Archive for November, 2009

“Argentina will be the new Australia”

November 16, 2009

Opinion article published by Argentinean wine siteivanvino Area del Vino

The author of the note is Peruvian and is a wine consultant working in the retail sector in British Columbia. This gives us a glimpse of the Canadian plaza and predicts a bright future for Argentine wines.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, an importing agent told me “Argentina will be the new Australia”, while at Argentina’s Everything Wine section, the largest wine  store in Vancouver . His statement left me wondering if his prediction was feasible. I also raised other questions as to what actions are needed to obtain an Argentine wine market share similar to that of Australia, with its Shiraz and Chardonnays have captured nine percent of the domestic market and the first imported wines in British Columbia .

Australia, innovative and aggressive

By the early nineties, Vancouver liquor stores displaying a few products from Australia, led by its signature wine, the Shiraz. Today, a decade and a half later find Australian wines is nothing but the rule when you visit a liquor store, the chain is state or private LDB.

The image of Australia as a nation quality winery was established largely through an aggressive international marketing. The workhorse of the industry is the southern line of wines Yellowtail budget. The use of Australian wildlife on the labels, which exhibit strong colors, some traditional wines, to promote its Shiraz and Chardonnay, strong market stalled. Not only Yellowtail Shiraz varietal has positioned itself as strongly in the minds of consumers, but opened the door for a real invasion of varietal wines and Australian cuts. Australia is now owner of budget wine segment in BC. To compete in that market, Argentine wines will be promoted as quality and distinctive alternatives.

Positioning signature varietal

Argentina’s industry requires a marketing effort for the consumer’s mind in BC, Malbec is synonymous with Argentine wine. Australia and Chile have aggressive and savvy industries, so no doubt will develop their own Malbec (Malbec Montes and offers to 15.99), by challenging that space to Argentina. The industry must take a “preemptive strike” and print the concept Argentina-Malbec in the psyche of the consumer rather than Australia or Chile Malbecs place their own market.

Image Positioning

Argentine wines are another important aspect that Market. The packaging of wine has reached a high level in Argentina, to the point that many products are beautiful as objects. Similarly, label design highlights the sophisticated taste of the culture of Argentina. Maintaining that aesthetic quality is essential for the positioning of Argentine wine, and providing psychological elements associated with elegance, sophistication, in addition to the actual quality of the broth. Similarly, the image of Argentine wine should be hung from the strong imprint of Argentina as a country brand, with distinctive and unique icons, like Maradona, Evita, the Tango and Patagonia.

Continuous quality improvement

Despite the global recession, experts agree that wine consumption will not suffer a serious setback. It is considered rather than the consumer will choose wines better value for money or to consume wine at home rather than in a restaurant. Argentine wines under $ 20 must maintain a high quality to fight in this highly competitive space.

Niche Markets

The industry must identify niche markets can be satisfied. An important niche in wine is organic or eco-friendly “. Argentina must use concepts like “natural purity” of the Andes as the centerpiece of that effort. Regions like Patagonia are already positioned as exotic lands, ecologically pristine. Sell organic wines with geographical delineations as this can help to capture large segments of that niche.

Premium wines

Argentina’s industry must not neglect the niche of premium wines (High End Wines). The Canadian market grew by 10% in value and 6% in volume during 2005 to 6.6 billion CND. In contrast to other international markets, this growth was largely driven by high-end wines.

The Asian Factor

Almost half of British Columbia’s population is of Asian origin. Chinese restaurants, Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese and Thais are at each corner and are favorites of Asian and non-Asian population. The Argentine wine should be promoted according to weddings, not only with roasts and steaks, but with Asian and fusion food.


BC’s consumer is very curious and seeking information. Besides coverage, Argentina’s industry should provide fresh information through websites. These should be available in English. Pages as the Wines of Argentina are important and efforts should be the rule rather than the exception.

