers – Paul Hobbs from California, Michel Rolland and Herve Joyaux-Fabre from Franc, Roberto Cipresso and Alberto Antonini from Italy – recognized how they could dramatically adjust the existing winemaking processes to craft fine Malbec wines that could compete on the world stage. With their Midas touch, Argentinean Malbec took the world by storm.

Wines of Argentina reports that by the turn of the 21st century, there were over 1,500 wineries. Swiftly, Argentina has become the main producer of Malbec, with vines covering with nearly 40,000 hectares, compared to its neighbour Chile with about 6,000 hectares, France 5,300, South Africa about 4,000, New Zealand 80 and California has barely 45.

This stat is particularly interesting as Malbec originally stemmed from France where it was grown as a grape typically used for blending. The name Malbec was attributed to the French ‘mal bouche’ translates to ‘bad taste’, referring to the rustic characteristics of the grape that was used in small proportions in wines with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is amazing how a ‘bad thing’ in France, eventually turned into an incredibly good fortune for Argentina.

In 1852, Malbec vines were brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government.  Less than 10 years later, the phylloxera bug decimated and destroyed the majority of the European vineyards (hit especially hard was France) and Malbec instantly disappeared.  The silver lining though is that half a world away, this grape variety was alive and flourishing. Today, with the popularity of Malbec, French winemakers are buying back Malbec vines from Argentina.

Taking a sip of my wine beside me, this Malbec wine begs for a BBQed steak, hearty stew or grilled mushrooms. Most are full bodied and heart warming – great for winters and BBQ seasons.  Winemakers in Argentina are experimenting different styles of Malbec wines to make it a wine to enjoy year round.  I have to admit, while in Argentina, temperatures soared to 38C and for me, a cold beer (not wine) was the best reprieve.

Winemakers are experimenting in every way to Malbec grapes be on everyone’s lips while they are in Argentina.  “Would you like your Malbec chilled?” we were asked at a bistro in Mendoza.  My Spanish is limited but I knew I heard the question right.  Fresh Malbec is a new style of young red wine that has not been aged in oak barrels and best enjoyed within a year.  Chilled like a white wine, this new way to drink Malbec is intended to quench the thirst as a cold beer does on a hot summer day.  “We are trying to encourage this style of wine so that people continue to drink red in heat,” explains Panos Zouboulis winemaker Bogeda Krontiras, one of the few certified biodynamic wineries in Argentina.

Visit a wine shop in Argentina, you will find shelves overflowing with Rose wines of all shades of pink made from Malbec grapes.  White, rose and red sparkling wines made with 100% Malbec are plentiful too.  This style will rapidly grow and take the world by storm with international companies such as Chandon (France), Codorniu (Spain) have established operations in Argentina and bring their talented sparkling winemakers with them.

Sweet late harvest and fortified port style wines and spirits like grappa are made with Malbec. Even Blanc de Malbec crafted by Vincentin Family Wines has turned heads when they launched in 2014 the first-of-its kind white wine made with 100% Malbec and aged in oak barrels. I would have jumped at the chance to try a white Malbec.  When you are at the LCBO or SAQ, periodically these rare Malbec wines are exported, so be on the look out!

 

Raise a glass to the rise of Malbec

Today – April 17 – is Malbec World Day.  Established in 2011 by Wines of Argentina, this is the day in the wine world when we uncork countless bottles of Argentinean Malbec wines at special wine events in over 70 cities around the world.

You can have your own Malbec celebration!  Here’s some of my top picks of Malbec wines at the LCBO:

 

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013
$19.95

This is a classic expression of Malbec. Deep and dark in colour with violet, blueberry, blackberries aromas wafting from the glass. On your first sip, there is evidence that the wine has soft tannins, juicy black fruit, black pepper tastes with a little dark chocolate on the finish.   Uncork this Malbec to enjoy with a herb encrusted pork tenderloin or Sunday roast beef with all the trimmings.

