Tasting No 253 – May 30, 2023 – Beyond Malbec: other wines with deep-rooted Argentinian identity

Tasting No 253 – May 30/2023 – Beyond Malbec: other wines with deep-rooted Argentinian identity

           Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Torrontes vineyard, Salta

Bonarda vineyard, Mendonza

  1. Tasting Overview

In Argentina, while all the usual suspects are well known (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc etc.), there are a few lesser-known varieties that have taken on a uniquely Argentinian identity. The main objective of this tasting therefore is to explore wines made with these special grapes: the white Torrontés and the red Bonarda.

Type of tasting: Open

Presenters: Claudia and Agilson Perazza

Participants: (to be recorded after the meeting)

These are the wines:

  • Susana Balbo, ‘Torrontés Crios’, Salta, 2019
  • Altos Las Hormigas ‘Colonia Las Liebres’ Bonarda, Mendoza, 2020
  • Familia Zuccardi ‘Emma Zuccardi Bonarda’, Mendoza, 2019
  • Bodega Aleanna ‘El Enemigo Bonarda’, Mendoza, 2018

The Menu

  • Seafood salad
  • Agnolotti di ricotta with tomato sauce
  • Lamb with rosemary and potatoes
  • Dessert, coffee, tea


  1. The grape varietals and the regions that produce them


“Malbec may be more popular, but Torrontés is Argentina’s special grape” (M. Puckette@Wine Folly)

Torrontés is an aromatic white wine that originated in Argentina. The only native grape variety in South America to really woo its drinkers, Torrontés is the Queen of Argentina.

Torrontés involves a group of three distinct varieties – Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Torrontés Mendocino – all native to South America. They are a natural cross between the mission grape País (a red grape) and the sweet Muscat of Alexandria grape (also known as Zibbibo), and first appeared in the north of Argentina. Of the three varieties, the most popular (and most delicious) is the Torrontés Riojano, which grows dominantly in northern Salta. Other regions such as Mendoza and La Rioja produce a lot of Torrontés wines using the other two varieties of Torrontés, but these tend to be much simpler in aroma and taste and often made in a sweet style. The wine smells sweet but is usually made in a dry style. Albariño and dry styles of Riesling and Muscat Blanc (dry “Moscatel” from Portugal) are similar in aroma and taste to Torrontés.

The Torrontés thrive in Argentina’s high-altitude vineyards, particularly in the Cafayate region of Salta, where T. Riojano is grown. This region, on the edge of the Andes, boasts some of the highest vineyards in the world, reaching up to around 10,000 feet (3,000m) above sea level. Here, dry, desert-like conditions and a significant diurnal temperature shift help bring out the best qualities of Torrontés. The soils in Cafayate consist mostly of free-draining chalky loam and in some areas can be quite rocky. The dry soil causes stress in the vines which causes them to produce less vegetation and not as many grapes. As there are fewer grapes, it means the concentration of flavors within the grapes rises. New plantations in the higher parts of the Uco Valley in Mendoza are promising too.

Tasting notes: Color: pale straw color with silver and green highlights. Primary flavors: Meyer lemon; peach; rose petal; geranium; and citrus zest. “A perfume bomb in the nose, Torrontés is locally known as “the liar”, as its floral, fruity, and tropical notes trick you into thinking you might have a sweet wine, but the mouth is, to the contrary, bone dry and occasionally a little bitter. If you want a sweeter finish, try one of the late harvests (sweet wine) versions. When made well, it’s like the vinous equivalent of a gin and tonic!” (A. Barnes, Wine Folly).

Food pairing notes: Torrontés is an excellent match with fish and shellfish, as well as with the regional cuisine of the northwestern Argentina, especially the empanadas and the typical Locro argentino. Even though Torrontés smells sweet, it’s usually quite dry, making it a great match with savory dishes that feature exotic spices, fruit, and aromatic herbs. With its light aromatic style and cool serving temperature, it is an ideal wine to match with Asian and Indian cuisine due to its sweet floral aromas of rose petals and flavors of white peach and lemon zest.

BONARDA aka Charbono, Corbeau, Douce Noir…

Emblematic variety of Argentina

Bonarda is a stealthy red wine option from Argentina that many experts think is going to make a big splash in the coming years. If País was the most-planted red variety in Chile, Argentina’s equivalent would be Bonarda. Bonarda was the most widely planted red grape before the Malbec boom and suffered a similar historical treatment as País: downgraded to table wine and abandoned as it lost out on the fashion stakes.

About the grape: Bonarda, as it is called in Argentina, is not supposed to be called Bonarda: the actual true Bonarda grapes are a group of at least six distinct Italian grape varieties, the most well-known of them being Bonarda Piemontese.

Instead, the Argentinian grape, when was DNA-profiled, was found to be identical to a rare grape from the alpine vineyards of Savoie in eastern France, known as Douce Noir or Corbeau de Savoie, which is also found in old vineyards in Napa, under the name Charbono.

The Bonarda/Charbono grape is believed to have originated in the Savoie region in the 18th century, when the Savoie was in fact under Italian rule, rather than being part of France as it is today. The grape became a much-maligned variety during the 20th century and almost disappeared in France. In 1958 it was prohibited in France, and all 500 hectares of the Bonarda vines were pulled out, while it was being planted widely in Argentina.

Bonarda is very important viticulturally in Argentina, where it is second only to Malbec in terms of acreage. In all, Bonarda accounts for over 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres) in the country, representing nearly 10 percent of all grapes grown there. Bonarda has been used to make fruity, medium-bodied bulk wines with low tannins. However, more recently some producers began looking more seriously at Bonarda, discovering its great potential as a varietal, especially for its adaptability to warmer areas, and using site selection and winemaking techniques to make more interesting and premium wines. Of the total cultivated in Argentina, 60% is found in Eastern Mendoza, a warm area located at about 700-800 meters above sea level, where it does best, because of its long hang time required to reach phenolic maturation.

How does Bonarda differ from Malbec? Often considered Malbec’s little brother, while Bonarda displays ample color in the glass, just like Malbec, it delivers lower tannins and slightly higher, more juicy-tasting acidity. Most Bonarda wines are made with little to no oak, and rarely carries alcohol above 13.5% ABV.

Tasting notes: Color: deep ruby to deep purple. On the nose: very fruity on the nose at first; notes of black cherry compote, fresh blueberry, and plum. Then, its complexity evolves, giving off nuanced aromas of violets, 5-spice, allspice, and peonies. If the wine was oaked (though most are not), may have slight smoky notes of cigar box, sweet figs, and chocolate. On the palate: initial burst of fruitiness, medium-body, juicy acidity, and smooth, low-tannin finish. The Bonarda wines fall within three styles:

Traditional Bonarda: Historically pipped as Malbec’s little brother, they are vinified in the same way. More traditional Bonarda wines are fruit-forward coming from warmer regions. Key regions are San Juan, La Rioja, and sub-regions San Rafael and Rivadavia in Mendoza.

Fresh, flirty Bonarda: Treated with shorter maceration periods and some whole cluster carbonic maceration, this new clan of Bonarda are lighter, fruitier, and perfect to enjoy chilled over lunch. Key areas are Luján de Cuyo (sub-regions of Vistalba and Ugarteche) and Tupungato, in the Mendoza region.

Serious Bonarda:  In recent years, you will find a few new Bonarda plantations popping up on prime vine-estate in the highlands of the Uco Valley in Argentina, which proves just how seriously winemakers are once again taking the variety. Delving into the potential quality of Bonarda, these wines do not come cheap, but they do not taste cheap either. Most producers skip the oak and age wines in cement eggs, resulting in more linear, dark fruit and floral Bonarda with finesse. Key region is Uco Valley, Mendoza.

Pairing notes: Bonarda is a remarkably diverse food pairing wine because of its lower tannin and higher acidity. It will go well with chicken, beef, pork, and even a more steak-like fish (e.g., grilled salmon steaks with hoisin BBQ). Because of its subtle brown spice flavors, it will also pair well with flavors from the South Pacific (think pineapple, mango, teriyaki etc.). Locally inspired fares include mole sauces, curried potatoes, empanadas, and tacos al pastor.

  1. Information on the Wines

Wine #1 – Susana Balbo, ‘Torrontés Crios’, Salta, 2019

– The Producer: Dominio del Plata is an Argentinian wine company founded and owned by leading winemaker Susana Balbo since 1999. The winery is located in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, with vineyard plots in several subregions of the Uco Valley. The Crios label features a wide range of monovarietal and blended wines for everyday consumption, including a Malbec rosé. The winery mainly ferments the wine in stainless steel tanks, though concrete eggs have been introduced for premium wines. The Torrontés grapes are sourced from Cafayate, Salta, and the highest vineyards in Valle de Uco, Mendoza.

– The wine: this wine is crisp, refreshing and aromatic, with a bouquet of citrus fruits, passion fruit, lychee, and white flowers. Lively acidity, a hint of creaminess and a long mineral finish add depth and balance to the palate.