Beyond advertising

It is a fact that media coverage has much more credibility than the most expensive advertising campaign. It is important to create events and news of interest to newspapers and magazines in BC. The tasting events are particularly effective because media people are invited to produce articles for local newspapers, emphasizing not only the quality of the wines but also providing information regarding the country of production and supply, thus reinforcing the positioning Argentina – Malbec wine.

Will the next Argentina Australia in British Columbia? Much of that destiny can be realized if the industry takes the lead.

To read original (in Spanish) go to:


IVSA November 9: Part II

November 14, 2009

Well, obviously I am not very gifted as a weather forecaster. Through my window the sky over Vancouver shines, the fuzzy sunlight bouncing off the first snows covering the North Shore mountains. Only two days ago I talked about sombre days but hey, weather is a lot more intricate than describing wine (not that I am much better at that either). The chill of the morning makes me long for warmth, and I find that in my memories of substantial, nourishing reds (unlike other foods, wine nourishes the soul as well) tasted just four or five days ago.

Enough of meteorology and al grano, like we say in Spanish: Let’s get to the point. Bacchus Group had one of the nicest surprises of the night, a Greek wine, that is. I held the glass of 2007 Boutari ODE (23.99) with –excuse me- reasonable scepticism. Little I knew I would be so fond of this 50/50 blend of Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon, varieties charmingly described on the winery’s website as karismatikos, ‘charismatic’. Juicy and mildly addictive, this wine may change your stereotypes about fermented grape juice made in the country that gave birth to democracy, philosophy and spanakopita. Next to the ODE, the 2006 Chateau de la Gardine stood out with its odd shaped bottle and old fashioned label. This Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee Tradition” delivers all the aroma, fruit and tannin one may expect from the appellation, plus a sense of seriously taken winemaking. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Muscardin, this broth offers consistent quality at an affordable price (49.99).

Portugal is a wine country that is still new and unknown to most, including this humble scribe, yours truly. The Seacove Group showcased the Crasto 2007 Tinto from Douro (the Duero River, as it is known in Spain) and the Quinta do Crasto 2007 Old Vines Reserva. Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional make these two outstanding wines. The former has garnered accolades for its blackberryish nose and lively, easygoing body and at 19.99 is a steal. The latter has a nose that is slightly floral and rotund in its finality. Opulent and satisfying, ripe fruit enmeshed with tones of wood and mineral. The 42.99 price tag is well deserved.

Also from Seacove Group but hailing from Languedoc, the Domaine de l’Auster 2008 Faugeres (18.99) excites with a sweet nose reminiscent of confited fruit and its medium, rustic yet velvety body. Braised meats (or replace with forest/porcini mushrooms) will enhance this tasty red broth.

Replacing Natino Bellantoni at the Enoteca Bacco booth, Cicco poured the Primitivo Punta Aquila 2006. This wine by Tenute Rubino is fresh, soft, fruity and approachable. Bursting with fruit and spice on the nose, the berry/spice flavors are supported by playful acidity and sweet tannins. Lovely at 23.95 but the real star at this booth was the Castel del Monte Vigna Pedale 2005 – Torrevento. This is a 100% Nero di Troia.  Fragrant nose, explosive palate with vibrant fruit, mouth puckering tannins  and a long, exuberant finish. Decant a good hour or two; stay away if you are tannin shy. Otherwise you will love this offering from Puglia. 27.95.

This neverending saga has one more installment. Hasta la vista.



IVSA November 9: The Reds. Part I

November 12, 2009

Ok, let’s face it: A shiny morning doesn’t mean that our beautiful Vancouver fall is holding on. Mostly days are turning gray, cold and miserable. And it is for that reason that while I decipher my wine notes from the last IVSA, a pot of Osso Bucco -Peruvian version- is simmering on the stove, flooding my kitchen with aromas of beef ribs, porcini mushroom and melting celery. While I seep and write I keep an eye on it, you know, cooking is a serious matter for a wineaddicto like me.

