Archive for the 'Argentinean Wine' Category

The 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival is on this week, and it’s always a fun time to sample a huge variety of wine from around the world and a great chance for some brief interactions with some cool people in the industry.

There is a LOT of information out there about “how to” with the fest – usually with valuable information like don’t wear perfume or cologne, dark clothing is advisable, eat before, spitting is completely acceptable and advisable, leave the giant bag at the coat check, etc…

That said, let’s look at what’s in the room. Once you enter and grab your glass – something sparkling is always a great way to toast the evening and get a nice fresh “zing” on the palate. Don’t miss:

  • Champagne: de Venoge, Lanson, Nicholas Feuilliatte
  • Prosecco: Catina Breganze
  • Franciacorta: Ca’ del Bosco

From there, the host countries have some fun stuff in both white and red. For New Zealand, most have some exposure to the Sauvignon Blancs from Marlborough. That said, give some of the Pinot Gris a go. Of course the Otago Pinots are don’t misses, and keep your eye out for the odd Riesling or a Bubble of some sort as this can be where the real gems hide.

We’ll be checking out (at a bare minimum):

  • Ata Rangi
  • Spy Valley
  • Two Paddocks

With Argentina, the dominant grape will of course be the Malbec, but keep your eye out for the whites – there are some interesting Sauv Blancs, Pinot Gris, and the signature Torrentes which can really be unique while being in a great price bracket. The Syrahs and Bordeaux blends will certainly show well.

Not to be missed are:

  • Bodega Catena Zapata
  • Bodegas y Vinedos Renacer (killer value Malbecs)
  • Tomas Achaval
  • Valentin Bianchi

Rosé is the feature “variety” if you will, and a couple of likeable choices include:

  • Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato
  • Lanson Rose Brut

If you are getting late into the evening and are at the point that it’s time to hit the “can’t miss” booths, here are a few:

  • Altesino – Brilliant Super Tuscan sips.
  • Damilano – Good things from the glory that is Piedmont. Try the Cannubi Barolo and taste what it’s all about.
  • Louis Latour – Corton Charlemagne – need we say more?
  • Michael David Vineyards – Intense California wines from the Lodi region.
  • Panther Creek – Great Pinots from Oregon.
  • Penfolds – Classics from Australia.
  • Poplar Grove – Quality BC vino.
  • Ravenswood – Look for the single vineyard Zins.
  • Seghesio – More great Zinfandels. Try the Home Ranch.
  • Torres – Excellent Spanish staples – mmm Priorat!
  • Vina Errazuriz – One of the first and finest Chilean Wineries to arrive in BC.

To cap off the evening, it’s gotta be all about the port. Most of the room will head for Taylor Fladgate (great stuff), but look for Quinta De Passadouro and see if Penfolds has their “Grandfather Tawny.”

It should be a great week, and it will be interesting to experience the new Convention Centre as a venue. If you are on Twitter, watch the hashtag #vpiwf and offer up the gems you find- we will! Remember – Sip, spit and move the heck out of the way so others can get in for a taste. 🙂


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2008 Calafate Pinot Noir Gran Reserva Bodegas Universo Austral – Patagonia, Argentina

With the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival nearing, we are seeing more wines from the feature nations (Argentina and New Zealand) arriving. This is a trend that meshes nicely with under $30 challenge with some good value Malbecs and blends arriving. (From what I’ve seen however there is a decided void in any Argentine whites arriving thus far).

Oddly enough, the first wine of this series I tried was this Pinot Noir. I am recognizing that my quest for a value Pinot under $20 is a bit of a Willy Loman pipe dream, but this one is a surprise in the right direction.

Hailing from Patagonia in Southern Argentina, this wine is a full and balanced offering that is really enjoyable. The nose has some nice spice – cloves and peppercorns with green pepper hints and some plum. On the palate is where the surprise really came home. A bright balance of nice tart cranberry balanced well by some plum and a bit of orange zest toward the back had me wanting more. The finish had some nice floral hints with some veggie/rhubarb and some cracked pepper. Nicely balanced and a decent length for the money.   All in all, you’ve got a tasty sip with this one.

