One of the biggest mistakes a person can make when relocating to another country is to expect everything from “home” to be in their new home… which is why, in attempt to never be the cranky ex-pat, I came to Buenos Aires happily leaving behind the land of crunchy peanut butter, maple syrup and In N’Out… and embraced membrillo, panqueques con dulce de leche and parrillas. (Ok, ok, I’ll come clean: we came back from the U.S. this Christmas with our suitcases stocked with maple syrup and some crunchy Jiffy… but we never once complained that we couldn’t find it here!)
There was one thing about Argentina which shocked us: it is not a wine tasting culture. With all the beautiful wines the country produces, we (naively) assumed that Buenos Aires would be filled with wine bars and tasting rooms. We envisioned tastings to be a weekly thing so that we could learn as much as possible about Argentine wines during our time here… turns out, we were so very wrong. Simply put, it is just not a part of Argentine culture. I’m ok with that… I’m just… shocked!
Thankfully, there is 0800 Vino, a premium wine company run by sommelier Nigel Tollerman. Tollerman left the UK nearly a decade ago and has spent the last nine years in Buenos Aires building up an exquisite collection of fine Argentine wines. To our delight, he also holds small tastings in his cellar from time to time. A wine tasting fix without traveling all the way to Mendoza… phew!
Our first tasting with 0800 Vino was a Malbec and Torrontes tasting where we sampled six of each of the varietals which are classically Argentine. It was a wonderful event and we couldn’t wait to return. This week, we had the opportunity to attend an Enrique Foster tasting and we are so excited to share our experience with you.
Enrique Foster is located in the Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza, Argentina’s primary wine producing region. They are best known for the high-tech gravity-flow facilities, which are a state-of-the-art way of moving grapes and wines throughout the fermentation process. (Some argue that moving the grapes in traditional ways–baskets, tubs, etc–disturbs them, crushing them too early and releasing unpleasant flavors into the wines).
Foster’s motto is “Just Malbec”, so it was no surprise that each wine we sampled came from Argentina’s signature grape. We began with the “Lois”, a sparkling wine made from Malbec vines that are over 30 years old. Those familiar with sparkling wines and champagne know that most are made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes (see our article on sparkling wines to learn a little more) so it was a nice surprise to sample a sparkling wine made from Malbec. The result is a nice, refreshing sparkling without the toasty, high-in-yeast characteristics of a champagne, and without the over-apply, highly-citrusy characteristics of a California sparkling wine. It was a nice middle ground wine, and at $12 (US) a bottle, not a bad deal.
We moved on to the “Pink”, a rose wine made from (surprise!) Malbec.
“Pink” is a nice, floral wine with good acidity and notes of strawberry and cherry, and it would pair well with salads, blue and brie cheeses and the delicious pate and cucumber sandwich I just had at Oui Oui.
The first traditional Malbec we tasted was the “Ique”, which was quite a shocker: it has absolutely no oak presence. An unoaked Malbec is nearly unheard of, so we were eager to try it! The wine was what we expected from a young, unoaked red wine: high acidity, lush red fruits on the nose, and incredibly soft tannins and a peppery finish. It was a great wine to sample in our quest to better understand how oak imparts flavors into a wine (see our article on this relationship here).
We then sampled their Reserva Malbec, which is aged in French oak for 12 months and then aged for another 9 months in the bottle before it is released. The differences between the two wines were astounding: the Reserva was lush, with ripe fruits, a full body, rich tannins and a long finish. It was amazing to see how oak and aging can add such complecity and beauty to a wine.
We sampled a few more wines, thanks to Nigel’s generosity… but I think I’ll save those for another post. In the meantime, I encourage all Buenos Aires residents to check out 0800′s website and/or store, and I highly recommend that those interested in wines check out the ones that we tried. The Lois is a great example of a nice, easy-drinking sparkling wine made from a not-so-traditional sparkling wine grape, and the Ique is a fabulous example of what wine is like before it meets oak. Try the Ique side-by-side with the Reserva to see what a difference 12 months and a little French oak can make.
Thanks to Nigel and the 0800 crew for their hospitality! I am looking forward to the next tasting!