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Monday, August 22, 2011

Maipu - Seriously pronounced Myeepoo?

My Buddy
Upon leaving Mendoza and our comfortable stay with Plaza Italia Bed and Breakfast, we ventured the huge distance of 35km southeast of Mendoza to spend a few nights in the vineyards of Malbec country. What we did not really think about was the fact that it is winter in South America and in winter the grape vines do not have many grapes on them. We also found that Maipu is certainly country (agricultural country) and we were the only people staying at Posada Cavieres.

The front yard where we hung out with Tommy, drank coffee, and played euchre
Needless to say - I won this hand
Our lodging was pleasant enough with skin burning unlimited on demand hot water, addicting fresh baked bread with breakfast, and a cozy fireplace, but the quiet and seclusion was a bit difficult after consistent socialization in Mendoza. We did, however, play many hands of two person euchre and we engaged in conversation with the inn's English Sheep dog, Tommy. He told us he wasn't really into Tommy anymore so we humored him and called him Thomas (much more sophisticated don't you agree?).
Comfortable foot rest
Thomas would sleep by our back door at night and move to the front door in the morning. He was a very good guard dog and made sure we knew when any sort of scary night creature might be lingering around the farm a bit too long. He also enjoyed being scratched behind his ears and lying under the table by our feet. We seriously grew to love the big guy and were really sad when we had to leave him behind. We tried, but he didn't really fit in our duffle bag and we aren't sure of the pet laws on aircraft in Argentina. ;)
Thomas the Teddy Bear
Other than hanging out with Thomas, we indulged in the high society act of sampling various wines at the many bodegas lining the streets of Maipu. We learned quite a bit about the aging process and the different tastes of some of the more popular red grapes from our tours through the bodegas. One of the most interesting bits of information is that many large bodegas and exporters actually add preservatives and other chemical type substances to the wine they export to ensure every bottle every year tastes the same. This actually makes sense because I have a hard time drinking South American wine in the US and I believe it is the additives that cause me to endure wine headaches. Yet, in South America, I have not yet had a problem consuming copious amounts of Malbec.

What is even more intriguing is that the climate in Mendoza is such that every year is fairly the same and they say that because the climate stays even keeled there is never a good or worse year for the wine. However, at the last (and in my opinion one of the best) bodegas we visited, the tour guide told us this was not actually true and some years were better due to very slight changes to the weather that change sugar counts in the grapes and enhance the fermentation. For instance, 2004 Malbecs are really great and 2011 is supposed to be fantastic as well.
The dorky photo in front of the barrels
We stopped by six bodegas in two days. The first day we tried an old vineyard and two modern facilities. I tend to like the older bodegas better as they have a more refined and romantic quality about them. The wine at Bodega El Cerno was incredible and we bought a bottle of 2005 Malbec of which 20 percent was aged in oak for 18 months. The essence imbedded in the wine from the oak is very tasty.
The look of wine induced enjoyment
The other bodega I really enjoyed is owned by a French couple who purchased an old family winery in 2007. The bodega, Carinae, was clean and smelled amazing like elusive yeast floating through the air. We tried new wines that had never touched oak, Reserva wines that were aged for six months in oak (In order to be considered Reserva, the wine must be aged for at least six months in an oak barrel. Although in Argentina there are no laws to enforce these standards so it is always best to read the label to ensure your Reserva was actually aged for at least 6 months), and premium wines that were the first wine in a new French oak barrel and aged for eight months. My personal favorite was a Reserva mix of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak for six months. We also purchased a bottle of the Reserva.

Bodega Di Tommasi
Last, but by far least, was a bodega that has been in a family for four generations. They only export 4,000 bottles per year (to Michigan and Texas strange enough) and are considered a boutique bodega. The wine at Bodega Di Tommaso was spectacular. We also purchased a bottle of aged wine here too. Alas, we have to carry three bottles of wine in our bag - I guess we will have to get rid of some long underwear to make room!
The last 400 of the Di Tommasi super special reserva
Next years malbec for Carinae
Sediment from a nice unfiltered wine


Sanem said...

Oooh little buddy... he's so cute.
Feel free to ship those bottles over to us for "safekeeping". They sound delicious.

Nicolette Jurgens-Tamminga said...

I know Thomas is a little buddy for sure! And don't worry we will def bring a bottle of wine to Austin to enjoy with you! ;)