  • Vintage: 2019
  • Varietal: 100% Torrontés
  • Regions: Cafayate (Salta) and Uco Valley (Mendoza); 1700m average elevation
  • Hand-harvested
  • Vinification: fermentation in stainless steel tanks at 13oC max. with selected yeasts; conservation over lees for 3 months to improve wine structure.
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Ratings: 90 pts. (Patricio Tapia Descorchados; Tim Atkin); 88 pts. (Cellar Tracker)

Tasting notes: “This wine blends grapes from two origins: Altamira in the Uco Valley (Mendoza), and Cafayate (Salta). According to Susana Balbo, the Altamira vineyard contributes with the herbs and citrusy side, while Cafayate’s adds the ripe white fruit aromas. The result is a tremendously fresh wine (something you often don’t find in this variety) that hasn’t lost its varietal character. The texture is smooth and round. An aperitif wine” (Patricio Tapia @ Descorchados).

Classic Bonarda: Bonarda wine to get to grips with the grape.

Wine #2 – Altos Las Hormigas ‘Colonia Las Liebres’ Bonarda, 2021


The producer: The sister brand of Altos Las Hormigas winery, Colonia Las Liebres was established in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza to focus solely on the cultivation of Bonarda grapes and was one of the original makers of export-quality single-varietal Bonarda. It makes fresh, juicy and great value Bonarda reds, as well as an excellent traditional method rosé bubbly, and even a sparkling red (named Brusca, in ode to its Italian inspiration).

The Wine. The winery defines their approachable and very affordable red Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda Clásica as a bistro or trattoria wine. The ‘house style’ is to keep moderate alcohol and good freshness. It is a good example of the fresher, fruitier Bonarda produced in the region.  Ideal to pair with pasta Pomodoro dishes, pizza and light meats.

  • Vintage: 2021
  • Varietal: 100% Bonarda
  • Region: Mendoza; 90% organic grapes from Luján de Cuyo and 10% grapes from their new property Jardín de Altamira in the Uco Valley, where the limestone soils and higher altitude add tension to the wine even in a warmer year.
  • Fermented for 10 days in 3,000-liter stainless steel vats with indigenous yeasts, with daily rack-and-return for gentle extraction.
  • Matured in concrete tanks with no oak treatment.
  • Alcohol: 13.1%.
  • Ratings: 90 pts (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate); 91 pts (Patricio Tapia – Descorchados); 90 pts. (Tim Atkin).

Tasting notes: “This is a classic in the Altos Las Hormigas catalog and has been made since the early 2000s. The grapes come from old vines in Luján de Cuyo and some grapes from estate-owned vineyards in Paraje Altamira in southern Uco Valley. It’s a juicy Bonarda with firm and friendly tannins and tones of black fruit in jam (as is usual in the variety) but accompanied by refreshing acidity that invites you to keep on drinking.” (Patricio Tapia).


Bonarda with Bite: Serious Bonarda wines for a different expression

Wine #3. Bodega Aleanna ‘El Enemigo Bonarda’, 2018

The Producer. El Enemigo is a cult wine producer based in Mendoza. The estate is a joint venture by Adrianna Catena and Alejandro Vigil, the chief winemaker at Bodega Catena Zapata since 2002. The pair created El Enemigo and the “Bodega Aleanna” in 2007. The estate focuses on traditional winemaking techniques and produces two wine ranges: Gran Enemigo and El Enemigo. The El Enemigo range is devoted to varietal wines made from Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Bonarda and Chardonnay, while the Gran Enemigo range includes Bordeaux blends, and a number of single vineyard Cabernet Franc wines.

The Wine: This Bonarda is a tribute to old Bonarda wines of the Eastern Mendoza, a wine made in a traditional Mendoza style. This wine shows a deep violet color with bluish reflections. The nose is intense and complex. Intense aromas of ripe black fruit, blackberries, raspberries, black cherries, chocolate and liquor, with some spicy notes of fresh herbs provided by the Cabernet Franc. The taste has a sweet impact with silky tannins and aromas of ripe black and red fruits with notes of licorice and vanilla. Its natural acidity is refreshing. Because of its concentration and complexity, the finish is long and persistent.

  • Vintage: 2018
  • Composition: 85% Charbono (Bonarda; 15% Cabernet Franc.
  • Region/vineyards: El Mirador, Rivadavia (Bonarda); Gualtallary, Tupungato (C. Franc).
  • Vinification: 15 days-fermentation with wild yeast, max. temp. 28oC for 15 days, with 25 days maceration in French oak barrels 2nd and 3rd
  • Aged 15 months in 100-year-old foudres.
  • Alcohol: 13.5%
  • Ratings: 92 pts. (Wine Spectator); 91 pts. (Tim Atkin); 92 pts. (Jésica Vargas @Wine Enthusiast); 88 pts. (Decanter World Wine Awards).

Tasting notes: An intense and spiky Bonarda. Super aromatic and a more challenging, but fun, mouth feel that is blended with a dash of Cabernet Franc. “The bouquet of this well-crafted wine is loaded with flowers, rosemary, strawberry and cherry aromas. Medium in weight, it delivers plenty of red fruit flavors with a touch of spice and toasted oak. Silky tannins and nice acidity make the wine very enjoyable. It’s a good and delicious example of what Bonarda wines can offer”. (Jésica Vargas @ Wine Enthusiast).


Wine #4 – Familia Zuccardi, ‘Emma Zuccardi Bonarda’, Mendoza, 2019

The Producer: Familia Zuccardi is a family-run winery based out of the Bodega Santa Julia, built in 1968, in Mendoza by Alberto Zuccardi. The Familia Zuccardi bodega was established in 2013 in the Valle de Uco, by Alberto’s grandson, Sebastián. Today he leads a young team of agricultural engineers and enologists charged with producing the highest quality wines in the Uco Valley.

The wine: Emma Zuccardi is part of the bodega’s ‘winegrowers’ line of wines. Emma Zuccardi, Sebastián’s grandmother, is a charming and sophisticated woman. She is creative and has her own style. This wine is a tribute to her personality. “The 2019 Emma Zuccardi Bonarda was produced with grapes from the zones where they believe the variety behaves better, in this case in the Valle de Uco, more specifically San Pablo and Altamira, in approximately the same proportion. Fermented and matured in concrete and bottled unoaked, like many wines at Zuccardi, to preserve the varietal purity. It’s juicy and has citrus freshness, something 2019 might have in common with 2018, with very good finesse” (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).

  • Vintage: 2019
  • Variety: 100% Bonarda
  • Region: IG Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley; 1100 m ASL and IG San Pablo, Uco Valley, 1400 m ASL
  • Manual harvest
  • Vinification: spontaneous fermentation with native yeasts, maceration for 20-25 days followed by Malolactic fermentation.
  • Fermentation and aging in concrete vats.
  • Alcohol: 12.9 %
  • Ratings: 93 pts. (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate); 95 pts. (Patricio Tapia, Descorchados); 94 pts. (Tim Atkin).

Winemaker notes: Red with black intense purplish tints. Very fresh, red and black fruit aromas reminiscent of strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries. Silky, smooth and juicy entrance, with a lively acidity and elegant tannins that give a great structure.


  1. References


https://winefolly.com/; https://www.winesofargentina.org/en/provinces/salta;










  1. Club del Vino  Members Rating – TBA after the tasting


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Tasting No 252 – April 25, 2023 Aconcagua, Chile

Club del Vino

Tasting No 252 – April 25, 2023, 12:30 PM

Wines from Aconcagua Region, Chile

           Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

 1. Tasting Overview

The wines of the Aconcagua region, Chile, have a long history and tradition of more than 150 years and are awarded worldwide recognition for their quality. The main objective of the present tasting is to discover the new wines of this region produced by the historic winery Errázuriz. The three red wines presented are from a special edition 2020 vintage, aged in first and second-generation barrels that mitigate the wood influence in smell and taste from older barrels. The fourth red is one of the new ultra-premium wines in Chile created by the winery Seña, located in Ococa, at the center of the Aconcagua Valley. The wines to be tasted come from the coastal Valley and the Andes Mountain, selecting the varietals that most shine in these areas.

Type of tasting: Open

Presenters: Jorge Claro and Cristian Santelices

Participants: M. Averbug; L. Boccalandro; J. Brakarz; J. Claro; C. Estrada; J. García; A. and C. Perazza; L. Redwood; C. Santelices; R. Santiago; E. Silva; P. Turina and J. Entwistle (invited).

These are the wines:

  1. Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
  2. Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
  3. Viña Errázuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carmenere, Aconcagua Valley, 2020
  4. Viña Seña, Seña– 25 años, Aconcagua Valley, 2019


  1. The Aconcagua Region

The Aconcagua Valley is a wine-producing region of Chile located 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital, Santiago, and is one of Chile’s four main producing regions. It takes its name from the eponymous river flowing through it, named after the 6,960 meter-high (22,835 ft) Mt. Aconcagua at its eastern end. This is the highest mountain in the Americas and directly contributes to the terroirs in the Valley below. This Valley is part of the Valparaiso Region, which produced 15% of the 2022 national wine production.

