Contracting a vicious intestinal bug (the kind that requires antibiotics… the kind that makes taking Imodium akin to bringing a knife to a gun fight) isn’t usually taken as a positive omen when it comes to starting a new career. So it’s with mixed emotions of relief and ominous portent that tell you I faced exactly that in the early part of my recent (sponsored) sojourn to South America. I took it as a good sign, actually, since it “cleansed” my system just prior to hoping over the Andes from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina – where the beef is barbequed perfectly and there is plenty of it being offered to you. So the cleansing was more than just symbolic.
Despite the less-than-auspicious start, my trip yielded a ton of potential material for these virtual pages, some of which you will start seeing as soon as… tomorrow (where I will feature what I considered the best wine of the trip – why not get right to the good stuff, eh?… did I just type “eh?”… what did I turn Canadian al of a sudden…?)! I thought I’d offer one more “teaser” piece, which is a set of some of the more stunning scenes I was able to capture from those southern hemisphere wine lands, where the vineyard terrain is varied but more-often-than-not finds you smack dab up against an enormous mountain – there’s nothing else quite like it in all the world. Words do little justice to the images, so – despite the fact that I am a far cry from being professional photographer – I’ll let the pictures do the talking after the jump.
In terms of offering this up in the Going Pro series: part of my “job” during the South American stint was to taste wines and offer what the organizers called “expert” feedback to the winemakers on the quality of the wines and their possible reception in the U.S. market (in my case, mostly concentrating on the East Coast market). It was… well… it was simultaneously odd and surprisingly easy.
What I mean is, it was easy to talk about the wines – I love doing that (duh) and it comes naturally to me, especially now that I’ve got thousands of wines under my palate’s belt. BUT…Having winemakers and PR folk hanging on some of my words was a very, very strange experience for me. I hope it helped them – I can’t tell you if they thought it was entirely valuable input, but I can tell you that those meetings didn’t impact how I plan to cover the wines here on 1WD; as always, some of those producers will come out looking great and others… not-so-great (hey, when you invite me you gotta know what your in for).
More to come, of course – for now, enjoy the images and I invite you to share your impressions of Chilean and Argentine wine (and your peanut-gallery comments on my unprofessionl photos) before the deeper coverage starts!…
23 thoughts on “The Stunning Views, Intestinal Flora And Strange Consultation Of South America’s Wine Lands”
Ok, so I don't mean this to be insulting… but why would they pick you to ask about the potential market reception? I respect your wine knowledge and really enjoy your blog, but it's kind of like calling up a sportswriter and asking him to make your draft day decisions. Ummm, don't we have scouts that have done this for 20 years?
Without having spent years trudging in and out of store selling to retailers, pouring over depletion reports, etc… it puts you in a tough position of trying to offer advice on something outside of your expertise.
Or am I just crabby this morning?
I dunno, PA – probably a bit of both?The market reception angle was a minor point I think vs. feedback on the wines themselves form someone who has tasted a lot of wines and has built up a following of people who read about those impressions here and on facebook and twitter,etc. So I guess I'd say that was more of an adjunct to the feedback on the wines, in terms of how I imagined 1WD readers and East Coasters in general reacting to those wines. I'm pretty confident that while it's possible those winemakers **might** make minor adjustments based on the feedback that we gave during the trip, I doubt (very highly) that any marketing plans are being re-written based on the feedback.Cheers!
Makes sense, we're certainly seeing a lot of foreign wineries courting U.S. bloggers.
Reason for that is at least two-fold: 1) those countries often have subsidies from their governments for media (especially in EU right now), and 2) for many of those markets (especially S. America) the U.S. is in the top 5 (if not #1) markets for their exports.Cheers!
I also think they realize that the world of wine criticism is flattening, becoming more democratic (which in S. America is an important concept), and with sales skewing towards the millenials, these are the channels that speak to the marketplace.
Looking forward to your reviews, and so sorry about the gut buster in Chile…you'll have to go back.
Todd – totally, though they are still years behind in all that just like everyone else in the biz. Cheers!
