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Harvest Time

Harvest Time

The most important activity of this Province reaches its key moment.

From March on, Mendoza gets into the most significant part of the year. The end of the summer and the beginning of the fall are the wakeup call for the harvesters.

Around 1300 wineries get ready every year to welcome the harvest time in Mendoza. From the smallest grape producers to the vast and large corporations, Mendoza finds at the end of the summer and most of the fall a nonstop period of hard work, in where wineries work 24/7 in 3, 8 hours shifts, guarding for the results of a whole year of hard labor.

In the early hours of the morning or late in the afternoon, every man shows up at the fields, ready to harvest, trying to get away from the hot sun and catching the fresh breezes around the vineyards. That is the way they avoid a pre fermented grape in the trucks, before they arrive to the wineries.

When it comes to small producers, every activity is divided in sectors, trying to get one grape at a time. In the big wineries this is almost impossible, so they are working 24 hours a day, receiving grapes at any moment of the day, for 1 ½ to 3 months some times.

Argentina is ranked at the 8th place when it comes to wine producers in the world, and Mendoza produces around 70% of it. Malbec grape is the most planted grape in the country with 43% of all the grapes planted in Argentina.

The INV (National Wine Institute) regulates the periods in where the wineries are allowed to harvest, setting the beginning and the end of the Harvest season.

That is way the fall is such a unique season for Mendoza, because in a few months is where everything is decided, because everyone’s forces come together for a greater good and there is just one gold for all of them, make the best wine possible.

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City of leaves: magical season

City of leaves: magical season

When the fierce heat of the summer starts to fade, Mendoza dresses in yellow, orange, red and green. Come to visit Mendoza’s autumn and lie over a mattress of leaves.

A fact that might surprise you is knowing that there are over 4.000.000 trees in Mendoza, and that without counting the native forests. The presence of this trees in the Province has become one of the most important issues for the local government.

Hundreds of wineries used extensive groves as a barrier against strong winds like Zonda Wind, a constant threat for the whole area especially in the spring, when grapes are still young and weak. Only in the city of Mendoza we can find over 1.400.000 trees spread around, purifying the air, fighting plagues and diseases.

San Martin Park deserves a chapter apart, since this is where the season shows its very true colors creating a unique setting for everyone who decides to visit it.

This is the reason why Mendoza dresses up in yellow in the fall, creating a peerless scenery for whoever walks around its streets, and is such admiration it provokes than a great deal of artists have written songs about it, songs that became a trademark for this city.

Wine, sweet wine

Wine, sweet wine

When thinking about Wine elaboration, let’s keep in mind that every country has its own regulation since every country has its own climate. While in countries like Argentina, the U.S. or Spain it is forbidden to add sugar during the wine elaboration (chaptalization), there are many countries in where you will be able to add sugar without any problems (Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and some parts of France to name a few).

The reason lays in the sun. The more sun the grape receives, the more sugar it concentrates. The more sugar it concentrates, the more alcoholic the wine is. Argentina, for example, has a 14.3 % alcohol content average, while countries like France are around 12%. Argentina’s most important wine regions get 300 days of sun every year approximately, becoming one of the most sunny Wine regions in the world.

What about sweet wines then? You might ask. Well, when I say that sugar is not allow in wines, I’m talking about regular wines. Sweet wines are considered in a different category of wines and there are many ways of making them. One of the most popular ones is late harvest, in where every grape is dehydrated by the sun, and so the amount of sugar per litter of water is much higher now. When fermenting, sugar becomes alcohol and water stays as water. So in this case you might reach 16% or even 19% of alcohol content (that means that for every 100 litters of water you obtain 19 litters of alcohol) and you’ll still have sugar remaining in the tanks. That remaining sugar is the sweetness you’ll fell later on, when drinking late harvest wines.

Other ways of getting sweet wines are Noble Rot (a fungus intentionally provoked in grapes, proper of Sauternes wines) and Ice Wine (grape freezing). Fortified wines are sweet, but this sugar is artificial and not natural. Port is considered a fortified wine because during the fermentation a great deal of alcohol is added, interrupting the fermentation and leaving a lot of sugar unfermented, which translates into a sweet and yet alcoholic wine.

To finish I would recommend stopping by a wine shop on the way back home, buying 2 or 3 kinds of sweet wines and try them all (the great thing about this kinds of wines is that an open bottle could last about 20 days because high alcohol is an excellent preservative). Do that and enjoy the pleasure of being at home, sweet home, drinking a good bottle of wine, sweet wine.

The secret of good wines

The secret of good wines

There are hundreds of differences between a bottle of good wine and a not so good one, but in my opinion there is one above all of them: grape quality.

If we think about good food, good cars or even good technology, every one of them has the raw material as a common denominator, but: What differentiates one grape from another?

There are many natural factors, such as vineyard age, roots length or the most important one: climate, but in this case we are going to focus on the unnatural ones.

