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Decanter in Argentina: Mercedes Sosa and a cat called Manolito

Decanter is in Argentina for a week and a half of wine shows, tastings and winery visits. Here we catch up with Sarah Kemp on the final leg of the tour

Our last day in Argentina and we were heading high up into the Andes for a true high altitude tasting.

Fabricio Portelli had wanted us to meet some of Argentina’s most talented young winemakers, so instead of arranging a tasting in a hotel, or over a lunch in town, he decided to take us to Estancia Uspallata – a stunning ranch an hour and a half from Santiago.

When I was a child my favourite television programme was the High Chaparral, a wonderful soap opera western. I was so in love with it, that I even named my cat after the handsome Mexican cowboy Manolito Montoya. Estancia Uspallata looked just like the set for the western. There were even five horses saddled up ready for anyone who wanted to ride and a gaucho straight out of central casting. Bliss.

Fabricio explained that he wanted the day to be totally relaxing. Mercedes Sosa crooned out of the juke box, the wines were lined up on a bar to taste whenever we wanted and Lucas Bustos, one of Argentina’s best chefs was hard at work producing plates of sensational local food, with beef from the asado in rolls, kidneys on toast, and tomato salad coming out all day. This was lunch Argentina style. More to the point, this was lunch Sarah style.

I was happy to see Matias Michellini of Finca Sophenia, who produces one of South American’s best Sauvignons, and whose wines have always impressed me. Another familiar face was Alejandro Sejanovich who used to be one of Catena’s top winemakers. He had decided to start his own venture and had bought 16 ha of vineyard and was working with Jef Mausbach, also ex Catena. As yet the winery [and wine] has no name, but one thing they had decided was that it wouldn’t be called Sejanovich Mausbach.

Others included by Fabricio Portelli were Pablo Cuneo (whose wines I had admired in London at the Wines of Argentina tasting), Felipe Schatalschmidt from Catena Zapata, Adrian Meyer from Terrazas de los Andes, Nestor Bajda from Escorihuela, Pablo Richardi from Flechas de los Andes, Leonardo Querecetti, Trapezio and the only woman, Gabriela Celeste from the Rolland Collection.

The wines confirmed my impression of the previous week. The direction these young wine makers are taking is far more euro-centric than in the past. As a group of wines they showed a wonderful freshness of fruit and restrained elegance plus, best of all, a true expression of the vineyard. The days of Arnold Schwarzenegger wines which clobbered and tired you after a glass were not in evidence here.

I couldn’t help think about Spurrier’s observation that Malbec like Pinot really could reflect a sense of place. As I looked around at this likeable bunch of enthusiastic winemakers, I concluded us wine lovers have much to look forward to.

Written by Sarah Kemp

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