Chile & Argentina Vintages Wine Tasting – July 25, 2012

This week I attended a great Chile and Argentina wine tasting event hosted by the LCBO’s Vintages department.  The event was a great success.  I got the chance to visit the brand new Corus Entertainment building, check out the revamped waterfront on Toronto’s east end, and of course sample some great wines and great food.  I have declared many times that Chile and Argentina hold a special place in my heart as they both provided wonderful hospitality on my 2010 honeymoon.  Plus they make great wines and their offerings in the Canadian marketplace are getting better every year.   So I was pumped for this event and I did not leave disappointed.   I would expect the same sentiments from the 200+ other people who were in attendance.

There were over 25 wine stations available for sampling and a ton of food.  There is no way I can recap the finer nuances of each wine for you… nor would you want me to.  At these events I think you need to assess the big take-aways for yourself and really what you got out of the event.

Here are my 8 biggest take-aways from the Vintages “Heat of the Moment” event on July 25th.

8) Chile and Argentina continue to bring exceptional value wines to the Canadian marketplace.  Most of the wines sampled last night I would consider buying and I didn’t sample a single wine over $20.  If you are seeking bang for your buck Chile and Argentina are very tough to beat.

7) I was shocked that there was only one booth serving up Torrentes.  It’s the white grape variety that put Argentinean whites on the map.  Sure they are making headway with other white wine varieties and their Chardonnay’s have come a very long way, but they need to continue to support Torrentes.

6) The food at this event was the best wine event food I have ever had.  It brought back outstanding memories of the meat in Argentina, and the empanadas and cerviche in Chile.

5) For the most part the wine rep’s were fantastic but there were a few who weren’t.  Personally I expect the level of service to be great at every booth.  These are the people representing their wines to the paying customers and on more than one occasion I found them to be disinterested, in a hurry, and in one case even talking down to the customers. Generally I find wine reps to be knowledgable, passionate people who properly represent the brand, but I would expect that to the standard by which all should follow.

4) My favourites included The Dante Robino Bonarda, The Catena Chardonnay, The Montes Cab Sauv/Carmenere blend and the Perez Cruz Syrah, while I was left extremely unimpressed by The Santa Rita Reserva Chardonnay, The Manos Negras Pinot Noir, and the Trivento Fair Trade Malbec.

3) The Carmenere based blends coming out of Chile are very impressive.  I am not a big fan of Carmenere on its own, but when blended with either Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon some very nice wines are being produced.  Try the Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (LCBO #292169, $14.95) or the Vina Maipo Gran Devocion Carmenere/Syrah (LCBO #274100, $16.95 – available September 1st in Vintages)

2) The next great wine coming out of these regions is the Bonarda from Argentina.  A smooth red wine with so much ripe fruit flavour there is almost a hint of sweetness.  These days it’s grown almost exclusively in Argentina.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say move over Malbec, but watch out for Bonarda’s in the next few years.  One to try is The Dante Robino Bonarda … coming to Vintages on August 4th and a steal at $13.95.

1) The LCBO knows how to put on an event.  For $49 your ticket included all you can drink from over 40 different wine booths. It also included all you can eat and the food was excellent and didn’t stop coming out of the kitchen all night long.  Plus! As I learned last night when you leave the event they will give you a chit for a cab ride home, regardless of where you live.  All you pay is the tip.  Amazing.

- Mark
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