Wines of Argentina and Chile - Mendoza, 2013 Friday March 15


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March 15th 2013
Published: July 15th 2014
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Mural at PasraiMural at PasraiMural at Pasrai

Love of olive oil!
Our presentation at 9:00 this morning was by renowned winemaker, Andres Antonietti, who will accompany us on the rest of our stay in Mendoza. His topic was wine tasting and the international points system for ranking. At our places around a U-shaped table was a form for recording colour, aroma, taste and balance. He reviewed viniculture with us, with which we are gradually becoming familiar. What is new every time is the passion of the speaker, each dedicated to their own vision of “perfect”. He helped us understand each rating category, while emphasizing that our taste was as valid as anyone’s and that liking a wine was paramount. For me, the colour and aroma of the first wine were excellent but the taste and balance were off. Some wines the group rated very low in all four rating categories and others very high. Andres emphasized that international tasting competitions are done by panels, and that a panel result is considered good if the median and average are close – which ours was!

Our morning excursion was not to a vineyard but to a boutique olive oil factory, Pasrai. The guide talked to us about their oil processing system; they still use
Chef at Casa de CampoChef at Casa de CampoChef at Casa de Campo

No language in common except satisfying curiosity
the century-old equipment. Quite marvellous was the stone two-wheel grinding machine that is designed to crush the fruit but not split the pits. The resultant “mash” is put onto perforated trays that are stacked four to five feet high, creating their own pressure to squeeze out oil. Then the stack is put in a press that works in an upward motion to prevents excess pressure from breaking the pits. The oil is slowly moved through a series of tanks to separate the oil from the fruit’s water, each tank being “drained” from the top, because oil is lighter than water. Obviously, big olive oil companies have an industrial process that is much less time-consuming. Again, as with the wine, I am beginning to better appreciate the costs and special flavours that result from artisanal and even modern boutique processes. We had an olive oil tasting; different herbs were added to the oil before bottling. The basil-infused oil was beautifully pungent, and I bought some. Stunningly, deeply flavoured was a dried tomato tapenade – bought that too!

As if the tasting were an appetizer, we were all ready for lunch at Casa de Campo, a favourite local rural restaurant with
Old style saddlesOld style saddlesOld style saddles

At the Museum Bodega la Rural
a long family history. Their special meat dish is baked in a clay oven. I asked to see the oven because of seeing one on a little trip with Ruth a couple of years ago. When it was convenient, an owner/family member took me through the kitchen to the outdoor oven and opened the door for me. Sure enough, it looked exactly like the one in Ontario. The dish was essentially pot roast made from brisket with onions and served with potatoes. And red wine, of course. For dessert we were served local fresh figs in syrup – a treat!

For the remainder of the afternoon, Andres led us through an unusual wine museum. A large old warehouse contained old barrels and many artifacts from the past two centuries of winemaking in the area. Originally everything was handmade from wood and iron, so the designs were varied and curious. The museum’s wine tasting was not up to our newly-sophisticated standards – ha! Unfortunately, the museum was very dark and chilly inside, so it was difficult to linger.

Dinner was scheduled as “on your own”, but most of us were uninterested in another
Mendoza City marketMendoza City marketMendoza City market

Not much different than the markets in Calgary
meal. We gradually coalesced on the idea of a cocktail party fueled by the bottles of wine won in the draw at Ines’s presentation in the Buenos Aires wine school. For snacks we walked about eight blocks to the market. I went with Joanne and Gary. He was bold in asking for directions, but between all the respondents, they effectively and inadvertently sent us in a big circle of about twelve more blocks, until we recognized the market by ourselves. After checking things out, I stopped at a butcher’s for sausage. On sheets of wax paper were about ten slices of sausage or ham or cheese. You ordered one or two – meaning one or two sheets. Very convenient for tongue-tied travellers. After the server issued the buyer a ticket, the purchases were passed on to a packager, who passed it on to the cashier, who took the money and gave the packet to the buyer. No queue jumpers, such as the man behind me who tried.


Additional photos below
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Olive crusherOlive crusher
Olive crusher

The angle of the stone lets the pits escape the crushing.
Olive pressOlive press
Olive press

Lots of trays are stacked on each other, pressing the oil through the holes.
Meal at Casa de CampoMeal at Casa de Campo
Meal at Casa de Campo

Pot Roast and lots of wine!
Hand made implementsHand made implements
Hand made implements

Early days of wine making at Museum Bodega la Rural
Skin basketsSkin baskets
Skin baskets

Easy to imagine these in use
Grape cartGrape cart
Grape cart

Museum Bodega la Rural
Grape pressGrape press
Grape press

No evidence of bare-foot maidens sloshing the grapes!
Old fermentation caskOld fermentation cask
Old fermentation cask

A lost art? Museum Bodega la Rural
Wine jarsWine jars
Wine jars

Classic shape for ubiquitous product
Enticing CharcuterieEnticing Charcuterie
Enticing Charcuterie

...and cheeses in the market


15th July 2014

Product Accessibility
Have you seen any of the wines you tasted available in your local wine store(s)? What about the olive oils - are they (or their equivalents) in the Calgary markets? My cousin has taken up olive oil making in New Zealand (part-time) and maintains that most of the olive oil we can buy here is rancid (OK, maybe just stale) - he says the Europeans send us their old stuff because we don't know any better!
21st July 2014

Products in Canada
I haven't seen the wines, although Concha y Toro is often available. Some friends brought me Alta Vista Torrontes, which we had, and it did come from Ontario. I've heard the comments about olive oil - I think they are talking about the "jug" varieties. Not sure my palate is sophisticated enough to distinguish between olive oils.

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