The wine I have in mind for this Peruvian stew  (Estofado) is the Poggio al Lupo IGT Toscana, brought to Vancouver by Liquid Art Fine Wines. This fine, big wine is made by Tenuta Sette Ponti, the very creators of proved success stories, like the delicious Crognolo. The Poggio al Lupo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante and a dash of Petit Verdot. The latter two are responsible for the deep coloring of this remarkable Tuscan broth and for its reverberate-on-the-palate tannic charge too. Piquant fruit on the nose, aggressive almost to a fault –but stopping just shy of- and with black fruit and herbal flavors that have a hint of bitterness, in the right sense. This makes for a challenging drink and for a great companion to a dish like the one I have on the slow cooker or for Osso Bucco, game or mature cheeses. In the vicinity of 70 dollars, this is a wine to look for. 91 points Wine Spectator 2007, 2008.

Wine Rhapsody treats British Columbians with the Chateau La Moutete, a red blend from Provence. The Rouge Vielles Vignes 2005 is a typical southern blend of Carignan, Grenache Syrah and Mourvedre. Medium bodied and straightforward in its simplicity, it will accompany duck or red meats with alacrity at c. 30 dollars. More impressive, albeit a lot pricier (7o dollars), the Marchesi di Barolo Cannubi 2001 is a big wine from Piedmont. A floral whiff precedes a full, dry, serious body that delivers all the textural –tannic- load of the properly vinified Nebbiolo grape. Braised meats like beef, lamb or game should allow the full appreciation of this biggie.

Stepping down a bit from the previous big Italian, I tasted the Sgubin Schioppettino, courtesy of Burrows, Luongo & Associates. This a red that deserves a lot more of the Vancouverite wine lover’s attention. The varietal is another incarnation of the better known Refosk grape, a local specialty which is adored in Northern Italy and Slovenia (where it is called Teran) but apparently nowhere else. Simple, rustic and tannic, it does have its charm, and having the chance of choosing a wine to have with roasted boar (ok, yes, it was road kill) I would go for this inexpensive food friendly red. 20-23 dollars. Burrows & Luongo also brings Australian wines. They showcased their Serafino line from McLaren Vale. At 26 dollars and 14.5% alcohol, both the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Shiraz represent good value. I enjoyed the Cab Sauv particularly, with its well integrated oak, juicy fruit and fine tannins.

Natalia Samborski from Select Wines walked me through some of their products. The 2008 Little Yering Pinot Noir comes to mind as excellent value. At 14.99 this Pinot from Yarra had a decent level of structure and a solid, savoury finish. The Villa Saletta 2005 Chiave (key) was the surprise novelty at this table and kept us chatting about it for a while. A blend of Cabernet, Sangiovese and Caladoc, this 16 dollar wine is light, simple and carries ticklish tannins, making the perfect complement to lighter fare. The 2004 Faustino V Rioja doesn’t need introductions and once again, impressed with its burly, intoxicating nose and stewed fruit loaded body. One of the best Riojas to be found at this price. My visit to this booth ended with the Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2006. Delivering the typical Mendoza’s Malbec style, this concentrated broth will be serious competition to the likes of Pascual Toso Reserva.

I will continue with the rest of the reds in my next post.


IVSA November 9. The Whites.

November 10, 2009

The last IVSA New Products Salon of the year was fun, crowded and full of new, tasty wines. The usual suspects were around and for the first time in a while I got to see the Wine Diva, Daenna Van Mulligen, tasting some sparkling wines of the Vino Allegro portfolio. For Daenna traveling has been intense recently and between flying, events and writing for her website, there is little time for anything else. As usual she was fun, friendly and looking spectacular. Oh, well, let’s not get carried away and onto the wines I tasted. I tried to taste more reds this time, as the three hours that these events last seem to shrink into some sort of time warp  and you never get to taste all the wines you planned.  I will cover the whites first, then bubbles and reds.