Ok so I don't mean for this to be insulting, but I didn't know our beloved 1 wine dude liked to sit on another man's wood…. just kidding ;). Great pictures, I hope to one day also be able to visit these stunning vineyards and taste their wines on-site. Looking forward to hearing your opinion on some of those wines, especially Clos de los Siete and Lapostolle.
And too bad about the gastro, I hear Chile has some great food to offer along with the wines.
@Juice – HA!!! Thanks…. I think.. :)
Beautiful photos! I was in Argentina a couple years ago and it was beautiful. They have some great wine and food. Looking forward to reading your recommendations! It doesn't look like you went but did you get a chance to stop in Iguaza while in Argentina? I think it is by far the prettiest place in the world.
Thanks, Renee – no didn't get to Iguaza this time. But if you have photos of this pretty place, let's have some links! :)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33967458@N07/3498583… http://www.flickr.com/photos/33967458@N07/3497638… http://www.flickr.com/photos/33967458@N07/3498498… http://www.flickr.com/photos/33967458@N07/3497652…
Just some of my favorites :)
And I love this (from Iguazu Falls wikipedia page): Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States' First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed "Poor Niagara!"
Hope you get to visit someday!
@Renee – holy crap, those falls are AMAZING!!!
Even more breathtaking in person!
Sure, Renee – rub it in! ;-)
Hey, whatta about Uruguayan wine?
Fernando – tell them to get me down there for a visit!
Please guys get this guy down south here to enjoy our terroir!
Have you heard about Tannat wines?
I hope you will enjoy this ride.
Thanks, Fernando – I live Tannat. And beaches!!! :-)
I just returned from a three-month sojourn in Chile and Argentina, where I visited 13 and 16 wineries, respectively. My fiancée has been living in Santiago for three years as an expat for a F100 corporation. I learned far more than I ever could about LATAM wines and have a new appreciation for them. Given the amount of time they have been making wine, I believe they have made incredible strides. Still, there are people, particularly wine geeks who have an obsession with minerality and “complexity,” who continue to slam an entire wine region based on a few samples of $20 wines they had at a brown bag tasting. So I just have to quote this from a friend whom I invited to stay for free in Chile to taste their wines and visit their wineries
… who has been taking the Master of Wine advanced course; and who thinks he can pontificate about Chilean wine without having experienced the highest expression or diversity of their wines.
The exchange below was over cell-phone text. I tried to be diplomatic about it all, but people who make blanket statements about an entire country’s wine industry do not deserve any professional wine designation, in my view. I will spare the comments about Cru Beaujolais being “every bit complex as a 15-year-old Bordeaux” (Morgon 2009 vs. Margaux 1996, the show is on!).
Wine Geek: Learning about Chile wine tonight. The book you gave me is a good, albeit biased, resource. Diverse country but it seems like the need for irrigation everywhere might inhibit a lot of complexity and vintage variation. … It seems like there is a drive towards a homogenous or formula driven style of wine.
I: I think they are doing an outstanding job given the time they have been making wine. Napa certainly was not there in their first decade or two. Their vines will age and their wines will change. They are making very fresh mineral-driven wines in San Antonio (west) and you would enjoy them, especially Matetic. Many of their best whites use no malo and that certainly ain’t a drive toward the formulaic. You have yet to try Altura and Altair, too. Very different and both from the south.
Vale – thanks for that!
You know, I *constantly* find myself in the situation of having to make some general statements about wine regions, styles, etc., knowing full well that there are tons of exceptions, because in order to start the conversation via the blog I have to actually “start” somewhere. So it’s a tricky balance and I have sympathy for those who don’t get it right because I routinely find myself not getting it right! :)
Having said that, I find it sad that the view of things like, in your example, irrigation would cause someone to formulate a strong opinion before that person visited the region and tasted the wines. Your friend does offer some qualifiers (“seems like…,” etc.) which is good – I’m fine with strong opinions, so long as people are willing to change them based on empirical evidence. Blanket statements often do NOT work in the wine world, because there are simply too many exceptions. For example, I had AMAZING wine in S. America that was irrigated; now, the *best* wine I had down there was dry-farmed, but the point is that irrigation alone doesn’t determine the ultimate fate of quality for a S. American wine, etc.
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