The Aconcagua Valley was chosen for this tasting because of its unique viticultural climate. The Mediterranean climate in this valley ensures the warm, dry summers, the bright sunny days, and the cold, rainy winters that the vines love. In addition, the cooling effects of the Pacific Ocean’s Humboldt current and the down-drift winds of the Andes Mountains create unique climate conditions with cooling midday breezes, cold nights, and a broad daily temperature oscillation that also extends the ripening period so that the grapes develop intense fruit flavors, ripe tannins, deep color, and crisp acidity.

Measuring around 100 km (60 miles) in length, the Valley runs between the slopes of the Andes in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Many wine-growing areas are closely linked to the Aconcagua river and follow its course as it brings fresh meltwater (and mineral-laden silt) down from the Andean peaks and provides vineyard irrigation. Vineyard altitude in Aconcagua varies from 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) above sea level in the east to 50 m (160 ft) in the lower-lying regions in the west.

While alluvial soils predominate in the Aconcagua Valley along its river throughout, its east-west flow creates drastically different conditions on each end. Its western seaside vineyards, with clay and stony soils upon gently rolling hills, produce cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. Its inner region is one of Chile’s hottest and has some of its best red wines. Panquehue in the inner Aconcagua is the site of Chile’s first Syrah vines, planted in 1993.

Red grape varieties dominate the production in the highest part of Aconcagua Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc have a long tradition in the interior of the Valley. However, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, as cooler climate varieties, are well suited to the coastal zone of the Valley.


  1. Information about the Wineries

Errázuriz Winery and Vineyard

The winery was founded by Maximiano Errázuriz (February 21, 1832 – November 17, 1890), a Chilean politician, industrialist, and winemaker of Basque descent. He chose the Aconcagua Valley to found Viña Errázuriz in 1870, when no one imagined its natural benefits as a terroir.

With 150 years to its name, you might be forgiven for thinking Errázuriz is a historical winery – it is, but it is also one of the most innovative and forward-thinking producers in Chile. The wine portfolio is almost endless, and their treasures include the ‘Aconcagua Costa’ range, from the cooler parts of Aconcagua Valley, and the ‘Las Pizzaras’ Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on slate soils. Their most famous wine is ‘Don Maximiano’, a rich Cabernet-based blend from the warmer Aconcagua Andes.

In 1873, Viña Errázuriz launched its first wine. At this time, Viña Errázuriz had 300 hectares, irrigation canals, and vines imported from France. Together with the winery, Don Maximiano built a villa, baptized as Villa Errázuriz, which had a church, a school, and houses for the worker. Since its foundation, Viña Errázuriz has been dedicated to a philosophy of excellence and innovation. Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and, with tenacity and perseverance, transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard.

In 1890, Rafael Errázuriz, the son of Don Maximiano, took over the administration of the winery. During this period, the total area of planted vineyards increased to 1,300 hectares, making it the largest vineyard in the world in the hands of a single owner.

On August 16, 1906, the Valparaíso earthquake happened, with an intensity of 7.9° on the Richter scale, which damaged part of the winery’s cellars, including the underground warehouses. During the following decade, intense repair work was carried out, which also meant renovating the bottling room.

Inspired by ‘The Judgement of Paris’ in 1976, Viña Errázuriz decided to carry out a blind tasting, one of the most professional and impartial ways of presenting and qualifying wines. The tasting took place in 2004 in Berlin, with the wine legend Steven Spurrier. Europe’s most respected judges tasted historic vintages of First Growths Super Tuscans from Italy and Grand Crus from Bordeaux, France. The result was surprising. Two wines from the same group won first and second place, and Don Maximiano was listed as one of the ten best wines in the world. The Berlin tasting became a milestone for Viña Errázuriz and the entire Chilean industry, empirically verifying that Chilean wines were up to the standards of prestigious fine wines worldwide, and raising Chile’s image as a world-class producer.

This critical milestone was followed by ten years of blind tastings around the world, with the support of Steven Spurrier. It included 22 events in 18 markets around the world, with more than 1,400 experts from the wine industry. Chile was among the first three places in 20 of the 22 events, reaching an impressive 90% of the preferences, demonstrating enormous consistency.

Viña Errázuriz promoted the new Aconcagua Costa Appellation, and was the first winery to plant vines and develop the coastal area of the Aconcagua Valley. Established into a new Chilean wine appellation, Aconcagua Costa was recognized by Chilean Wine Legislation in 2012. Aconcagua Costa’s new DO appellation is an area with a cool climate, maritime influence, and slate soils.

Errázuriz is recognized as, perhaps, the single top-quality producer of Chilean wines in recent years. As a result of these efforts, a Chilean wine obtained 98 points: Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2017 was awarded best Chilean wine, a milestone for the country’s wine industry. The same year, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Extraordinary Winery Awards recognized Viña Errázuriz as the Best Winery in Chile. In addition, Eduardo Chadwick, the current owner, the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business, was named Decanter Man of the Year 2018.

Today, this family tradition continues, exploring new appellations in the Aconcagua Valley and constantly improving its winemaking techniques to keep Chile a world-class wine producer. As an estate winery, Errázuriz strives to produce the finest wines by controlling every stage of the winemaking process with the most natural techniques. An emphasis is placed on the delicate handling of the wines to produce wines of elegance and complexity. This dynamism and passion for wine have made Errázuriz an internationally respected quality wine producer.

Seña Winery and Vineyard

Seña is a stunning, ground-breaking estate located in Ocoa in the Aconcagua Valley. It was created in 1995, as a joint venture between Errázuriz President and owner, Eduardo Chadwick, and the well-known wine businessman Robert Mondavi. Their shared passion for excellence and innovation led to the creation of the first world-class Chilean wine with provenance and a distinct personality. Modeled on a Bordeaux style, it has a Chilean soul given by its Carmenère variety, grown under biodynamic farming principles in the Aconcagua Valley. Their dream was to create a wine that would be welcomed, in time, among the world’s First Growths.

Seña wine is one of Chile’s top Cabernet Sauvignon blends coming from Aconcagua Valley in Chile. Seña 2019, its 25th Anniversary vintage, showcases that full potential in a wine of balance, depth, and elegance. Each year, one Seña wine is made and blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It champions Chile’s Carmenère grape and showcases the grape, the region, and the nation.


 4. Information on the Wines

Wine #1. ErrazurizAconcagua Costa’, Pinot Noir, Aconcagua Valley, 2020

Producer: Errázuriz Winery

The wine:
Vintage: 2020

  • Composition: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Viticulture: the grapes were sourced from the Aconcagua Costa vineyard, 12 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. Planted by Viña Errázuriz in 2005 and 2009, the soil is composed of a thin layer of loamy texture and placed on clay and metamorphic rock (slate/schist), providing the mineral notes present in the wines that are grown in these vineyards.
  • Winemaking process: Grapes were handpicked between February 26 and February 28, double sorted, 85% destemmed and crushed, then placed in open-top stainless-steel tanks (15% whole clusters). Before fermentation, the grapes underwent a 3 to 5 days cold soak at 8°C.
  • Fermentation: was carried out with native yeasts only, by which the wine develops complex and distinctive aromas and flavors. Total skin contact, including post-fermentation maceration, was 12 to 20 days.
  • Aging: The final blend is aged for 11 months in French oak barrels, 15% new.
  • Alcohol: 13,5 %
  • Critical Acclaim, awards: 93 pts (Tim Atking); 92 pts (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
  • Important facts about the wine: the wine has limpid ruby-red color with beautiful violet flashes. On the nose, this Pinot Noir is intense, showing red fruits as raspberries, accompanied by floral notes that remind of rosehip, framed by spices and a smoky note. It also has notes of fresh red fruit with smooth balsamic touches, pleasant tension, fresh with polished, round tannins, and elegance. Fresh red fruits and floral notes with soft balsamic hints dominate the palate. It has excellent structure, tension, and freshness, with polished and rounded tannins that make it a very attractive wine and easy to drink.
  • Suggested Pairing: Pairing with risotto, pizza/pasta, mild creamy cheeses, and oriental food.


Wine #2. Errazuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carmenère, Aconcagua Valley, 2020

Producer: Errázuriz Winery

– Information about the wine:

  • Year– Vintage: 2020
  • Composition: 100% Carmenère
  • Viticulture: The Aconcagua Alto Carmenère primary grapes come from various vineyard blocks in the Aconcagua Valley. Located in the valley’s interior, the vineyard soils have a predominantly silty texture and are of colluvial origin. The unique conditions of nutrition and drainage of the diverse soils help control plant vigor, producing balanced fruit loads with small bunches and berries.
  • Winemaking process: Grapes were handpicked, double-sorted, and then crushed. Next, the must was deposited into stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Then, the wine was moved directly to French oak barrels, 35% of which new, where it underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 14 months.
  • Alcohol: 13,5 %
  • Critical Acclaim, awards: 92 pts. (James Suckling) and 92 pts. (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
  • Important facts about the wine: The 2020 vintage of Aconcagua Alto Carmenère displays a beautiful cherry red color with violet hues. The nose delivers black cherries, cigar box, black olives, roasted red pepper, and a soft hint of ripe blackberries. With an elegant entrance, the palate offers red and black fruits accompanied by delicate notes of tobacco, cloves, and some bitter chocolate. Silky tannins deliver a great sensation of freshness and sound Volume with a long and pleasant finish.
  • Suggested Pairing: Pair this with grilled and roasted red meat, casseroles/stews, and mature strong cheeses.