One of the things that impressed me when I visited the winery was that they are using concrete tanks rather than the typical stainless tanks commonly used in winemaking.  And there are only a few oak barrels in the cellar….the winemaking team focuses on creating wines to bring out the natural flavours without the help of oak. That is incredible and the result is pure and outstanding.

 

BenMarco Expresivo 2014
$39.95

This wine will draw your eye to its stunning label.  A topnotch blend of 80% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Franc, loaded with fruit – pomegranate, boysenberry, ripe & juicy blackberries.

Made by one of the top female winemakers in Argentina –  Susana Balbo – this medium to full bodied red wine has a long dark chocolate and coffee finish can be enjoyed with the full range from meatloaf to prime rib.

Versado Reserva Ancient Malbec 2012
$59.95

You might think that Malbec is a wine that is typically under $25, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you splurge on this one.  A group of renown Canadian winemakers and winery owners joined forces to purchase a vineyard with plantings of 100 year old Malbec vines. Winemaker Ann Sperling (who is head winemaker at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara & from Sperling Vineyards in British Columbia) makes incredible Malbec wines with the grapes that she has salvaged from this old vineyard.

This wine was just released. Wine writer Tony Aspler sampled a pre-release bottle and scored it an impressive 93 points: “Dense ruby colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with vanilla and cedar notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a mineral thread and a lively spine of acidity; silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note.”

 

This article appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Ottawa Life Magazine

 

Travel photos of Debbie’s trip can be seen on Savvy Company’s Facebook page – click here>>

 

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The New Year brings great value at LCBO

Posted by Susan

Friday, January 4th, 2013
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It’s become a bit of a tradition that the first  LCBO Vintages release of the year features well-priced, value-laden wines. The release this Saturday, January 5, is no exception, and includes wines from near and far, with well-known and more obscure grape varieties in the mix. There are a range of white and red wines, some very affordable sparkling wines, as well as some producers being featured for the first time in Vintages. For great quality and flavour choose sparkling wines such as the Duran Brut Cava or the Bouvet Brut Crémant de Loire. There are a couple of great Ontario white wines, the pretty peach-tinged Trius Pinot Grigio and the weightier but well-balanced Jackson Triggs Proprietors`Grand Reserve Chardonnay, included in the selection below. For value among the reds, try the Vincentin Blend de Malbecs, the Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon or the El Molet Tinto. For the adventurous, Ravenswood offers a delicious Petite Syrah. And if you`re looking for an organic red wine, you`ll enjoy the Dieter Meier Puro Corte. Finally, if you`re desperate for a value-packed wine to assuage your sweet tooth, pick up the Sivipa Vinho Generoso Moscatel de Setúbal. Enjoy this selection of wines, totally well under $100 and all less than $20 apiece!

Cheers and best wishes for a great 2013!

Susan

 

Trius Pinot Grigio 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$15.95 (Vintages #316414) 12.7% alcohol

This is a very appealing wine, from the delicate peach-skin hue to the lifted floral, pear and stone fruit aromas. Fruity yet fresh, it delivers a lovely balance of lemon-lime acidity and ripe peach and apricot flavours. Quality and value wrapped in a fine package, this wine is delightful on its own, or savour it with fish, seafood or simply prepared chicken dishes.

 

Jackson-Triggs ‘Proprietors’ Grand Reserve’ Chardonnay 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$17.95 (Vintages #593996) 13.0% alcohol

Aged 5 months in French oak, this golden gem offers lovely buttery aromas and texture, notes of roast pear, banana and vanilla. Dry, mid-full weight, the focused flavours of spiced orchard fruit are balanced by lively acidity. There`s a nice heft to this wine, fine balance and structure, making it a match for crab cakes or creamy pasta dishes or a choice for mid-term cellaring.

 

Dieter Meier ‘Puro’ Corte 2010
Mendoza, Argentina
$16.95 (Vintages #305094) 14.5% alcohol

Produced from a blend of organically grown Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the aromas of this deftly crafted wine leap from the glass—rich dark fruit, floral notes, smoke, toast and spiced vanilla. Dry, mid-full weight, smooth yet freshly textured, plush fruit mingles with the sweet spice of well-integrated oak. Finishing dry and lengthy, the wine is, substantial, structured and well balanced. Serve with grilled meats or cellar medium term.

