By Alejandro Iglesias (Sommelier AAS)
Organised by Wines of Argentina and more than 100 local wineries, 41 Masters of Wine toured Argentina’s most important wine-producing regions. A trip with very valuable results: 41 new Argentine wine ambassadors in the world.
Wines of Argentina (WofA) opened its 2018 agenda with a luxury activity to promote our wines in the world: the first visit by the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) to the country. The purpose of the trip was to provide an insight into the wine regions and our culture for a large group of Masters of Wine (MW) representing 10 markets and a dozen nationalities. The visit allowed them to experience Argentine viticulture while also surprising them.
This first visit comprising a large group of experts demanded months of work. It started with a first contact between IMW and WofA at Prowein 2017. The possibility of a trip to our country inspired enthusiasm among MWs and to this end WofA invited oenologists, agronomists, sommeliers, journalists and representatives from different wineries to design a programme that could meet their expectations. The task was to develop a programme that helped them to understand the essence of local wines and characteristics from different terroirs. This required a communication strategy with relevant content that allowed us to share the diversity of both regions and styles, the potential of new terroir and varietals as well as the historical importance of the wine industry in our culture.
The final proposal was immediately accepted by the institute that helped to promote the trip among its members. The 40 available places were booked up in a few days, a success that became an important incentive for the organization committee.
The official programme included seven days visiting different wineries and vineyards, 11 seminars led by the industry’s renowned personalities and tasting more than 300 specially selected labels. The ambitious itinerary fulfilled expectations and was crowned with an extraordinary Gala Dinner in Buenos Aires. Although the programme was tight and hectic, it generated admiration among the MWs when they saw what we could achieve as a team; a team that this time included the participation of 10 wineries.
The perfect agenda
Activities began on February 17 under the slogan Argentina Today – Exciting Diversity, a seminar led by Paz Levinson, Andrés Rosberg and Masters of Wine Madeleine Stenwreth and Tim Atkin. A 17-label tasting representing current trends in Argentine wine beyond Malbec was held and astonished many who had arrived convinced there would be little to surprise them. The first day ended with a dinner at Trapiche winery’s restaurant accompanied by historical bottles of their wine.
The second day took them to Mendoza to an array of different wineries. In the morning they attended the seminars The Map of Malbec and The First Zone (Luján de Cuyo and Maipú) at Terrazas de los Andes. The lunch was hosted in El Paraíso, a winery in Maipú owned by the Arizu family and in the evening they attended a village fair at Matías Riccitelli’s winery, who expected them along with other neighbours from Las Compuertas and Vistalba.
Days three and four took place in the Uco Valley. The first day included a visit to Zuccardi winery and a seminar on Paraje Altamira and San Carlos. Later that day, Independent Producers of Paraje Altamira (PIPA) in Finca La Carmela received the MWs with a regional wine fair. The day finished with a seminar that allowed them to discover Gualtallary and enjoy a dinner overlooking the vineyards of Rutini accompanied by head winemaker Mariano Di Paola.
The second day in Uco Valley began very early in vineyards owned by Salentein in San Pablo followed by a seminar presenting the region and other Uco Valley wines in the Killka Space before moving to Andeluna for another master class about Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and red blends. After returning to the capital of Mendoza, the dinner took place in Abrasados, Bodega Los Toneles´ restaurant, accompanied by wines from small producers.
During their last few hours in Mendoza, prior to the flight that would take the whole group to Salta, they experienced the White Wine Revolution and wines of San Juan with a focus on the Pedernal Valley during two seminars that surprised the majority of the MWs. Many of the wines presented were true novelties for the Masters.
Salta left them breathless. The section linking the provincial capital with Cafayate was enough to add a new quota of enthusiasm to the group that could not stop admiring the place’s landscapes and characteristics. As if that weren’t enough, we arrived at dawn and captured Serenata, a Cafayate folk music festival, an additional surprise. They visited vineyards in different corners of the Calchaquí Valleys, took a seminar on high-altitude viticulture, had a wine tasting and participated in a fair with producers.
The last day of the programme included returning to Buenos Aires to take part in an exhibition by winemakers and producers from Patagonia and the Atlantic Coast and attend the closing dinner.
Following the tour through the country’s wine regions and having gained a lot of experience, knowledge and seen many stones in the vineyards, it was time to don gala attire and attend the closing dinner at Palacio Duhau’s restaurant.
The gardens of the Park Hyatt awaited them with a reception, a live pianist and sparkling wine fair during which they understood why Argentines are so proud of their bubbles. But the best was still to come: an eight-course dinner prepared by chefs Gonzalo Aramburu, Juan Pedro Rastellino, Santiago Soria, Ezequiel Gallardo and the hotel's head chef, Antonio Soriano. The menu included local products accompanied by historical wines representing years of Argentine history served by colleagues Martin Bruno, Valeria Gamper, Estefanie Paiva, Rodrigo Kohn and Natalia Escudero. The closing night fully satisfied the high requirements of the visiting wine connoisseurs who admired each and every glass as well as the excellent event.