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Decanter in Argentina: Chakana, a wine buffet and the world’s greatest nocturnal tasters

Decanter is in Argentina for a week and a half of wine shows, tastings and winery visits. Here we catch up with Sarah Kemp and the team on their way to Chakana...

Woke up to a bright, bright blue Mendoza sky. It’s early spring here, the trees are just coming into bud, and the Decanter team are in an upbeat mood.

After breakfast we are back onto the Decanter bus. Steven Spurrier, Christelle Guibert, Decanter’s tasting director, Christabel Lemke, Decanter’s awards manager plus Sophie Jump – who represents several Argentinian wineries take their usual seats.

After a week travelling together it feels like a scene in Cliff Richard’s film Summer Holiday. We just need Spurrier to pick up his guitar…

Today’s visit is to Chakana, and with the Andes as a backdrop to the vineyards I can imagine fewer more stunning sights. Owner Juan Pelizatti greets us and explains that Chakana was set up with a strategy to make wines at clear price points.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone in the wine world be so direct. What? No terroir? No ‘we aim to make the best in the world’? The honesty slightly disarms me. A tasting of their wines shows good sound commercial wines, but nothing to grab the soul or tease the mind.

The most successful wine for me is their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc. I would be more than happy to drink this in a restaurant, and at £8.49 its zesty exuberant bouquet and attractive well-balanced core of fresh citric fruit certainly delivers.

Back at the Park Hyatt Mendoza, Steven Spurrier and Fabricio Portelli prepare for another masterclass while the wineries await the world’s greatest nocturnal wine tasters. The gala dinner is set to commence at 9.00pm but in true Argentine form nobody appears until about 10.30.

Lucas Moncho, the restaurant manager, has explained it will be a special buffet – a wine buffet. 17 wines are lined up and all the guests help themselves while food is brought to the table. It’s a wine lover’s delight: relaxed, cheerful – and it works.

A feast of wines to enjoy from Caro 2007 to Finca Sophenia Malbec 2008 – what a fantastic finale to the wine fair.

Written by Sarah Kemp

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