 Wine #3 Errazuriz, ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020

Producer: Errázuriz Winery

The wine:
Vintage: 2020

  • Composition: Cabernet sauvignon 88 %, Petit verdot 7 %, Cabernet franc 5 %
  • Viticulture: The Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are sourced primarily from our Max vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. Located in the valley’s interior, the vineyard soils have a predominantly silty texture and are of colluvial origin. The unique conditions of nutrition and drainage of the diverse soils help control plant vigor, producing balanced fruit loads with small bunches and berries.
  • Winemaking process: The grapes were handpicked early in the morning, inspected on a double selection table, crushed, and deposited into stainless steel tanks for fermentation. Total maceration ranged from 8 to 28 days. The wine was aged for 14 months in French oak barrels, 35% of which new.
  • Alcohol:0 %
  • Critical Acclaim, awards (optional): 92 pts. (James Suckling); 91 pts. (Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).
  • Important facts about the wine: The 2020 vintage of Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon displays a medium-intensity, bright, ruby-red color. The nose shows ripe red and black fruit aromas framed by clove and a soft coffee note. The palate offers a dominant note of cassis, cherry, fresh blueberries, and a hint of cherry tart. It has a medium structure with fine-grained tannins provide excellent support, finishing with great persistence.
  • Suggested Pairing: grilled and roasted red meat, casseroles/stews, mild creamy cheeses, and portobello mushrooms with garlic butter.

 Wine #4.  Seña, ‘25 Años’, Aconcagua Valley, 2019

Producer: Seña Winery

The wine:
Vintage: 2019

  • Composition: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Malbec, 15% Carmenere and 4% Petit Verdot
  • Viticulture: The Don Maximiano vineyards are located in the Aconcagua Valley, and the oldest among them are Max I, Max II, and Max V blocks. Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère vines were planted in 1978 and 1993, respectively, while the Petit Verdot was planted in 1999. The three vineyard blocks contributing grapes are planted on north or northeast-facing hillsides with 5°–25° of a slope. Soils are volcanic, colluvia l, and piedmont (Max I and II) or alluvial (Max V), with good drainage conferring low to moderate vigor. The colluvial and volcanic rocky soils of Max I show a high presence of mica with a clay-silt texture. Max II has deep colluvial grounds of volcanic origin, with loam to sandy-loam texture, and both have 30–40% stone content. Max V has deep gravelly alluvial soils with 50% stone content and excellent drainage.
  • Winemaking process: After a mild winter and a shortfall of rain, warm temperatures encouraged a fast spring start with a healthy bud break and perfect flowering and fruit set as October to December were warmer than usual. Although 2019 is considered a warm vintage in Chile, the Seña vineyard enjoyed a cooler-than-average summer, resulting in a total heat summation of 1,478 DD, very much in line with our historical records. Being situated close to the sea and with the benefit of coastal winds generated temperatures, fortunately, cooled during January, March, and April, allowing for a long hanging period. This led to a slower accumulation of the sugars needed to balance the gradual softening of tannins and the development of fruit-driven flavors: so the wines’ fruit intensity and bright acidity were preserved. The 2019 harvest started on March 15th, delivering a small crop with complex aromas and ‑flavors. The young wines had a seamless texture, good structure, silky tannins, and great length, elegance, and finesse that shone through them. This is a great vintage of Seña. The wine was aged 22 months, 90% in French oak barrels (80% new) and 10% in foundres.
  • Alcohol: 13.5 %
  • Critical Acclaim, awards (optional): 98 pts Robert Parker, 98 James Suckling, and 97 pts Decanter
  • Important facts about the wine: A deep, bright, ruby red color with purple hues, Seña 2019 shows complexity on the nose with red and black fruit aromas and a distinctive freshness. Several layers of aromatics deliver suggestions of pepper, dill, and rosemary alongside coffee beans, pastries, and vanilla. On the palate, Seña shows notes of blueberry pie and cassis cream whilst brimming with fresh-picked red and black fruits. Seña 2019 is an exquisite wine with great structure, complexity, and depth – with notable freshness and polished tannins.
  • Suggested Pairing: grilled and roasted red meats, pizza/pasta, casseroles/stews, mild creamy cheeses, and mature strong cheeses.

The following link provides further information about the History of wine making in Chile, and about the founder of Viña Errázuriz, Maximiliano Errázuriz.


  1. Menu

  • Crab soup

  • Mushroom risotto

  • Grilled tenderloin with potatoes and green beans

  • Desert



  1. CV Members Rating : 

The tasting took place before knowing the wines’ prices, and 15 participants rated them from acceptable to exceptional. The combined results established the preference order during the tasting, as follows:

1st – Seña, Aconcagua Valley, 2019

2nd– Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carménère, 2020

3rd – Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2020

4th – Viña Errázuriz ‘Aconcagua Costa’ Pinot Noir, 2020

Seña, 2019  was rated as Best Wine and ‘Aconcagua Alto’ Carménère, 2020 as Best Buy. The following Table presents the details of individual ratings and combined results.

  1. References

  1. https://www.sag.gob.cl/sites/default/files/Informe%20Final%20Cosecha%202022.pdf
  2. https://errazuriz.com/en/terroir
  3. https://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-aconcagua%20valley
  4. https://sites.google.com/a/merceblanco.com/errazuriz/personajes/maximiano-errazuriz-valdivieso
  5. https://aseuniv.com/errazuriz.html
  6. https://www.wine-searcher.com/regions-aconcagua%20valley
  7. https://www.abcfws.com/errazuriz-don-maximiano-founders-reserve/106255
  8. https://southamericawineguide.com/winery/winery-filters/wineries/chile-wineries-winery-filters/aconcagua-chile-wineries-winery-filters/vina-errazuriz-winery/
  9. https://www.sena.cl/
  10. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regi%C3%B3n_vit%C3%ADcola_de_Aconcagua
  11. https://www.sag.gob.cl/sites/default/files/Informe%20Final%20Cosecha%202022.pdf
  12. https://errazuriz.com/en/winery/history
  13. https://www.scielo.cl/pdf/historia/v39n1/art02.pdf
  14. http://www.historiadelpozo.uqam.ca/pdf/vino.pdf
  15. http://gauchosfilms.com/proyectos/vina-errazuriz/
  16. https://www.hatchmansfield.com/our-winemakers/Errázuriz/wine/aconcagua-costa-pinot-noir-2020/
  17. https://Errázuriz.com/en/wines/aconcagua-costa/aconcagua-costa-pinot-noir/2020
  18. https://www.hatchmansfield.com/our-winemakers/Errázuriz/wine/aconcagua-alto-carmenere-2020/
  19. https://Errázuriz.com/en/wines/aconcagua-alto/aconcagua-alto-carmenere/2019
  20. https://www.hatchmansfield.com/our-winemakers/Errázuriz/wine/aconcagua-alto-cabernet-sauvignon-2020/
  21. https://www.hatchmansfield.com/our-winemakers/sena/wines/sena/
  22. https://www.sena.cl/Wines/sena/2019
  23. https://www.klwines.com/p/2019-sena-red-blend-valle-de-aconcagua/1562447?searchId=067edb99-983e-42d8-a0fd-13d048a6e5a9&searchServiceName=klwines-prod-productsearch&searchRank=2


Is this a joke?  It doesn’t sound like.










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How bold is your favorite red wine?

How bold is your favorite red wine?

Jose Brakarz sent this chart. Club Members will find this certainly interesting.

Dear Members: I found this graph about the scale of red wines and thought about sharing with you.

I first sent it to our foremost expert in the group, Ricardo, to hear his opinion.

Ricardo Santiago’s comments: “Wine Folly is a serious and trustworthy publication. The Graphic is great but is
really a generalization. For instance: Pinot Noir is a light body, but it can also be medium body. You can
have a specific Mencia classified as medium body, but with less body than a specific Pinot Noir from
Oregon. In the same way the Gamay light body can be medium body.”

Next April 25th is the monthly Club de Vino tasting. Cristian Santelices and Jorge Claro will present a selection of Chilean wines from Aconcagua Region. Details will be posted as soon they are available.

Please, as soon as possible,  let Claudia Perazza and or Clara Estrada know that your plan to attend. Keep tasting!


Not so serious matter:

Every morning having a glass of water with some lemon drops will make you lose a lot of weight. The only requisite is that the lemon tree must be 10 Km from your place.

Posted in Wine - Vino - Vinho | 1 Comment

Tasting No 251 – March 28, 2023 The Diversity of Wine in Chile

Club del Vino, Washington DC

Tasting No 251 – March 28, 2023, 12:30 pm

The Diversity of Wine in Chile 

Heritage wines, underrated grapes and iconic wines

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA


  1. Tasting Objective and Overview

The main objective of this tasting is to taste different wines that highlight the diversity of wines produced in Chile.
The tasting will have one orange wine and three red wines. The grapes are Semillon, Carignan, Cinsault, and Cabernet Sauvignon (Bordeaux blend).
Small producers with traditional techniques in Itata and a major winery in Aconcagua

Tasting_Chilean Wines_Heritage_Iconic Here a complete Power Point presentation of the wine history, productive process and interesting details of this Chilean region. The pdf format document is enriched with relevant ilustrations.

