July 6, 2017
ARGENTINA AND ALBERTA: KINDRED COWBOY SPIRITS
Argentina is considered a new world country in a wine context. However, it a thriving wine making powerhouse with more than 150 years of experience cultivating vines against the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
Mendoza is the capital city of the Mendoza Province, which is Argentina’s wine capital. There are many parallels that can be drawn between Mendoza and the Calgary region. We both experience some very similar and important climactic influences due to our proximity to the large mountains to the west. The Andes and the Rockies create a rain shadow effect, making both provinces relatively dry and sunny.
In Calgary, we experience the warmth of Chinook winds that take the bite off a cold winter snap. In Mendoza they have the Zonda: a wind that blows warm air from the nearby Atacama Dessert, the driest place on earth. This warm wind is both a blessing and a curse as it can be swift and violent. Calgary and Mendoza cities are high altitude habitats that experience four seasons (although Mendoza winters are relatively mild).
Much like southern Alberta, the rugged terrain of the Andes foothills has long been home to ranchers, farmers and cowboys alike. Grazing cattle and beef reign supreme and the South American cowboy (gaucho) is deeply entrenched in the culture. Red meat dominates the dinner table, so its no wonder that Argentina is a great place to start when it comes to big, burly, deep red wines that are the ideal sidekick to a perfectly grilled steak
An Expanding Frontier
Malbec is Argentina’s flagship wine. The Malbec train is whooshing full steam ahead with consumers who wish to divulge in its voluptuous, floral, purple toothed beauty. Yet there is more than meets the eye when it comes to experiencing our South American cousin’s wine offerings.
With more than 500,000 acres of vineyards currently cultivated in Argentina, there is much to explore! The long, hot, arid, sunny and high altitude vineyards are perfect for ripening tardy and slow red grapes such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot and others.
Don’t worry about leaving the Malbec main line. You will always be on the right track lavishing yourself with any of these luscious varieties, which are equally delightful with red meats and bold dishes.
The hallmark of these wines are not notes of earth or a sense of place, rather a style that has come to define Argentinian wines: heavy coating in your glass, fruit driven sensations on the palate and intense depth, flavour and texture. These wines are anything but light on their feet.
Bonarda - The Myserious Stranger
In many classic westerns, the plot thickens when a tall, mysterious stranger rides into town. In Argentina, this role is played by Bonarda. This is an off the beaten path grape variety that will be pleasing to the most diehard Malbec enthusiast. Its soft, round and plush texture makes for an entirely gulpable wine. With very similar expressions of deep dark fruit, mild tannin and very low acidity as Malbec, Bonarda is an easy-drinking, velvety wine. The best part is that you can find some amazing Bonardas without breaking the bank.
Torrents - The White Stetson
Every great wine region needs a compelling white to come to the rescue. In Argentina, it is Torrentes. An unknown to many the wine lovers, this grape is not commercially produced anywhere else in the world.
Imagine if Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer were young, passionate lovers and started a family? Torrentes would be their first-born.
Torrentes is aromatic and pretty on the nose... with flowers, citrus and stone fruit to complement. Yet this Argentinian treasure backs it up with a crisp, clean and fresh body in a dry style. It is a perfect match for fish, poultry or a board of your favourite cheeses and meats. (A great winter white on a warm Chinook day, if you ask us!)
Whether you feel comfortable on the Malbec Express or would like to explore the many frontiers of Argentinian wine, we are confident you will discover some exceptional picks at some very fine prices. And after you visit us, might we recommend talking to your butcher about a premium cut of Alberta Beef... as a way of bringing our two cultures together?
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