 

Ravenswood ‘Vintners Blend’ Petite Syrah 2009
California
$18.95 (Vintages #161554) 13.5% alcohol

A dense inky purple, this rendition of Petite Syrah offers layered aromas of lush black berry fruit, toasty oak, cocoa and vanilla. Dry, full bodied, and plush, the ripe dark cherry/berry fruit flows across the palate, suggestions of exotic spice, white pepper and chocolate adding to the delectable taste experience. It finishes long, sweetly fruity, yet balanced. A value-laden wine for a relaxing sip. Pick up a few bottles!

 

Luis Felipe Edwards ‘Gran Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$16.95 (Vintages #169847) 14.0% alcohol

Here’s a great value, deep garnet in hue, displaying lifted aromas of sumptuous black fruit, dried herbs, cedar and spice. Dry, full bodied, it delivers an ample, round texture. Aged 12 months in French and American oak, there a good underlying structure anchoring ripe fruit, appealing spice, herb and vanilla nuances. The finish is full, clean and fresh, fine earthy herbal notes lingering. Definitely a multi-bottle purchase.

 

Grand Total: $86.75

 

 

 

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In the Heat of Argentina’s moment

Posted by Susan

Thursday, April 12th, 2012
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To prepare for celebrating World Malbec Day next week (on April 17), LCBO Vintages showcases wines from Argentina – many made with Malbec grapes. Argentina continues to grow as one of the world’s largest producers, ranking 5th behind France, Italy, Spain and the U.S. and producing wines of quality and value.  History tells us that as early as the 16th century, missionaries from Europe brought vines with them, Mendoza being one of the first areas where vineyards were planted, with the wines improving in quality to the point that they were recognized across the region.

In the late 1800s, immigrants from Italy and Spain brought several European varietals, planting them in fertile valleys where the indigenous peoples had created, hundreds of years earlier, an extensive system of irrigation canals to support their food crops. The control of water to the vines through flood irrigation (which also controls the pest phylloxera), along with ideal hot days and cool nights, create almost ideal conditions for grape growing.  Malbec, a relatively minor grape in Bordeaux blends, thrives in the hot dry climate, and has become Argentina’s signature grape, while red varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda are developing a reputation. Torrontès is the most widely planted white varietal.

As Argentina’s attention shifted from domestic demand to interntional export, well-established descendents of the original European immigrants, such as Nicolas Catena, played a key role in shifting the focus to premium varieties planted on specifically selected terroir, quality over quantity, focused vineyard management, and the introduction of new technology in the cellar. Substantial European investment has also brought large international producers such as Lurton to the country.

For those who seek out organic wines, the second feature of this Vintages release is for you.  Organic grape growing follows certain principles including the use of only natural fertilizers, no pesticide or herbicide use, and more intensive vineyard management, often including hand harvesting and lower crop yields.  Organic winemaking requires the winemaker to follows a set of specified regulations, such as the absence of any synthetic additives in fining, restricted use of sulfites, etc.

Biodynamic wines are produced using organic methods, but also treat the farm environment in a wholistic manner and follow a specific regimen laid out by the Demeter calendar.  Many winemakers using these methods do so because of their conviction that biodynamic practices produce better wines while ensuring a healthy environment.  Among the organic wines, Argentina is again represented with a Zuccardi Rosé, the country’s hot dry climate providing ideal conditions for organic production. Our selection for this release includes 6 wines, including 2 from the Argentine feature and one from the Eco-friendly feature.

Cheers and Enjoy! – Susan

Babich ‘Fernhill Individual Vineyard’ Viognier 2010

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
$16.95 (Vintages #269282) 14.0% alcohol

A lovely Viognier offering subtle aromas of stone and tropical fruit with a whiff of sweet spice and floral. Rich, generous fruit flavours provide substantial texture, a mineral character presents, appropriate citrusy acidity assuring lovely balance. Finishing long and fruity, this is a gutsy wine that would be a match for lamb curry.