First I visited the Stewart Wine & Spirits booth, where I kicked off the night with the Bollini 2008 Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC. No surprises here, as the product is well established in the BC market. Fresh fruit and refreshing acidity held up by a slightly creamy texture. Always nice to find a Pinot Grigio which is not just another one. Under 20 dollars, this wine is an excellent pick any time. I followed with a Sauvignon Blanc by Bastianich, the “B” 2008. Compact and snappy, this would be a good alternative to Kiwi Sauv Blanc, especially on these cool days when the grassy character is not as attractive, and a more savory, almondy , less acidic wine seems to fit better the weather and gris November mood. This different Sauv Blanc will set you back 19.99. Give it a try. 

I have been waiting for a while to taste the Cuvee Claude Seigneuret Vielles Vignes Macon Bussieres AC 2007 by Domaine de la Saraziniere (what a mouthful of a name here) and I was not disappointed. Electric minerality upholds the….. (illegible!) fruit, better described as a touch of lemon juice squeezed through a filter of flint. Nice acidity and can see why this is a Liquid Art staff favorite. Now is one of mine too at 28.99 per bottle.

Wine Rhapsody brought a small yet tasty set of wines to the show. From the beautiful Loire, two Chenin Blanc offerings proved to be great wines for the season. The Chateau de Varennes Savennieres 2005 renders a textbook tasting of the appellation, with plenty of character, honeyfloralspicyacidity (did you get that? Im playing Faulkner here) at 30.00 dollars.  Also from the Loire and also Chenin Blanc but this time noblerotted, the Chateau Belle-Rive Quarts de Chaume 2003 is as beautiful as the sound of its name. This is all about texture texture and more texture against which fruit flavors, not-cloying sweetness and sober acidity plus a touch of minerality move in a seamless dance. 70.oo dollars for a 750 ml bottle is not bad at all, considering other similar products in the market. I wish I had had some blue cheese to go with. Hmm.


Among the most delicious whites of the evening was the Marina Cvetic 2007 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. Represented by Burrows, Luongo & Associates, this high alcohol (14.5%) white surely stands up to its 62.99 dollar price tag. Audacious in its aroma spectrum and bodacious in mouth, this wine is round, intense and satisfying. For those lovers of good west coast halibut baked with herbs and rich sauces, this is the bottle to pick. Having been in the halibut fishing industry for several years, I guarantee it. Your money back? Go see the agents! ; ) 

Wine Quest never fails to surprise and this time they did it again with a delicious Ribolla from Colli Orientali del Friuli. This 2007 Gialla by Poggiobello salutes with a heap of wet hay, melon and pomme aromas followed by a medium bodied, crisp, clean-finish sip. 25.99. Also at this table, the unoaked 2007 IGT Prato Grande Chardonnay by De Angelis was fresh, flinty and fersistant. I meant persistant but got caught with the flow of f’s. Go figure. Figure it out. Ok, enouf –enough- of that. 18.52 for this interesting wine from Marche.


Legacy Brand Management treated me to their 2003 Eikendal Stellenbosch Reserve Chardonnay. I have been curious about the new South African Chardonnays that (like the Ataraxia) seem to be harvesting awards left, right and center. This one had a remarkably skillful use of oak giving structure to rich lemony flavors that persisted in the finish. Truly delicious at 30.99 almost ten dollars below the aforementioned Ataraxia Chardonnay.


The only Muscadet Sevre et Maine of the night I tasted was brought by La Boutique du Vin. The Chant de la Mer indeed carried some marine reminiscence in its briney nutty leesy minerality. I thought of oysters and kisses. Oh, well, maybe shouldn’t go there, but they go together don’t they. 18.99 makes perfect for a nice seafood dinner for two any evening.


Lanigan & Edwards Wine Merchants import the wonderful 2006 Estate Chardonnay by Trefethen, the house that produces famed Cabernet Sauvignon. A mouth coating, unambiguously Californian Chardonnay, at 34.99 this creamy white puts La Crema in the back seat. Chard lovers pay attention.