Type of tasting: Open

Presenter: Ricardo Santiago

Participants: J. Brakarz; R. Connolly; C. Estrada; J. Garcia; N. Marzella; O. Mason; C. Perazza; L. Redwood; J. Sanchez; R. Santiago and G. Vega (guest).

These are the wines:

– Roberto Henriquez, Molino Del Ciego, Semillon, Valle del Itata, 2021

– Pedro Parra, Trane, Cinsault, Itata Valley, 2019

– Rogue Vine, El Insolente, Carignan, Itata Valley, 2016

– Seña, Aconcagua Valley, 2019.

  1. Wine Regions

             Itata Valley

Situated 500 km South of Santiago, the first vineyards were planted in the 16th century.

Topography: Coastal Mountain range with river terraces inland.

Soil: Granitic soils in the coastal mountain range and mainly alluvial river terraces further inland.

Climate: Semi-arid, continental climate.

Bush vines, no irrigation.

Itata Valley lost its fame in the 1800’s to more central regions in Chile (high production and new varieties). It was left behind and has the constant threat of planting pine and eucalyptus trees.

The region still has one of the lowest average vineyard sizes in all South America, at less than two hectares. These small vineyards and wine families are a complete contrast to the manicured vineyard rows, industrialized estates, and big wineries further north.

The majority of Itata’s grapes are still sold cheaply for bulk wine production. However, there is also growing appreciation for the old vines in the region, and wineries of all sizes are now participating in Itata’s revival. Most planted varieties are Moscatel de Alejandria, País, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Corinto.


Stretches from the coast to the Andes. Vineyards planted in all three geographical designations (Costa, Entre Cordilleras, and Andes).

Topography: Ranging from the Andean foothills to the banks of the River Aconcagua and the Coastal hills.

Climate: Mediterranean climate with some mountain influence. Most of the vineyards are in the warm inland areas of the valley floor in what is one of Chile’s hottest and driest wine regions.

Since the 1990’s, Aconcagua’s wine region has also expanded further west towards the coast in search of cooler climate terroirs where they can make fresher wine styles. Stable climate makes it one of Chile`s most reliable regions.

Directly downhill from Aconcagua, on the Argentine side, lie Mendoza and San Juan where over 90% of Argentina’s wine industry is concentrated.

It is a region that produces powerful red wines and a handful of producers in the region specializes in Bordeaux – or Mediterranean-style blends and varieties.

Most planted varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Petit Verdot.

  1. The grape varietals


First arrived in Chile in the 19th century. It was the most planted white variety by the 1960’s with some 35,000 ha. It has been in decline ever since. Often found in mixed old-vine plantings with Riesling and Corinto (Chasselas) and other white varieties.

It is produced with some skin contact and occasionally produced as an orange wine, vinified in tinajas, concrete eggs or old foudres, or even with some biological ageing under a veil of flor.

These wines can be very textured, structured, and waxy.


Believed to be native to Aragon, Spain. Main synonyms are Mazuelo and Carineña. It is a vigorous and productive (abundant crop), and the grape needs a long, hot growing season.

It delivers high acid deeply pigmented tannic wines. Carignan’s color, acidity, and structure could be blended into pale País wines. Tannic management is key to avoid coarse and rustic wines.

One of the rising stars of Chilean wines helped build the modern reputation of Maule denomination in the Central Valley. Tamed tannins, refreshing acidity, and red fruit aromas prioritizing elegance over power.

Planted in Chile in the early 20th century. After the 1939 earthquake, the Government supported the wine industry in Itata and Maule by giving them Carignan plants. But due to its susceptibility to powdery mildew, it was largely abandoned within a decade of being planted.


Native to southern France, it was first planted in Chile in the 1930’s. It is a vigorous variety that produces an abundant crop. Requires high temperatures to ripen.

Known locally as cargadora (heavy-load bearer). Young vines produce ‘rather uninteresting’ grapes. On the other hand, as old vines yield drops, concentration increases and the wines produced are more interesting. Old Cinsault vines are mainly in Itata and Bio Bio, some well over 60 and some close to 90 years old.

Old-vine and traditional winemaking renaissance and adoption of traditional techniques using native rauli vats, ageing in clay tinajas and working on a very small scale using artisanal methods.

The wine has moderate to low pigment, low acidity, light tannins, and expressive red fruit aromas.

    Cabernet Sauvignon  

Cabernet Sauvignon was brought to Chile with many other grapes (mainly Bordeaux varieties) in the mid-19th century. Chile has some of the world’s oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines and pre-phylloxera genetic material. However, most of the Cabernet vines are relatively new, planted from the 1990’s onward.

Between 1997 and 2002, Cabernet plantings more than doubled, shooting up from some 15,000 to 39,000 hectares. Chile ranks second in the world, with 12% of all the Cabernet Sauvignon vines.

An extraordinary amount of everyday bulk wine is still produced, while there are world-class examples at the top end of the scale. The best examples of Chilean Cabernet rank among the best in the world.

It is very common to find Cabernet blended with the other major Bordeaux varieties, particularly Merlot and Carmenere.

  1. The Wines

Wine #1. Roberto Henriquez, Molino Del Ciego, Semillon, Valle del Itata, 2021

The Producer: Roberto Henriques, a leading winemaker in Bio Bio and Itata, has a small winery focusing on making natural wine on an artisanal scale. It produces distinctive natural wines from old vines and often helps resuscitate abandoned vineyards.

The wine

–  Wines are produced in the pipeño tradition: an old technique where grapes (white or red) are destemmed but left on their skins for fermentation before ageing in a rauli barrel.

– Grape: Semillon with Corinto (Chasselas) and Moscatel in the field blend.

– Vineyards: 90 years-old vines planted on granite soils very close to the Pacific Ocean in the Itata Valley. Dry-farmed with sustainable viticulture.

– Fermentation: Fermented with its skins (“con orujos”) for three weeks.

– Ageing: Old barricas and concrete vessels for five months to one year.

– Unfined and unfiltered.

– Alcohol: 12.5%

– “A Paradigmatic wine for semillon in South America” (P. Tapias).

Wine #2. Pedro Parra, Trane, Cinsault, Itata Valley, 2019

The Producer: Pedro Parra y Family is the boutique, family winery of renowned terroir expert Pedro Parra, focusing on an artisanal production of natural wines made from old vines of Pais and Cinsault in Itata and Bio Bio. Pedro Parra produces a series of Cinsault wines to show his interpretation of the granitic soils of Itata.

The Wine:

– Grape: Cinsault 100%.

– Appellation: D. O. Secano Interior, Itata.

– Vineyard: 70-year-old at 300 m altitude, on shallow granite soil with silt and stones.

– Fermentation: 30% whole bunches in concrete tanks utilizing native yeast and with low intervention.

– Ageing: 11 months in 1,500 liters oak vats.

– Alcohol: 13%.

Wine #3. Rogue Vine, El Insolente, Carignan, Itata Valley, 2016

The Producer: Two people – Leonardo Erazo and Justin Decker – started Rogue Vine in 2011, in a one-car garage in Concepción with a project to make natural wines from ‘the forgotten old bush vines almost falling out of steep granitic hills in Itata.’

The Wine:

– Grape: Carignan 100%.

– Single Vineyard granite soil at 270 m. in Nipas, Itata Valley.

– Old Bush vines of more than 60 years old. Dry and organic farmed and hand harvested.

– Winemaking: Whole berry fermentation with native yeast and little to no sulfur added prior to bottling.

– Ageing: cement globes and used oak barrels.

– Unfiltered and Unfined.

– Alcohol: 14.0%.

Wine #4. Seña, Aconcagua Valley, 2019

The Producer: Viña Seña: Single-estate, single-wine operation joint venture in the Aconcagua Valley founded by Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick of Errazuriz in 1995. Their aim was to make a wine that would demonstrate the full potential of Chile and that would be welcomed among the world’s First Growth.

The Wine:

– Composition /grape: Bordeaux blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Malbec (21%), Carmenere (15%), and Petit Verdot (4%).

– Vineyard: Close to the sea with the benefit of coastal winds and long hanging period.

– Farming: Biodynamic and hand harvested.

– Ageing: 22 months in 90% French oak barrels (80% new) and 10% foudres.

– Alcohol: 13.5%.

  1. Menu

  • Calamari Fritti
  • Spaghetti con polpette
  • Vitello alla Parmigiana
  • Dessert, coffee.
  1. References

Barnes, A. The South America Wine Guide. 2nd ed. England: The South America Wine Guide, 2022.

International Organization of Vine and Wine (Home | OIV)

Pedro Parra y Familia, Skurnik Wines & Spirits  (Pedro Parra y Familia – Skurnik Wines & Spirits)

Roberto Henriquez revives Chile’s pipeño tradition | The Morning Claret

Robinson, J et al. Wine Grapes. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.