Given the price and flavor value, it reminded me of the Casa Viva Pinot we had a few years ago during our WSET course that stood up against a Domaine Drouhin that was four times the price. Palate shift and experience might change that now, but that said, this is still darn tasty.

This is nice effort that for $17.99 I will definitely try again. Perhaps also to give a second go around to confirm, but also because I found it to pair really well with mushroom risotto.

I like surprises.

$17.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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2008 Bodegas Renacer Punto Final Malbec

10082009It’s been a while since I’d had a Malbec. My barbeque choices have centered on Cabs, Zins and the like. I picked this one up a while back – the value of Argentinean reds being pretty good and at about $6 off, worth a go.

I had a nice peppercorn steak grilling, so I popped this open and gave it a swirl. Right off the first sniff, it was not what I was expecting. 98% Malbec with 2% Cab Franc, it has some of the earthy Malbec I knew, but some nice tar and black cherry, maybe even a bit cranberry as well. A couple of sips brought some nice meaty cherry, and earthy mineral but also a bit of heat and anise for good measure. The steak really balanced this off, and the pairing really worked for me.

The finish was nice, medium length with some more mineral and pretty tight tannins. I would definitely decant this one next time for that and the unfiltered aspect. It definitely got me thinking it’s time for a few more Malbecs. I’d buy it again – a good value at its regular price – a great deal at $15.99.

$15.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

3 1/2 stars


2006 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Mendoza, Vineyard Selection Reserva

This’ll be  quickie… I’m a BUSY boy these days.

I had it the other night. I really liked it, but wasn’t totally in love with it. It may be a Malbec thing for me. I can’t say I’ve ever had one that knocked my socks off.

It had a great dark cherry syrup edge to the felt tip marker and long earthy finish, which while not bringing love certainly caused a little crush.

With some nice meat or cheese, I think this would come alive. The Spectator gave it 92 points.

$32.95 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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Bodegas y Viñedos Pascual Toso S.A., Sparkling N/V

03212008.jpgSean mentioned this as one of the pleasant surprises of the Vancouver International Fest. It was clear that sparkling wines are emerging from South America in a big way, as almost every other exhibitor seemed to have some type of bubbly.

To the Toso – pale straw in the glass, it has nice lemon on the nose with some hints of ginger and toast. This good start led to nice creamy bubbles with some green apple and floral hints on the finish. The rep at the festival said it was 100% Chardonnay, however I read that in some incarnations this has some Chenin Blanc in it. Either way, it’s darn tasty. What stood out most (besides the stunning $13.99 tag) was how beautifully smooth and easy sippin’ it was.

Definitely a standout in the auditions for the patio wines of this summer, all we have to do is hope that the LDB brings it in as regular listing.

$13.99 as a specialty listing at the Festival’s wine store.

3 1/2 stars

(the price basically takes it to 4)

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2005 Crios de Susana Balbo Syrah-Bonarda, Mendoza

Now here’s a truly good, true value wine. I’ve been meaning to write it up for a while, but each time a bottle’s been opened… it didn’t happen. So, finally here we go.

This has turned into my house red in the last while. It’s a great value ($19.90), is extremely easy to quaff and even has some complexity to its flavours. It’s a blend of 50% Syrah and 50% Bonarda (a grape usually used in Italy to make light, fruity wine… or blended with Barbera – it also happens to be the most widely planted grape in Argentina).

What it all adds up to is a dark red wine with a nose that is all about earthy licorice, cherry fruit and violet. In the mouth, it’s very full-bodied, with a silky, sexy texture backed up by medium tannins. The flavours have a hint of chocolate to the full-on syrupy sour cherry and spice.