That’s all folks.

Ciao for now.


November 9: IVSA New Products Salon Today!

November 9, 2009

Well, the IVSA show is starting in…. one hour and five minutes. Lots of new sparkling wines for the coming season will be available for tasting, as well as still red & white and spiritis. I will be hunting for heavy whites and cold weather reds. See you there

Four Seasons Hotel (corner opposite the Vancouver Art Gallery, north east direction). New Products from over 60 agents. Setup at 12:30, Guests from 2PM – 5PM. No Minors.

Aglianico: Volcano in a Bottle

November 6, 2009

For the average wine consumer, Italy, with its twenty wine regions and scores of commercially grown grapes –mostvulture-blog little known and with hard to remember names- can be plain down befuddling. Even for those who have tasted Chianti, Valpolicella or Sangiovese, these are seldom first picks when they go wine shopping. Like in every other sphere of thought and culture, wine is full of stereotypes and myths, and –unfortunately- Italian wine is plagued with them. “They are too acidic”, say some. “I can’t stand the strong tannins”, complain others. “Only good with food”, is what most say.

The reality is that, even myself, used to be in one of the groups above, or in all of them. It takes tasting more than a few Italian wines to realize that the myths above are not only false; they come from perceptions born out of tasting one or two wines from one or two regions only. Many people never go beyond Chianti and Valpolicella, usually low quality versions served as house wines in restaurants. More adventurous consumers go for ITP blends. These, the Indicazione Geografica Tipica wines, are made from international varieties (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah) sometimes blended with Italian ones, and can be just delicious, full bodied, powerful wines on their own right.

ITP wines have gained international recognition, but the heart of Italian wines resides in the indigenous varieties. Most of the well-known ones are grown in the north: Nebbiolo, found in Barolo and Barbaresco. Chianti’s Sangiovese or Valpolicella’s Corvina. But there is one variety that stands tall in the south: Aglianico. “The Nebbiolo of the south” as they call it, is like the true Nebbiolo, a grape that yields wines that can be big, sometimes massive.

The variety was taken to Southern Italy by the Greeks, although DNA analysis shows that its lineage cannot be traced to anything that is cultivated today in Greece. The name is believed to be a distortion of the word “Ellenico”, Italian word for Greek. Most Aglianico is cultivated in Basilicata (the region between the tip and heel of the Italian boot) and in Campania (the front side of the boot’s ankle). Some vineyards can be found in Molise and Puglia and, to a lesser extent, in Australia and California. In Basilicata the grape enjoys DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta) status, with the most prestigious wines coming from the volcanic soils around Mount Vulture. In Campania the grape has its own DOCG (Denominazione d’Origine Controlatta e Garantitta) based on the Taurasi appellation.

In the vineyard, Aglianico prefers volcanic soils, as mentioned above, and seems to benefit from relatively high altitude (400-500m). The dark skinned berries ripen incredibly late, a fact that has limited the quality of wines made from early harvesting. Aglianico wines, when well made, can deliver a powerful sensorial experience that rivals or bests that of most other big reds. An intense nose of tectonic force is a hallmark of good Aglianico. Chocolate, plum and spice are common. In the palate the combination of these flavours with the indomitable character of its tannins makes a lasting impression. Due to its high acidity and “ferocious tannins” (as described by Jancis Robinson) , Aglianico wines benefit from cellaring and will make the absolutely perfect match for grilled meats, roasted lamb and game.

Peruvian Cuisine: Aguadito

November 2, 2009

As it is the case of many other Peruvian dishes, this soup is the result of the combination of creativity and necessity. 851_1The word Aguadito translates literally as “little thin stew”, the diminutive form being common in Peru when talking about food. Economy has never been strong for long hauls in that part of the world and the custom of adding water to soups and stews was born spontaneously, as families grew larger and pockets shallower.