Rogue Vine (Rogue Vine Winery (rogue-vine.com))

Seña Wines (Seña Wines (sena.cl))

Vinos de Chile (Vinos de Chile – (winesofchile.org))

“What`s Hot in Chile?”, Decanter: Wines of the Word, 2nded., 2022.

Woolf, S. J. Amber Revolution. Northampton, MA: Interlink Books, 2018.


  1. CV Members Rating 


Note: Numbers in the chart indicate the number of participants that rated the wine with the corresponding quality level. In parentheses are equivalent numerical values conversion used to calculate the numerical indexes: one Mediocre= 0, one Acceptable= 1, one Good= 2, one Very Good= 3, Very Good= 3, one Excellent=4 and, one exceptional= 5 


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Tasting No 250 – February 28, 2023 – Wines from Mendoza, Argentina

Tasting No 250 – February 28, 2023 – 12:30pm  Wines from Mendoza, Argentina


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA


  1. Tasting Overview


The main objective of this tasting is to compare three red wines of the same varietal – MALBEC, from the same Bodega – Catena Zapata. In addition, one white wine from the same winery will be tasted.

Type of tasting: semi- blind; the names of the wines are provided.


Clara Estrada and Jorge García-García

Participants:  TBA

These are the wines:

  1. Catena Zapata ‘Appellation White Clay’, Semillon-Chenin, 2020
  2. Catena Zapata ’Catena Alta’, Malbec, 2018
  3. Catena Zapata, ‘Catena Appellation La Consulta’ Malbec, 2019
  4. Catena Zapata ‘Catena Appellation Paraje Altamira’ Malbec, 2019The Men
  • Menu

    • Mussels in a light white wine sauce
    • Homemade Agnolotti with fresh spinach in tomato sauce
    • Beef medallions
    • Coffee, tea and dessert


    1. Information about the Catena Zapata Winery

      a .General Information

    The winery was founded in 1902 by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena and was passed to his son Domingo. Domingo’s son, Nicolás Catena Zapata (A.K.A. Nicolás Catena), was a pioneer to introduce European winemaking techniques to Argentina, including the introduction of Malbec and vine growing in high altitudes. Nicolás is recognized as the vintner who revolutionized wine quality in Argentina.

    All wines are produced at high altitude in the winery located in Luján de Cuyo from grapes produced in different vineyards in the Mendoza Region, Argentina (see map above). The Catena Zapata wines are a blend of single varietal lots from the Catena family’s vineyards. Over the years, Nicolás Catena discovered the influence altitude has on fruit quality. As one climbs the altitudes of the Andes the average temperature decreases and the amplitude between day and night temperatures increases. This environment provides the ideal climate for grape maturation. Each of the Catena Zapata family vineyards is divided into parcels according to their soil composition. Each vineyard is divided into lots that are harvested separately, and especially prepared to be part of the final blend of each Catena wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Chardonnay. (See https://catenazapata.com/adrianna-vineyard.php for more information about the different vineyards).

    B. Vinification

    Vineyard lots are harvested at different times to ensure optimal natural acidity and moderate alcohol levels. Whole berries are hand loaded into small format fermentation bins and 225-500 L barrels; lots from each vineyard are treated individually; fermentation and maceration last for 28-30 days; cold maceration. Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel; wine undergoes active battonage to protect it and drastically reduce the amount of SO2 needed. Aged for 18 months in French oak.

    C. Historic Rows

    Catena Alta is an assemblage of historic rows within the Catena family Estate vineyards. The blend of these historic rows, like the marriage of sounds that create a symphony, yields a highly aromatic and elegant wine that speaks for the earth and the vines that have been tended by the Catena’s for four generations. The Catena Alta wines can usually be drunk starting three years after harvest and into the following one to two decades.

    Sources: https://catenazapata.com/catena-alta-wines.php



    1. Information on the Wines

    Wine #1.  Catena – Appellation White Clay, 2020

    • Year – 2020
    • Varietal: White blend Semillon 60%; Chenin Blanc 40% from Luján de Cuyo
    • Eight months in French
    • Total Acidity: 6.4 grams/liter in tartaric acid; pH: 3.2
    • 13% APV
    • 92 pts (Vinous); 90pts. (Wine Advocate)

    Tasting notes: Deeply aromatic with expressive citrus and peach with a rich and mineral finish. Pairs well with vegetables, pasta and grilled white meat (Catena).

    “Yellow with a golden sheen. The nose is dominated by white flowers, honey and the aging process. In the mouth, this is voluminous with mild freshness and a creamy, compact, terse feel followed by a long, oaky finish.” (Vinous);

    “The grapes were harvested quite early and then fermented in stainless steel, managing to keep the alcohol to 13.5% in this warm and dry year. It’s balsamic and medicinal, with notes of yellow fruit and some spicy smokiness, as 35% of the wine matured in new barrels for seven to eight months. It’s soft and creamy without excess, combining volume and tasty flavors and a bitter twist in the finish” (Wine Advocate).

    Wine #2. Catena Alta, Malbec, 2018

    • Year – 2018
    • Varietal: 100% Malbec
    • Vineyards: Angelica; La Pirámide; Nicasia; Adrianna; Angelica Sur.
    • Vineyard lots harvested at different times to ensure optimal natural acidity and moderate alcohol levels.
    • Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel; active battonage
    • Aged 18 months in French oak.
    • Total Acidity: 6.2 grams/liter; pH: 3.55
    • Unclarified and unfiltered
    • 8% APV
    • 93 pts. (Wine Advocate)

    Winemaker notes: after many years of research and experimentation, Nicolas and his daughter identified their best vineyard rows of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Malbec and made the first vintages of the Catena Alta wines in very small quantities. Catena Alta continues to be a limited production of single varietal wines made from the selected few rows in the Catena family’s vineyards. These special barrels undergo a rigorous second selection at the winery. The Catena Alta wines can usually be enjoyed starting three years after harvest and into the following one to two decades.

    Tasting notes: “The 2018 Catena Alta Malbec shows more evolution and ripeness than the 2019. It’s varietal and floral with a mixture of red and black fruit, sweet spices and aromatic herbs. It has moderate ripeness—in fact, it’s a little lower in alcohol than the 2019—a medium body and fine-grained tannins, with good grip”. (Wine Advocate).


    Wine #3.  Catena, Appellation La Consulta, 2019

    • Year – 2019
    • Varietal: 100% Malbec
    • La Consulta vineyard; cold maceration; fermentation 16 days + post maceration 10 days.
    • Aged 12 months in French oak.
    • Total Acidity: 5.85 grams/liter; pH: 3.65
    • 5 APV
    • 92 pts (Wine Advocate)

    Winemaker notes:  In the 1950s, Don Domingo Catena began sourcing Malbec from the Vineyards of La Consulta. The combination of intense sunlight and cool nights yielded a wine that Domingo prized for its deep purple color, black fruit aromatics and rich velvety tannins.  https://catenazapata.com/index.php

    Tasting notes: The Catena Malbec Appellation La Consulta shows a dark violet color with deep purple tones. The nose offers aromas like red fruit and ripe, concentrated dark berries with fresh herbs and floral notes like lavender and violets, some traces of vanilla and tobacco. The mouthfeel is rich, with raspberries and blueberries, spices notes and a touch of mocha. The finish presents soft and well-structured tannins with bright, crisp acidity that gives the wine exceptional length.(Winemaker notes, taken from Wine.com??).

    The 2019 Appellation La Consulta Malbec feels primary and fruit-driven, quite faithful to the varietal and vintage, with good freshness and moderate alcohol. It was juicy, with some of the chalky texture of the stony soils. 90,000 bottles produced. (Wine Advocate).


    Wine #4. Catena – Appellation Paraje Altamira, 2019

    • Year – 2019
    • Varietal: 100% Malbec
    • Altamira vineyard; cold maceration; fermentation 16 days + post maceration 10 days.
    • Aged 12 months in French oak.
    • Total Acidity: 5.95 grams/liter; pH: 3.6
    • 5% APV
    • 93 pts. (Wine Advocate); 93 pts. (Robert Parker)

    Winemaker notes. In the 1950s, Don Domingo Catena began sourcing Malbec from the Vineyards of Paraje Altamira in the Uco Valley. The combination of intense sunlight and cool nights yielded an elegant, mineral, slightly spicy Malbec with a deep texture and flavors. tannins. It is an elegant, mineral, slightly spicy Malbec with a deep texture and flavors born of the combination of intense sunlight and cool nights. Perfect paired with meat, fish, fowl and vegetarian dishes.

    “Following the path of the 2018, the 2019 Appellation Paraje Altamira Malbec is phenomenal. It shows freshness, elegance, balance, complexity and nuance as well. It’s seamless, precise and ethereal with lots of inner energy and light. As the 2018 was, it’s expressive and floral, varietal and with the full chalky texture that is a distinct characteristic of Altamira. It’s tasty, the tannins are polished and there is an almost salty sensation in the finish” (Wine Advocate).

    For more information about the harvests for the vintages selected see: https://catenazapata.com/harvest-2019.php.


