15 Dec 2011

Welcome relief (Mendoza, Argentina - Day One)

With absolutely no disrespect at all intended to Chile or any of the wonderful people I met whilst there, but it was such a relief to be leaving considering all of the issues with getting around and making it to wineries on time. When I dropped off the rental car I tried to explain the complications with the GPS, but was met with general indifference. I was a little frustrated at the lack of WIFI in the terminal, as I could have got a bit of work done whilst I waited for my flight, which was late. Once we were up in the air though, none if it mattered; I was on my way to Mendoza and I got to enjoy views like this (albeit for only 25 minutes!)

After arriving at the airport and discovering the car hire company I booked with didn't have an office at the airport, I had to take a short cab ride into town to pick it up. Upon departing the offices for my winery appointment for the day, I discovered several things. The first was how different the climate is in Mendoza compared with Chile, and that is decidedly drier. I struggled to find any rivers at all. The second thing I discovered was that the GPS I had reserved here ACTUALLY WORKED, telling me exactly what roads to drive on and where to turn. The third thing I discovered is that driving on freeways in Mendoza is ACTUALLY FREE! The final thing I discovered was that the cars people drive here are also very different; generally older and smaller, so there is a little bit of slow-moving traffic on the freeway. But the roads, cars and weather makes me feel like I could be in the South of France...

Another winery that exports their wines to Australia through Wines of Chile and Argentina is Finca Flichman. The winery itself dates back to 1873, but didn't officially become Finca (meaning estate in Spanish) Flichman until 1910. Now 101 years old, they were purchased by the Portugese group Sogrape in 1998, who also have holdings in Portugal (naturally), Spain, Chile and New Zealand (Framingham). As the group are responsible for introducing the world to wine with Mateus Rose, they know how to run large commercial wineries, whilst maintaining quality across the board. Producing somewhere in the vicinity of 24 million litres of wine were year, the responsibility of managing all this is put on Luis Cabral de Almeida, the Portugese chief winemaker extraordinaire. After having a lovely tour through the historic cellars with Mariana, I sat down for a tasting.

The focus for the tasting was on reds, specifically malbec (d'uh!) Many ranges of wine in various price points are the strategy, and at every point they exceed their value. Understandably the three malbecs that retail for under US$10 are fruit forward, approachable, bright, fresh and soft, exactly what you would hope for at the price range. Minimal oak influence is achieved through the use of staves, and they give a hint chocolate tannins to the palate. These wines are designed to be drunk young, and were all from the 2011 vintage. The Expressiones 2009 is a big step up in quality but not price, a blend of 60% malbec and 40% cabernet sauvignon, using a blend of French and American oak barrels. The combination of oak and cabernet fruit gives the wine an interesting complex character of tar, spice and cassis, whilst the malbec keeps things full, soft and approachable. A fuller and denser wine, it isn't heavy or aggressive. We finished with the two terroir based wines from two vineyards; Tupungato and Barrancas, which are distinctive for the age of the vines. The old-syrah from the Barrancas vineyard provides the majority of fruit for this wine, whilst the old-vine malbec provides the majority in the Tupungato. The wines were both very good, but I found there was a little freshness and complexity lacking in the Barrancas, whilst the Tupungato had great velvety tannins and wasn't as warm as the former.

Click here to see more photos from Day One of Mendoza

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