About one month and a half before the harvest time, an experienced group of winegrowers are immersed into the vineyards. Checking plants one by one, they’ll decide (along with the winemaker and/or agronomist) which plants are in best shape for the top wines. Once they have decide this, it is time for them to get the scissors and go back into the vineyard. In this opportunity they are going to low the yield down by choosing the best clusters (by ripeness, sun exposure, wind influence, etc.) and cutting of the rest of them in order to increase the amount of nutrients on each cluster. I like to compare this process to a job interview, in where only the very best ones will remain. There are wineries willing to sacrifice up to 80% of their production in order to get the best results possible.

This is one of the reasons why when talking about wine, I always say that the more you make, the worst you make.

Old World and New World

Old World and New World

Until a few years ago, whenever someone spoke about Wine the first thing that popped in our minds was France, or at least a French Wine…maybe an Italian one. In the last couple of years that idea has started to delude and many other countries have shown their faces into the Wine World, opening a wide range of options and so now, this Wine World has been divided in two big groups: Old World and New World. But, what are their actual differences?

There are countless differences actually, but we’ll go through (in my humble opinion) the most radical one, so you can get a little bit of perspective about what’s going on around the Wine Globe.

First of all, the Old Wine World refers mainly to France, Italy and Spain. The New one includes the U.S., Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Australia.

The first and probably more noticeable difference between these two is the way they name their wines. While Old World Wines are named after regions (Bordeaux, Champagne, Chablis, Port, Sauternes, etc.), New World Wines are name after varietals or grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay), and the reason is that the Old World countries grow a wide range of different grapes in their vineyards, and then they blend these grapes, so the wine is named after every region and that is what makes them so special. Every region combines a different number and kind of grapes, so they have their own “recipe”. When drinking a Bordeaux for example, you should know that you are probably drinking a blend of 3-5 grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot most likely and in many occasions you won’t even know in which percentages they’ve been blended (damn bastards!).

The New Wine World is making a lot more of 100% varietals named after each grape in which the consumer has a better idea of what he/she is drinking.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but climate is a big one along with marketing. For the New World, making straight varietals is a much better way of competing with the Old World.

Climate associates to the concept of Chaptalization, or in a more understandable language: adding sugar to the wine elaboration. We’ll get in to that one next time. For now all I can say is that Old or New, I better have an open bottle when I get home.

I smell… Wine?

I smell… Wine?

It’s hard to get there, and it’s even harder to fully understand what they are talking about when words like “cinnamon”, “herbaceous” or even “horse sweat” (that’s right) flow into conversation.  I’ve seen people trying to blend in by imitating this guys or nodding when they say that a wine reminds them of an antique fitment their parents inherited from their parents. I even did it myself once or twice to be honest with you. But when it comes to aromas, all you need to know is that it is so subjective that there will be no right or wrong answer for any of us. We are just guessing. (If you are in the wine business don’t fly off the handle yet, give me some time to explain).

Certain wines suffer a second fermentation called Malolactic Fermentation caused by bacteria (lactic bacteria lays on the grape skins and leaves mostly) that takes Malic acid from the grape and converts it into Lactic acid. Malic acid is present in green apples for example, and Lactic acid is present on dairy. So when this fermentation is intentionally caused, what they are looking for is to smooth down the sharpness of Malic acid and go for something more unctuous or soft if you will.

Now let’s take three different people, blindfold them and give them a glass of Lactic acid. There is no way any of this guys is going to guess Lactic acid, but they might find a hint of chocolate in it, or maybe yogurt, or milk perhaps, or something with this component in it. So from one element, we might get five or six different answers, which proves how subjective tasting can be.

Now let’s do it the other way around. Let’s take a random guy and give him a glass with some chopped Rambutan in it. You don’t know what Rambutan is? Exactly my point. There is absolutely no way he is going to guess Rambutan, he might mix it up with something else, maybe something that  smells like it, but he will definitely not say Rambutan because it is not in his brain record. So then again, completely subjective. (Rambutan is a Malaysian fruit by the way)

Now you are thinking: But what about the wine descriptions in every bottle? Is that a scam? Are we so innocent?
Not at all. That description is done by one person, usually the winemaker, and it is his interpretation of this wine, but it is not the only one, and is not the absolute truth. Of course we are talking about a guy who has been trained for this, so he might be a little bit more accurate than us.

If you get a glass of Heineken and another glass of Budweiser and you taste them, you can tell the difference right away. If you take two different brands of cigarettes and you don’t smoke, you’ll probably find no difference between them, but a smoker will. It’s all about custom. The more you try the more into details you get. Even tap water tastes different everywhere we go, but just because we are so used to it.

Drink straight Cabernet Sauvignon for a month and then switch to Malbec and you’ll see a huge difference. That’s good training in my experience. That’s what we used to do in Wine University in order to get a trained palate.

Don’t waste any more time, open a bottle of wine, it´s training day!