    CV Members Ratings (prepared by the CD)


An Insider’s Guide to the Wines & Wine Country of Argentina | Laura Catena | Talks at Google

Contribution of Juan Luis Colaiacovo





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Pablo Neruda: Ode to Conger Chowder and Ode to Wine

Pablo Neruda: Ode to Conger Chowder and Ode to Wine


Ode To Conger Chowder

 by Pablo Neruda

Pome suggested by Ginger Smart special for Club del Vino participants

Bellow Oda al Vino in Spanish and English.

In the storm-tossed
lives the rosy conger,
giant eel
of snowy flesh.
And in Chilean
along the coast,
was born the chowder,
thick and succulent,
a boon to man.
You bring the conger, skinned,
to the kitchen
(its mottled skin slips off
like a glove,
leaving the
grape of the sea
exposed to the world),
the tender eel
to serve our appetites.
you take
first, caress
that precious
its irate fragrance,
blend the minced garlic
with onion
and tomato
until the onion
is the color of gold.
Meanwhile steam
our regal
ocean prawns,
and when
they are
when the savor is
set in a sauce
combining the liquors
of the ocean
and the clear water
released from the light of the onion,
you add the eel
that it may be immersed in glory,
that it may steep in the oils
of the pot,
shrink and be saturated.
Now all that remains is to
drop a dollop of cream
into the concoction,
a heavy rose,
then slowly
the treasure to the flame,
until in the chowder
are warmed
the essences of Chile,
and to the table
come, newly wed,
the savors
of land and sea,
that in this dish
you may know heaven.


English version 

Ode to wine

Pablo Neruda

Wine the color of day,
wine the color of night,
wine with purple feet
or topaz blood,
starlit son
of the earth,
wine, sleek
like a golden sword,
like a mussy velvet,
wine spiraled
and suspended,
you have never fit in a glass,
in a song, in a man,
coral, gregarious you are,
and at least, reciprical.
you feed on deadly
on your wave
we go from grave to grave,
stonecutter of a frozen grave,
and we cry
momentary tears,
your beautiful
spring gown
is different,
your heart rises to the limbs,
the wind moves the day,
nothing remains
inside your motionless soul.
moves springtime,
it grows like a joyous plant,
walls tumble,
the abysses close,
a song is born.
Oh you, pitcher of wine, in the desert
with the savory taste that I love,
said the old poet.
The pitcherful of wine
joins your kiss to the kiss of love.
My love, suddenly
your hip
is the full curve
of the wineglass,
your bosom is the bouquet,
the light is the alcohol of your hair,
the grapes your nipples,
your navel a pure seal
stamped on your vessel of a belly,
and your love the cascade
of insatiable wine,
the clarity that falls on my senses,
the earthly splendor of life.
But not only love,
a burning kiss
or a burnt heart
are you, wine of life,
friendship of beings, transparency,
a chorus of discipline,
an abundance of flowers.
On a table I love,
as one is conversing,
the light from a bottle
of intelligent wine.
May they drink it,
may they remember in each
golden drop
or glass of topaz
or purple spoon,
that autumn worked
until the vessels of wine were filled
and may the sinister man learn,
in the ceremonial of his business,
to remember the earth and its obligations,
to propogate the song of the fruit.


Oda al vino 

Oda al vino

Vino color de día,
vino color de noche,
vino con pies de púrpura
o sangre de topacio,
estrellado hijo
de la tierra,
vino, liso
como una espada de oro,
como un desordenado terciopelo,
vino encaracolado
y suspendido,
nunca has cabido en una copa,
en un canto, en un hombre,
coral, gregario eres,
y cuando menos, mutuo.
A veces
te nutres de recuerdos
en tu ola
vamos de tumba en tumba,
picapedrero de sepulcro helado,
y lloramos
lágrimas transitorias,
tu hermoso
traje de primavera
es diferente,
el corazón sube a las ramas,
el viento mueve el día,
nada queda
dentro de tu alma inmóvil.
El vino
mueve la primavera,
crece como una planta la alegría,
caen muros,
se cierran los abismos,
nace el canto.
Oh tú, jarra de vino, en el desierto
con la sabrosa que amo,
dijo el viejo poeta.
Que el cántaro de vino
al beso del amor sume su beso.
Amor mio, de pronto
tu cadera
es la curva colmada
de la copa,
tu pecho es el racimo,
la luz del alcohol tu cabellera,
las uvas tus pezones,
tu ombligo sello puro
estampado en tu vientre de vasija,
y tu amor la cascada
de vino inextinguible,
la claridad que cae en mis sentidos,
el esplendor terrestre de la vida.
Pero no sólo amor,
beso quemante
o corazón quemado
eres, vino de vida,
amistad de los seres, transparencia,
coro de disciplina,67
abundancia de flores.
Amo sobre una mesa,
cuando se habla,
la luz de una botella
de inteligente vino.
Que lo beban,
que recuerden en cada
gota de oro
o copa de topacio
o cuchara de púrpura
que trabajó el otoño
hasta llenar de vino las vasijas
y aprenda el hombre oscuro,
en el ceremonial de su negocio,
a recordar la tierra y sus deberes,
a propagar el cántico del fruto.


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Tasting #249 January 31, 2023 12:30 pm Wines from Southern Chile

Tasting #249
January 31, 2023 12:30 pm
Wines from Southern Chile

 Capri Ristorante, McLean VA


1.    Koupin, Carignan, 2019. Vinos Gustavo Martinez. Valle de Itata  13.5% Alchool

2.    Chardonnay, Sol de Sol. Vina Aquitanie, S.A. Valle de Malleco. Traiguen, Chile. 13.3% Alchool (93 points)

3. Mission Grapes (Pais),   Santa Cruz de Coya, Roberto Henriquez, 12%  Alchool

4.   Brisas de Guarilihue Cinsault, 2019, Wildmakers, Guarilihue Alto- Valle del Itata. 11% Alchool

Presenters: Ruth Connoly y Ginger Smart

Participants: TBA


Given the regions’ three centuries of history making wines of/ the people,  in choosing the menu,  emphasis was placed on dishes that reflect as far as possible food that the people of the area would eat with the wines selected. This has resulted in some unusual combinations and the presenters thank the Capri staff for their collaboration in designing the menu with us.

1.   Brochetta with corn, tomatoes and onions

Calamares with seaweed

3.   Cazuela (soup) with pork, potatoes and squash

Grilled trout with potatoes and cabbage



1.Koupin, Carignan, 2019. Vinos Gustavo Martinez. Valle de Itata, 13.5% Alcohol

From the winemaker: Es un vino que se obtiene de la comuna de Ninhue en el valle del Itata. Es un viñedo de mas de 50 años, el cual es único en la zona de Itata, ya que la mayoría de los carignan de esa edad se han arrancado y reemplazado por uva país que es mucho más rustica y resistente a las enfermedades. Este viñedo se maneja en espaldera baja (80cm) simple a diferencia de todos los demás que se manejan en cabeza.

Winemaker notes

Deep garnet with a vibrant ruby edge, velvety soft on the palate with bright cherry to plum flavors. This wine is weighty and full of fresh ripe berries with rich, dark accents of cocoa nib. Intriguing and delicious.

Aromas of dark chocolate, plum, black cherry, cedar and tarragon jump from the glass.

2. Chardonnay, Sol de Sol. Vina Aquitanie, S.A. Valle de Malleco. Traiguen, Chile. 13.3% Alchool (93 points)

Notes from Producer: De color amarillo brillante. Muy intenso en la nariz, sus aromas recuerdan frutas como manzanas verdes, melón verde (tuna), algo de espárrago, olivas y avellanas tostadas, con notas minerales. En boca presenta fresca acidez, gran volumen y concentración. Su persistencia al final de la degustación es frutal y mineral, complementado con el sabor de la encina francesa. Gran equilibrio entre el alcohol y la acidez natural que le da frescor, persistencia y potencial de envejecimiento, algo difícil de obtener en un vino blanco chileno.

3. Mission Grapes (Pais),   Santa Cruz de Coya, Roberto Henriquez, 12%  Alcohol

From vinatis.co.uk

Sol de Sol has really changed the reputation of Chilean Chardonnay and is recognized for such!

The quality of the grapes from this terroir is so impressive that it was created with the Chilean Ministry of Agriculture. Complex and elegant wines are produced here, allowing the minerality of the volcanic soil and the freshness of the coldest climate in the Valle del Malleco to express themselves. Sol de Sol delights us from the moment it opens with its intense golden colour, but also with its enchanting aromas of apples and fresh figs. Notes of olives and roasted hazelnuts accompany the desire to taste it. On the palate, it is a freshness and a long fruity and mineral finish, integrating woody flavours, which enchant us. An excellent balance of characteristics that can make up a wine. Sol de Sol has a rare ageing capacity for Chilean white wines. An exception to be discovered and shared, a journey to the heart of unique flavours.

This wine is made from 100% pure País grapes obtained from a 200-year-old vineyard located in Nacimiento, in which soils are granitic intrusive (solidified magma). The vines were managed traditionally without the addition of chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Santa Cruz de Coya is the name of the nearby village established in 1595 that was a key site of the 1598-1599 uprising that ended the Era of the Conquista. The Mapuches finally won the battle against the Spanish conquistadors.

