Wine Tasting with Catherine

Thanks to Catherine and Alexis for a lively, informative, social wine tasting event!  Thanks to everyone for sharing such delicious food, too.  Post your recipes as a “comment” on this blog; especially, you Traci since all the Gals want to make that delicious vegetarian dish!

In preparing for last Saturday’s event, Catherine so kindly put together thorough notes on the South American wine regions and types that we tasted.  I cut and paste her notes directly into the blog along with the wine labels that we drank. 

Similarities and difference between both Wine Regions.

  • Argentina, like Chile, is unique in the wine world for the absence of the phylloxera threat that has devastated vineyards across the globe. Because of this most of the vineyards in Argentina are planted on ungrafted rootstock, Chile vineyards have no grafted root stock. 
  • The Andes is a key factor in the climate of both regions with regards to viticulture.
  • Argentina consumes approximately 80% of their wine; Chile exports approximately 80% of their wine.
  • Both Chile and Argentina were introduced to wine making by the Spanish during the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the early 1500’s.
  • In the late 1500’s cuttings from the Chilean Central Valley were brought to what is now the San Juan and Mendoza wine region which firmly established viticulture in Argentina.
  • Carmenere was thought to be extinct, but discovered growing in Chile in the early 1900’s. This “lost Bordeaux varietal” was originally thought to be Merlot, and is no longer grown in its homeland.
  • Due to the high altitude and low humidity of the main wine producing regions, both countries vineyards rarely face the problems of insects, fungi, molds and other grape diseases that affect vineyards in other countries. This allows cultivating with little or no pesticides, enabling even organic wines to be easily produced.

 1. Sauvignon Blanc –  Alabamar (2010) (William Cole) The varietal identity of Sauvignon Blanc is typically similar to grass, bell-pepper, or grapefruit in nature.  It is usually quite distinctive and one of the easier varietal wines to recognize by its often sharp, aggressive smell.  Sauvignon Blanc is probably the best dry white wine to accompany the greatest variety of foods.  It can handle components such as tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, raw garlic, smoked cheeses or other pungent flavors.

2. Torrontes – Serrera (2009) According to local Argentinean legend, Torrontes originated in Galicia, Spain, and was brought by the conquistadors in the 1800s. But in 2002, UC Davis studied the plant’s genetic fingerprint and discovered that the varietal is actually a cross between two grapes: Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, known in California as the Mission grape.  Aromas reminiscent of Viognier or Muscat, often with characteristics of white peach, citrus and flowers. Partner with smoked meats, mild to medium-strong cheeses, and seafood. Great partner for spicy food and Thai as well

3. Pinot Noir – Bola (2008) Pinot Noir is one of the oldest grape varieties to be cultivated for the purpose of making wine. Ancient Romans knew this grape as Helvenacia Minor and vinified it as early as the first century AD.  Thanks to the movie Sideways, it has become one of the better known reds in the US.  Although Pinot Noir harmonizes well with a wide variety of foods, the best matches to show off the delicacy and texture of Pinot Noir are: grilled salmon, a good cut of plain roast beef, a dish that  features mushrooms as the main flavor element, roasted and braised preparations of lamb, pheasant, and duck, as well as grilled meaty fish, such as salmon, shark, and swordfish. Best are foods that are simple and rich.  

4. Malbec –  Mil Piedras (2008) Malbec has characteristics that fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I can be very deep color, have ample tannins, and a particular plum-like flavor component to add complexity to claret blends.

5. Chilean Blend – Maqui Lien (2007) In Chile’s native Mapuche language, lien means “silver metal”—a reference to colonial Spanish coins that were once melted to make fine jewelry, like the lizard on the Maquis label.  This blend consists of 32% Syrah, 25% Carmenere, 20% Cabernet Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, and 8% Malbec.

See everyone on March 10 for a night of pampering hosted by Laurie Parker, Arbonne.

Your Gal,


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