Pierre Sparr ‘Réserve’ Pinot Gris 2009
AOC Alsace, France
$14.95 (Vintages #983395) 13.5% alcohol
Yet another great value from Alsace, this wine is golden! Lovely floral notes mingle with aromas of stone and orchard fruit and a scent of lemon curd. A clean tangy texture offers a frame for almost honeyed fruit and notes of candied citrus. There’s depth, good balance, and long tasty finish. The perfect match for mildly spiced Thai food or for duck à l’orange.


Chakana ‘Yaguareté Collection’ Bonarda 2010

Mendoza, Argentina
$12.95 (Vintages #3525)) 13.5% alcohol
What a great value, and an opportunity to try this lesser known yet very flavourful varietal that has found its home in Argentina after migrating from Europe. The aromas express sweet ripe dark berries, notes of vanilla and spice reflecting the well-managed oak aging. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s well balanced, the ripe tannins and nice tangy texture matching the concentrated dark fruit and fine spices. Enjoy it with burgers or barbequed sausages. 



Fabre Montmayou ‘Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Mendoza, Argentina
$14.95 (Vintages #261891) 14.5% alcohol
Recipient of an international award, this inky wine is dry, medium-full bodied, and flows across the palate like satin. It’s concentrated and fruity, displaying subtle hints of herbs and cedar. The balance of supple tannins, fresh acidity and ripe dark berry fruit makes for an appealing taste experience, the lasting finish pleasantly dry and warm. Enjoy with full-flavoured meats or cellar medium term.

Bonterra Zinfandel 2009

Mendocino/Amador/Lake Counties, California
$19.95 (Vintages #530139) 14.5% alcohol
Bonterra has been using sustainable organic and biodynamic grape growing and winemaking methods for over 20 years. This award-winning organic wine is ripe and fruity on the nose, redolent with spice, vanilla and a slight floral note. Dry, medium-full bodied and focused, the core of dark juicy fruit is framed by fresh acidity and somewhat chalky tannins. Notes of char, pepper and spice garnish a lasting dry finish. Enjoy it with robust barbequed meats.




Torre Quarto ‘Bottaccia’ Uva di Troia 2008
IGT Puglia, Italy
$15.95 (Vintages #161737) 13.5% alcohol
There’s a spicy floral hint here, along with delicious berry fruit, earth and sweet herbs. Dry mid-weight, this is a very nicely balanced wine with a fine smooth texture, almost floral flavours and a bushel of dark berry fruit garnished with spice and vanilla. It finishes fresh and fruity. Step out of your comfort zone and try this lesser-known varietal!



Grand Total: $95.70

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Wines for fabulous Easter feasts

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 29th, 2012
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Easter weekend follows this LCBO Vintages release & offers some excellent choices for a springtime brunch or dinner along with a small selection of Ontario wines to serve with your meal. For brunch, or just to celebrate, there’s a range of sparkling wines available, from a Grand Millésime Champagne, to an appealing South African Blanc de Blanc Brut and a classic extra dry Prosecco. Main courses at this festive time often include turkey, ham or lamb & there’s a choice of Chardonnay, such as First Press or Amayna, or Yalumba’s Viognier to go with your roast turkey or glazed ham, or split the difference with Zuccardis Chardonnay/Viognier blend.

If you’re a red wine lover, try the Oregon or Chilean Pinot Noir with these lighter meats. Should lamb be your choice, consider the range of red wines available, including Cabernet Sauvignon from California, a well-priced Merlot-dominated Bordeaux, a Bonarda from Argentina or a fine Tempranillo from Spain. Looking for something really special – choose Domaine Galevan’s outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or the Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino.

