Stay-at-Home Wine Tour of South America

Deseado, a sparkling Torrontés from PatagoniaOur instructor, Lynn Coulthard, started our wine tour of South America with a sparkling Torrontés, a cool region wine from Patagonia in the south of Argentina. The sweet sparkling wine, akin to Asti Spumanti, was priced at $26 and good value.

The next white we tasted came from Chile, a ‘T.H’ Sauvignon Blanc. This was very aromatic to the nose, but I found the flavour a bit ‘viny’, like chewing on the stem of the grapes. Our instructor Lynn described it as crisp and clean, and suggested it would go well with delicate foods such as poached sole.

Undurraga 'T.H.', a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

We also tasted two Argentinean whites, a non-sparkling Torrontés from the high altitude wineries in Salta, and a Chardonnay from the famous wine region of Mendoza.

The non-sparkling ‘Colmes’ Torrontés came from Salta in the northwest of Argentina, and as the label said, was a ‘vino blanco de gran altura‘ (high-altitude white wine). It was supposed to have ‘rose petal’ aroma, but I’m afraid the ‘nose’ reminded me of rose-petal dish soap. The best part of this wine is that it was from Salta, such a beautiful area that everyone should see it, and there’s lots of wine-tasting in nearby towns as well.

The non-sparkling 'Colmes' Torrontés comes from Salta in Argentina

The Luca Chardonnay was from the famous wine region of Mendoza in Argentina. This was a lovely wine, well balanced with overtones of butterscotch and a lingering flavour. At $44, a bit pricy for me, but damn good!

he Luca Chardonnay is from the famous wine region of Mendoza in Argentina.

From Uruguay came a Tannant, that country’s signature grape. It’s a rough red wine with lots of tannin, and needs aging and some good food pairing to really be appreciated. This is NOT a sipping wine.

Uruguay's top grape is Tannat.

For fun we did two sets of blind tastings. While our instructor Lynn read us the descriptions of each wine, we sniffed and tasted and tried to guess which was which. The first pair were both Chilean, a Syrah and a Carmenère, the signature grape of Chile. For many years the Carmenére grape was mistakenly identified as a Merlot until genetic testing determined otherwise.

the Matetic 'EQ' Syrah, 2005 from Chile had a very pronounced nose Carmenère, the signature grape of Chile
The Matetic ‘EQ’ Syrah, 2005 from Chile had a very pronounced nose, ‘stinky’ was the first word that came to mind. But it tasted much better than it smelled, earthy and of black fruits. Apparently some Carmenères are really green pepper in your face, but in this Terra Noble 2008, the green pepper notes were more subdued and there was a nice peppery finish.

The next pair we compared were a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and a Malbec from Argentina.

The Malbec, the signature grape of Argentina, was velvety, smooth, dark berry, and full of flavour Cabernet Sauvignon is often called the ‘doughnut’ wine
The Malbec, the signature grape of Argentina, was velvety, smooth, dark berry, and full of flavour. Never leave me alone with a bottle of Malbec – I love the stuff! To my mind it was the best wine of the evening, at least up until that point. Lynn described Cabernet Sauvignon as the ‘doughnut’ wine: round at the edges and empty in the middle. This may sound obscure but was quite apparent while tasting. That emptiness is one of the reasons that it is often blended. She also described it as having ‘structure’, another thing that is obvious when you taste it.

Lynn then introduced an interesting experiment in blending. We were to come up with a blend of the Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. I chose to add a small amount of the Cab to my Malbec, about 1 part Cab to 3 parts Malbec, and to my surprise I liked it even better than the plain Malbec, which had been my favourite wine of the evening.

She then brought out the killer wine of the evening – a blend to end all blends: Andeluna ‘Grand Reserve’ Pasionado 2005 from Mendoza, Argentina. Yes, it managed to even top my impressive blend! At $66 a bottle, this is a wine worthy of a major celebration. Great class!

Andeluna 'Grand Reserve' Pasionado 2005 was the killer wine of the evening the back label from the Bordeaux blend
WOW! Andeluna ‘Grand Reserve’ Pasionado 2005 from Mendoza, Argentina, a Bordeaux blend; 36% Merlot, 34% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. Easily the best wine of the evening, but pricey, at $66 a bottle. the back label from the Bordeaux blend – note the 2nd paragraph for their tasting notes – I couldn’t have said it better!
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