Friday, February 22, 2013

Que Guapo! by Bodega Juan Munoz Lopez, Argentina

A few days ago I got to meet a colleague for coffee.

In preface; to those of you who have never visited Vancouver, British Columbia, we here take our coffee  very seriously. Perhaps too seriously, the point can be argued - but one must stand by one's principles! One of our principles here is that coffee can become an art form  Those who would disagree, please visit the Agrocafe ( and then we can talk.

Seriously just digressed! But it was to put into context a brilliant conversation where once again, the topic came around to social media and the role it can play in the promotion and evolution of wine. Well little did we know at the time, but Canada's premier wine magazine was just about to announce that they were shutting their doors for good. For bad.

Yes, Wine Access magazine, which had hosted the winemakers of the world and more then it's fair share of wine awards - is done ( ). And what does this mean for the "average" wine-consumer? Well not much, to the minds of some. The magazine, though jammed full of brilliant information - never seemed to hit the main-stream as much as perhaps the accountants would have liked. It was a solid distribution but, with rising costs, perhaps the investors were looking for more then just solid. Some people will always be greedy... but what does this mean for the "industry" in Canada?

The potentially irreparable loss of an icon. Winemakers, importers, sales staff, sommeliers, owners... all of these and many many more have counted on Wine Access to supply a genuinely informative and (mostly) unbiased review of the current state of affairs in Canada. As we grow now into a new age of winemaking in this northerly climate, and begin to make a solid presence in the world arena, it is more then a shame that we should lose such a valuable resource.

And so the burden will fall even more heavily upon social media to play an important role in the clear and effective communication of wine news and reviews over the coming months and years. It is not a role that one should take lightly.

vineyards of Las Perdices
Heavy thoughts for me, but luckily much releaved by the bottle of fun and fruity wine that my friend and colleague bought me. He's lucky enough to have been able to open his own wine-importing agency, and has a solid relationship with a winemaker from Argentina whose work I admire a great deal: Juan Munoz Lopez. If the name rings familiar then it will be because Juan started the brilliantly executed winery Las Perdices which I wrote about at the beginning of last summer ( ). Las Perdices is achieving a high level of success not only with the "wunderkinder" of the wine-world Malbec, but also with Cabernet Sauvignon and a number of other varietals.

And so when my friend told me that he was working with Juan to develop a new wine for $15 or less, and would be "fun, fresh and approachable" I thought to myself "Giddy-up!" There are a number of Malbecs, Syrah and Cab-Sauv that I enjoy from that part of the world, but many are "food-friendly" wines and don't always do well without a steak (or a cigar) to pair with.

What these two have come up with is a variation on the "Argentine-blend", which is a geographically-altered version of the "Bordeaux-blend". A traditional Bordeaux-blend being Cab-Sauv, Merlot and Cab Franc, potentially with the addition of a small percentage of other varietals (under 10%). In Argentina some winemakers have been toying with a number of combinations, and in this instance we find Malbec, Bonarda and Syrah

So what does this blend mean should be in the glass? Since I've already written about Juan, and the winery, let's talk about the varietals and how they fit together!

What does Malbec bring to the party???
     Malbec is full of dark fruit flavors, a spicy earthiness and pairs well with aging in French oak (lending woody/leathery tones). Naturally leaning towards higher levels of alcohol and concentration - it was Jancis Robinson who said "It's difficult not to like Malbec"

What does Bonarda bring to the party??
     Originally from northern Italy, or southern France, the varietal has evolved over decades and adapted itself to Argentinian soil and climate. More then just adapted - it was the new winemakers who came to Argentina and evolved themselves in Argentina who raised the lowly Bonarda to more then it had been... low yields, older vines and more conscientious treatment of the grape has yielded fruit that now delivers moderate acidity, moderate tannin and body, and cheery cherry flavors. In short - an inexpensive flirty number than can pair well with food and is best (usually) in a blend.

What does Syrah bring to the party?
   Syrah; one of the varietals I enjoy most. One reason I enjoy it so much is because it can evolve into such a different beast depending where and how it is grown. Australia, Chile, France, British Columbia all grow beautiful Syrah - yet each one is unique and worthy of contemplation. In Argentina, whilst not main-stream yet, the varietal is growing in popularity - from about 1,500 HA to over 7,000 HA in less then a decade. Ripening to spicy, pepper, black fruit flavors, this is a varietal than stands well on it's own and yet brings a sultry edge to blends.

2011 Que Guapo
Beach City Wine Co, importer
$14.99 (CAD) British Columbia
88-89 points

  • visual:   clean; full garnet core with slight cherry rim
  • nose:    clean; moderate+ youthful aromas bursting with layers of ripe cherry and cherry compote, some floral notes and candied fruit underneath
  • palate:   clean; dry, moderate+ cherry acid, moderate+ slightly grippy tannin, moderate body, moderate alcohol (14%), moderate+ youthful flavors much like the nose; bright fresh red berry tones are accented by some floral notes and a hint of savory earth/terroir beneath. Some slightly green tones. Good balance and structure, short length
  • conclusion: in BC, the second highest liquor tax in the world, we find few examples of $15 and under wines that are well balanced, full of fun and concentration, yet hold some amount of typicity or sense of varietal. This is a classic example of young varietals from this part of the world. Drink now, drink often.
  • FOOD PAIRINGS:   at last a pizza wine! Seriously pair this with your next meat-lovers delight from a good pizza parlour and prepare to be amazed... Also pairs well (from experience) with dark chocolate :)
Lujan de Coyo, Argentina

I was talking with another friend and colleague just a few nights ago. We spoke on many weighty subjects, as is often the case with good friends, but then we spoke on wine. I said "I think, sometimes, we in the wine-industry just get a little too full of ourselves when we talk about wine!"

He laughed, I laughed, we both laughed. But we also knew that we were laughing because it was true.

It's good to talk about typicity, and terroir, and soil-composition. These aren't bad things. But at the end of the day I as a wine-writer must talk about flavor. I need to stress balance and composition or structure. These are the things that an average person thinks of when they drink a $12 or $16 bottle of wine.

"Please let it taste good! Not too acidic, and please don't let it ruin the steaks I bought for dinner."

For $15 this is the best I can realistically hope for from a wine, and I am often let down. But not in this case! Juan and my friend Lorenzo have crafted a fun and flirty little number that dances and sings it's way across the palate. Enough depth to pair with simple food and enough balance to enjoy on it's own. I for one find this money well spent. You doubt me? The proof, my friend, is in the glass!

As always, I welcome your comments and questions.

CINCIN~!!!     SLAINTE~!!!     CHEERS~!!!

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