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Sarah Kemp’s Argentina blog: Buenos Aires, Malbec, Pinot Noir and a superb Tocai

Decanter is in Argentina for a week and a half of wine shows, tastings and winery visits. Sarah Kemp, publishing director and Argentinian wine enthusiast, sent us this report

Day One

‘It’s not normally like this’ said nearly everyone I met as the rain poured down in Buenos Aires. Decanter is in town, and has hooked up with Argentina’s leading wine journalist and member of the Decanter World Wine Awards’ tasting panel, Fabricio Portelli (above, right) for a week of tastings and seminars.

Fabricio has a weekly wine show – El Conocedor – named after his magazine, so our first stop was a TV interview on Decanter’s view of Argentinian wines.

Once we got to the studio I found that despite carefully making up for the interview, I spent what seemed ages under the hands of the make-up girls. This was much to our host Sophie Jump’s (above, centre) amusement, who was out of the chair in a few seconds.

It’s not a difficult interview to give, enthusiast as I am for Argentinian wines. And at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards Argentina took four international trophies, more than any other New World country – so I’ve got lots to talk about.

Then on to meet Ernesto Catena, son of Decanter’s Man of the Year 2009, Nicolas Catena. Ernesto has his own winery, Ernesto Catena Vineyards.

First a stop at his gallery, which shows the top Argentine photographers and has a wonderful tasting bar.

Over lunch, a surprise in the form of his first Pinot Noir, fragrant, with lovely fresh uplifted fruit, Burgundian in style. From the country of Malbec this is a revelation.

Dinner with Manuel Mas of Finca La Anita and a delicious Tocai Friulano. Wonderful depth with beautifully balanced acidity, peaches and cream with a luxurious texture.

It was a fascinatingly complex wine, and they say Argentina is a red wine country?

Day Two

Exclusive Malbec Day at the charming Sofitel Hotel, run by us and El Conocedor Magazine

We bump into the renowned Jose Zuccardi of Mendoza in the lobby, in great form.

A packed programme on terroir, food and wine but the highlight is Steven Spurrier’s and Fabricio Portelli’s masterclass on Malbec. Ten wines have been chosen and it seems that every wine producer in Argentina is in the room.

Alberto Arizu from Luigi Bosca (who has just announced World Malbec Day on 17 April 2011, of which more anon), Antoine Thibaud from Bodegas Ruca Malen, Herve Birnie-Scott from Terrazas de los Andes…the list just goes on.

I’m impressed by the genuine camaraderie in the room. Spurrier, despite having got off the plane that morning from London, is hugely enthusiastic about Malbec’s role in a blend, and with Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo And Cabernet Sauvignon as partners, it is easy to see why.

In typical Spurrier form he came up with a superb comparision: ‘Just as a great actor shouldn’t only play Hamlet, Malbec shouldn’t play just one role.’

The day ended with a gala dinner for a hundred of Argentina’s most prominent wine producers, plus a few lucky consumers, all of whom were remarkably happy to be able to drink 20 Malbecs with their dinner.

Decanter slept well.

Written by Sarah Kemp

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