Fresh from a recent trip to Mendoza, Andrew Catchpole looks at the innovative Argentine art of microclimatic blending. An amusing and revealing tweet recently did the rounds from a satirical would-be-sommelier tweeter. Hashtagged #LessonsInService, the twittersphere was advised: “When writing wine descriptions on a menu: You can write “crisp, crispy or Malbec” on anything and it will sell.”…
Following an English Degree, a Diploma in publishing and a formative stint at the popular wine merchant Oddbins, Andrew joined Harpers Wine & Spirit Weekly, later launching and editing HOT (Harpers on Trade) restaurant and bar magazine. This was followed by several years as Wine Correspondent at the Daily Telegraph. Based in Brighton, Andrew now writes on wines, spirits, restaurants and travel for numerous trade and consumer publications including Harpers Wine & Spirit, Decanter, The Guardian, Slowfood, Imbibe, Square Meal, Drinks Business, Wine Business International, Drinks International, OLN and The Times.
There’s a serious rival for Malbec’s quality crown in the shape of Cabernet Sauvignon. This scion of the great vineyards of Bordeaux has proved a happy émigré to Mendoza and elsewhere in Argentina. And, like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon has taken to the high altitudes, ample sun and rocky soils with gusto, producing similarly aromatic and generous wines, packed with ample fruit and spicy notes, well-structured yet drinking well when relatively young.
Mendoza has been described as ‘the Napa of the South’ and it’s easy to understand why such parallels are drawn. With both sitting at 33 degrees of latitude there’s a neat symmetry at work for anyone with a smidgeon of interest in how the world’s great vineyards lie. Add to this the regional eminence of both Napa Valley and Mendoza, each celebrated as the most famous quality wine producer in their respective American hemispheres, and such comparisons seem almost inevitable.
Where do you stand on the cork versus screw cap debate? Perhaps, like several of the recent dinner guests around my kitchen table, you really don’t care, so long as the wines taste good and keep on flowing. Or maybe you are more in tune with the “natural is best” camp. So what are the facts lying behind both points of view?
Mention Argentina to the average wine drinker and Malbec is the variety that everyone knows. Argentina’s vignerons have managed the neat trick of taking this relatively obscure French variety and, in their high altitude, sun-blessed vineyards, creating a new world-class style of wine.
While Chileans are investing in the Argentinian wine industry, there is a strange lack of investment the other way around. Andrew Catchpole investigates.
Chardonnay, the noble grape that reaches such sublime heights in Burgundy, famously fell from grace through a mix of over-exposure (think Bridgett Jones and Footballers Wives) and overblown wannabes from the New World. But good old Chardonnay is poised to make a welcome return. Except this time it’s typically leaner and cleaner, cut from a finer cloth that is more in tune with the subtle sophistication of our palates today.
Buenos Aires is awash with great places to sample a fantastic spread of Argentina’s wines. And while there is nothing quite like touring the far-flung vineyards of Mendoza and elsewhere to really get a sense of why the wines taste the way they do, back in the capital you can immerse yourself in a wealth of choice at a growing number of superb wine-focused bars and restaurants.
One of the most fascinating and compelling reasons for diving into the treasure trove of New World wines lies not just in the drum-roll of longer established flagship varieties and styles, but also with the emerging stars awaiting discovery.
‘If you’ve got it, flaunt it’, goes the saying, and Argentina has taken this to heart with the coming Malbec World Day on 17th April which will see a 24 hour celebration of its flagship grape sweeping the globe.