At the beginning of the Republic, around the 1830’s, the country’s political life was in complete turmoil and the Caudillos –warlords- fought one another for a chance to place their behinds on the Presidential Chair. On occasion, there were two –and even three- different presidents occupying the Palace of Government in a single year. Conspiracy and intrigue saturated the main cities, in which gun and sword battles full of sound and fury and galloping horses became the order of the day. Each Caudillo had his own personal army, as well as a wife and a number of mistresses, a fact that was not hidden but rather celebrated as an unequivocal sign of manliness, the full expression of the ancestral macho, condition considered indispensable for the exercise of power. More affluent Caudillos could meet their personal armies’ needs. Those less fortunate found hard to pay and feed their soldiery, and frequently they had to stretch their budgets to unimaginable limits.

It is said that one of such leaders, alien to the most basic military training, appointed himself as Mariscal –Marshall- and gathered a ragtag army to fight for a chance at becoming the President of Peru. To feed his ill-prepared troops, he hired a black cook known as the Negra Josefa. The woman was the owner of both extraordinary culinary talent and an indomitable nature. Her mouth was foul and her body, although shapely, was of planetary dimensions. Her hands concocted the most sublime flavors but rumor ran that the Mariscal was not only attracted to her culinary prowess.

From the very beginning, the woman had to find solutions to the scarcity of means that was the hallmark of the Mariscal’s operation. One good day, tired of having to do miracles to feed one hundred men with just a sack of rice and a few chickens, the Negra Josefa took the matters in her hands, and defying all advice given by friend and foe alike, crossed the military camp in a straight line toward the Mariscal’s tent. Full of resolve and anger, she pushed aside two guards who stood by the tent’s entrance. The camp fell silent and everyone listened intently for the oncoming shouting contest. The woman broke into a continuous rant that grew louder and louder, complaining of how she had to work wonders to feed the men and how the Mariscal never gave enough money to buy more groceries and that all she had for the day was two cauldrons full of Arroz con Pollo, and that would never suffice for the whole brigade.

The Mariscal listened to her in silence, and for the first time, overwhelmed as he was with his inability to get more funds to wage a losing war, he exploded in a tenor voice that until then had not been heard by anyone. “Carajo!” (the most sonorous Spanish expletive) he shouted. “Si no te alcanza echale agua!” (why don’t you add water to it!). He looked so menacing and the thunder of his voice was so unexpected that the proud cook cowered, and whispering “Yes, sir” she took off. The Mariscal did not mean what he said, as he knew nothing about cooking.

But the Negra Josefa, seeing the hungry faces of the soldiers took the idea into practice and eked out the Arroz con Pollo with plenty of water. She shredded the chicken and simmered the diluted dish, ending up with a thick soup, which she readily served to the troop, after squeezing a few limes on it and sprinkling it with chopped up aji peppers. When the starving soldiers asked what were they having for their meal the Negra Josefa answered dryly “watery (aguadito) Arroz con Pollo”. The soldiers loved the new preparation and the aguadito portion of the name stuck.

Curious like any good cook, Josefa tried different ingredients and perfected the recipe, which became a well known soup all on its own. The poor Mariscal eventually lost his war for power and was incarcerated for seven long years. During that period his loyal cook visited him every weekend with a pot full of the steaming dish, which he shared with other inmates and with the prison guards. After release, he married the Negra Josefa and helped her roll her cart on the streets, where they sold the best aguadito in town.

Today, the dish is very popular in Peru as a winter meal, but also among revelers who, after an exhausting night of drinking, search for good nourishment. The soup also gained a rather somber notoriety for being served at funerals, after long vigil nights. In its present form it is made with chicken, leftover Christmas roasted turkey or assorted seafood.

Click on link for Recipe

Wine for Aguadito

Pair with a copita (or more) of Peruvian Pisco. Red wine to match this dish: Pinot Noir or a lighter Southern Rhone. For white wine, Alsatian Pinot Gris or a rich Loire dry Chenin Blanc.