A very good wine for the money and one I’ll continue to buy.

$19.90 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

3 1/2 stars

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Wine – 2003 Don Martino Finca Violetas Malbec

I picked this one up after seeing it drop $10 at my local liquor store. I loved the Achaval Ferrer Sean had previously reviewed and thought that this, originally in a similar price range, might offer the same enjoyment.

Fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great bottle for the money. The nose is full of dark cherry and a gorgeous earthy spice that reminds me of fresh coriander. Needless to say this was a great start. A couple of good sips brought gorgeous cherry and leather, followed up by some white pepper and firm earthy tannins on the finish with a bit of liquorice.

This is a great bottle for the money, (I’m already on bottle number three) and reinforces that some of the Argentinian Malbecs are great choices for a nice all purpose full-bodied red.

$18.99 at the LDB stores in Langley

4 stars

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Wine – 2005 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza

07022007.jpgLet’s just get right down to it. I like this wine. It’s got a lot going on, has great colour and puts a lot of flavour in the mouth for the money.

Rachel picked this bottle up on a whim a few weeks back and we popped the cork not long after (wine is an endangered species in our midst). I also enjoyed a couple of glasses last night when we had dinner at Bin 942 (seriously, have the beef tenderloin wellington in phyllo!).

It’s got that great dark red colour many Argentinean Malbecs have. The nose was also fantastic… lots of dusty ripe cherry, plum and dark berry aromas with a bit of a licorice edge. The flavours were pretty much an accurate reflection of what the nose was giving out – it was like a big bunch of jammy fruit with a dusting of earth, a swirl of licorice and a dash of pepper. Tasty stuff.

$26.90 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars

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Wine – 2005 Finca Flichman Expresiones Shiraz / Cabernet Sauvignon

05172007.jpgHere’s another great wine for summer BBQ sipping to grab if you can find it. I found it at the Vancouver Wine Fest and grabbed a couple of bottles at the on-site store. Unfortunately they’ve both since found their way into my tummy and I can’t find replacements anywhere in town.

In the glass, the wine has a great rich, dark red colour. The nose has a bunch of spicy vanilla-edged (a bit of the oak monster) dark ripe plum and cassis. A slurp shows gobs of almost sweet-edged ripe dark fruits (plums, cherries & dark berries) with a long finish that keeps that ripe fruit building in the mouth.

The one negative I would point out with this wine is that the oak is currently a bit overpowering. If you can hold onto it for at least 6 months, it will only get better. Having said that, I must say that this wine is fantastic with a grilled piece of meat and is a phenomenal value.

$18.99 here in BC (when I bought it)

4 stars


Wine – 2003 Bodega Norton Privada Mendoza

12132006.jpgI like a good-looking wine bottle… and like my site’s URL says, the more elegantly simple the label, the better (more can really be less). The first 2 things I noticed about this wine were the stylishly simple label and when I picked up the bottle, how bloody heavy it is. Outside of Champagne, this is possibly the heftiest bottle of wine I’ve held. The wine feels like a reserve – there were only 600 cases made made from 50 to 80 year-old vines.

The pricey packaging is the first clue to the quality of the wine inside the bottle. There’s an Argentinian twist on the Bordeaux-like blend – it’s 40% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot.

Mmmmm-mmmmmm… and it is bloody good. Dark red in the glass, it has a nose bursting with coffee, leather and dark, ripe, but not slutty fruit. A sip shows tannins and the fruit rounded out with a coffee and cocoa edge. It’s very well-balanced and has the structure of a Brazilian supermodel.

What it needs is a little bit of time. It’s delicious now, but will be better in 6 months to a year, or more. For the money, it’s fantastic. Buy some, put it in a closet (or a cellar for you fancy folk) and try a bottle now and then until what you bought is gone and you miss it. All good things come to an end, but this one just costs less than most for what you get.

$25 here in BC.

4 1/2 stars

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