And for dessert, don’t miss that unique Italian dessert wine crafted from air-dried grapes, aged years in barrel and released just in time for Easter, Sorelli Vinsanto del Chianti Classico. Want to ‘go local’ for your Easter celebration? On the lighter side consider a crisp, fresh unoaked Chardonnay from Fielding Estates or the versatile Tawse ‘Sketches’ Rosé. If you’re looking for a weightier offering, then choose the juicy structured Pinot Noir 2007 from Château des Charmes or the warm well balanced Vintage Ink Merlot-Cabernet.

Rejoice in the early spring weather, as the crocuses poke their heads up to take in those warm early rays of sunshine—and hope that the vines don’t start to leaf out just yet!


Cheers & Enjoy! – Susan




If I only had $100, I would buy …
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, March 31, 2012


 

Tenuta S. Anna ‘Extra Dry’ Prosecco n/v

DOC Prosecco, Italy
$15.95 (Vintages #169128) 11.5% alcohol

Offering a fine frothy persistent mousse, this is a lovely crisp Prosecco that delivers an outstanding balance of crisp fresh fruit flavours—apple, pear and lemon-lime to the fore—and a bright invigorating texture. The finish is clean, long lasting and refreshing. Match this classic to another—prosciutto and melon. An excellent value, pick up a few bottles to enjoy with friends.



Tawse ‘Sketches’ Rosé 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

$15.95 (Vintages #172643) 12.5% alcohol
Charming salmon pink, this perennial favourite is produced from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay. An appealing fresh floral note and cherry/berry aromas rush from the glass. Dry, medium bodied, deftly balanced, it’s clean, fruity and lively on the palate, the red fruit and juicy texture offering a delightfully tasty, crisp and flavourful finish. Sip away! 



Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Chardonnay/Viognier 2010

Mendoza, Argentina
$14.95 (Vintages #262097) 13.5% alcohol

This finely crafted award winner offers tempting aromas—floral, stone fruit, mineral and citrus. Dry, ample and round, it’s well balanced and flavourful, fresh acidity and minerality balancing orchard fruit and citrus zest, notes of spice-infused toast lingering on the extended finish. An excellent value and a good choice for Easter dinner.


Hecht & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2008

AOC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France
$22.95 (Vintages #142802) 15.0% alcohol


This blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Syrah offers depth of colour and of flavours. There’s complexity on the nose—smoke, herbal and floral aromas, a mineral component and rich dark fruit. An intriguing wine that brings you back for another taste, it’s subtly structured and satiny in texture, showcasing dark fruit and enticingly complex flavours of herbs, toast and tangy pepper. It finishes dry and tantalizing. Pick up a few bottles to enjoy now and to sample over the next few years.



Finca Sobreño Crianza 2008

DO Toro, Spain
$17.95 (Vintages #40360) 14.5% alcohol


This Tempranillo is an excellent value, whether to enjoy now or in the future. Deep ruby garnet, it’s produced from hand-harvested grapes from the producer’s oldest vineyards and aged in American oak. It entices with aromas of cedar, balsamic, sweet ripe dark fruit and subtle floral notes. Dry, medium-full bodied, structured and robust, the perceptible tannins and lively acidity are a match for the ripe fruit, exotic spice and notes of espresso roast. The lasting finish is warm and spicy. Enjoy with roasted stuffed peppers, or a classic paella.


Grand Total: $87.75



Worth the splurge:
An outstanding cellar-worthy Châteauneuf-du-Pape . . .


Galévan Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009

AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
$41.95 (251603) 14.5% alcohol

This is quite a striking Châteauneuf from winemaker Coralie Goumarre, whose Rhône blend ‘Paroles de Femme’ was featured in an earlier Vintages release. Grenache forms the base, with Mouvèdre and Syrah in support for this dry, full bodied and earthy wine. The nose is autumnal in character—forest floor, mushroom, herbs. The palate is structured with perceptible tannins, fresh acidity and compelling flavours of cherry/berry fruit, plum, herbs, spice and cocoa. Weighty yet fresh on the finish, it’s a match for rich roast meat dishes and will cellar medium term.

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