10/13/2021 – DIGGYDAN WROTE:93 Points

Beautifully elegant and light weight. Aromatic red berry. Palate a nice mix of upfront red fruit and background herbaceousness.

4.   Brisas de Guarilihue Cinsault, 2019, Wildmakers, Guarilihue Alto- Valle del Itata. 11% Alchool

Notes from producer

General description: Los viñedos utilizado para la elaboración de nuestros Brisas Cinsault se encuentran ubicados en Guarilihue Alto, sector El Huaro a unos 30 km del mar. Son viñedos de más de 40 años, manejados a la usanza tradicional de la zona. Es decir, manejo del suelo a caballo, sin aplicación de pesticidas. Nos enfocamos en realizar una vinificación enfocada a preservar toda la fruta y las características varietales que nos aporta la variedad Cinsault, sin crianza en madera.

Tasting Notes:

En nariz, Brisas Cinsault, presenta mucha fruta roja y energía, recuerda a freses, ciruelas fresca y cerezas combinada con suaves toques de especias herbales. Es un vino fresco y peligrosamente fácil de tomar y de jugoso final.

Color: Rojo rubí, limpio y brillante,  Varietal: 100% Cinsault,  From:  Guarilihue Alto- Valle del Itata.

Wine Regions

ltata, Bio Bio and Malleco are among the southernmost wine producing valleys of Chile and are drastically different from the rest of Chile’s wine regions.

ltata Valley

It actually rains here, up to 50 inches a year. In addition to this wine weather advantage, the regions soils are mostly volcanic in origin and unlike those of the other wine valleys in Chile. There is also a lot of cloud cover in this area, a classic cool climate growing advantage.

Plantings of old vine cinsault, ^pais” (mission grape) and muscat are most common. Wine produced is basically red with Carignan, muscat (musket) of Alexandria, “Pais” (Mission Grapes or Criolla Chica in Argentina), Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Old traditions of wine making and a lack of large-scale viticulture and winemaking sets ltata apart. Look for: red blends, Cabernet Franc.


At 36 degrees south, the more windy, rainy climate of the Bio Bio valley, is somewhat more extreme than the country’s other wine producing regions and favors the production of crisp wines. Of particular note are its excellent Riesling and Viognier white wines. There is also another interesting white called Muscat de Alexandria. Bio Bio is characterized by few vineyards, fewer wineries and amazingly interesting soils. Pinot Noir is also produced.


Located 340 miles South of the Chilean capital of Santiago at 38 degrees South latitude, the Malleco Valley is becoming a growth area for Chilean wine. Malleco has well-drained soils, consisting principally of red clay and sand. However, although its marginal climate and short growing season makes the development of a wine industry particularly challenging, its current fresh sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production enjoys a racy acidity.

Currently, Vine Aquitania, S.A. from the Chilean Central Valley is exploring additional growth possibilities both in Malleco and further South.

Wines Evaluation on the opinion of Club del Vino  Members

To be published after the tasting

Next Meeting:

Wines from Mendoza by Clara Estrada and Jorge Garcia







feb 28

Región Mendoza, Argentina

Clara Estrada and Jorge Garcia


mar 28

“Off the Beaten Track Chilean Wines”:

Pipeño wines and Carignan, Cinsault, and Pais

Ricardo Santiago


abr 25

Región de Aconcagua, Chile

Cristian Santelices y Jorge Claro


may 30


Claudia y Agilson Perazza


jun 27

Valle de Uco, Argentina

  Jairo Sánchez y Jorge Requena


jul 25

Blancos de la Región Sur

Erico Silva y Nick Marzella


ago 29

Región del Valle Central, Chile

 José Brakarz


sep 26

Región de Casanova, Chile

 Marcello Averbug


oct 31

Región Sur, Argentina

Jaime Estupiñan


nov 14


Michelle Fryer


dic 12

The best wines of 2023

John and Lucia Redwood













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Mario Aguilar is not with us anymore

Mario Aguilar is not with us anymore

Mario Aguilar passed away January 1st. 2023

Mario Aguilar distinguished and appreciated member of the Club del Vino  has left us at the dawn of the new year of 2023.

His activity at the Club del Vino with his deep expertise on the matter was a great contribution to our meetings. A good friend will be missed indeed.

Juan Colaiacovo, former Club del Vino President, wrote a few word that will help us remember Mario:

-Una gran pérdida por todas las razones indicadas.> Mario fue una presencia importante para el CV.

 -Ingreso al Club alrededor de 2010 traído por Alfonso Sánchez que ya tenía en el Club algunos meses. Alfonso vino invitado por el amigo Ítalo Mirkow cuando el Club se abrió a miembros de fuera de la OEA.

-Mario fue miembro de la CD y tuvo importante participación en la creación de dos clubes que funcionaron en paralelos al CV hasta el indicio de la pandemia.

-Algunos tuvimos el privilegio de disfrutar de la generosidad de Mario al compartir vinos de su valiosa colección.

– El COVID lo afectó mucho y después un cáncer.

 -Mario y Alfonso dos grandes contribuciones del Banco Mundial al CV.

Siempre lo recordaremos con afecto.

Juan Luiz Colaiacovo

Mario Aquilar 2012


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Tasting #248 December 6, 2022 – 12:30 Wines from the “Camino de Santiago”

Tasting #248          December 6, 2022 – 12:30 Wines from the “Camino de Santiago”  “The Way of Saint James”

 Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

 Tasting Overview
The main objective of this tasting is to explore some wines of Spain’s wine regions bisected by or near  the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances).
We will have the opportunity to taste one white wine and three reds from distinct appellations along the Camino Frances.

From where these wines come from:

The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and coming together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) in Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.

Plan your Camino by Booking a Tour

Yearly, hundreds of thousands of people of various backgrounds walk the Camino de Santiago either on their own or in organized groups. People who want to have peace of mind will benefit from an organized tour or a self-guided tour while many will opt to plan the camino on their own.

Origins of the pilgrimage

The history of the Camino de Santiago goes back at the beginning of the 9th century (year 814) moment of the discovery of the tomb of the evangelical apostle of the Iberian Peninsula. Since this discovery, Santiago de Compostela becomes a peregrination point of the entire European continent.

You may recognize some “Way of Saint James” pilgrims.

The Way was defined then by the net of Roman routes that joined the neuralgic points of the Peninsula. The impressive human flow that from very soon went towards Galicia made quickly appear lots of hospitals, churches, monasteries, abbeys and towns around the route. During the 14th century the pilgrimage began to decay, fact brought by the wars, the epidemics and the natural catastrophes.

The recovery of the route begins at the end of the 19th century, but it is during the last quarter of the 20th century when the authentic contemporary resurge of the peregrination takes place. There is no doubt that the social, tourist, cultural or sport components have had a great importance in the “jacobea” revitalization but we cannot forget that the route has gained its prestige thanks to its spiritual value. 

Additional information on the Camino de Santiago could be found  here   (https://santiago-compostela.net/)   among many other good informative sites in the internet.

Tasting Presenters

Erico Silva and Nick Marzella


J Brakarz; J Claro; R Connolly; C Estrada; M Fryer; J García; J&L Redwood; C Perazza;
J Sanchez; C Santelices; E Silva; G Smart; R Zavaleta; N Marzella (invited) and L Boccalandro (invited)


Zuppa di Aragosta

Insalata di Rucola

Fettuccine con Ragu di Vitello

Salmone alla Griglia

Information about the region

This is the first tasting of Biezo wines this year, therefore it’s described below. All the other wine regions are described in prior tastings for this year. Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bierzo_(DO).

Bierzo is a Spanish Denominación de Origen  Protegida (DOP) for wines located in the northwest of the province of León (Castile and León, Spain) and covers about 3,000 km². It borders on the provinces of Ourense, Lugo and Asturias in the north and in the south on areas of La Montaña, la Cabrera and La Meseta, in Léon. The area consists of numerous small valleys in the mountainous part (Alto Bierzo) and of a wide, flat plain (Bajo Bierzo).
The DO covers 23 municipalities including the largest town of the area, Ponferrada (population about 70,000). The first written reference to the Bierzo region, whose name derives from the pre-Roman city of Bergidum, is from Pliny the Elder. The Romans
developed agriculture, introduced new crops including Vitis vinifera vines, and new technology such as the Roman plough. However, the greatest expansion of viticulture was related to the growth of the monasteries, especially the Cistercian order, during the Middle Ages. After centuries of production and after having achieved a good reputation in the  markets of Galicia and Asturias, the Bierzo vineyards suffered a terrible blow in the 19th century when the phylloxera plague practically wiped them out. There was a severe  conomic crisis which forced many people to emigrate. Production was slowly restablished thanks to the technique of grafting onto new world rootstocks and wine production gradually recovered to assume the significant economic role it had played in the past.
In 1989 the Bierzo DO was officially recognized.
Climate: The Bierzo DOP has a special macroclimate which is beneficial for viticulture. On the one hand it is similar to the climate of Galicia with regard to humidity and rainfall, and on the other it is also similar to the hot, dry climate of Castile. The low altitude also helps to prevent late frosts and means that the grape harvest is usually about one month earlier than in Castile. The average annual temperature is around 12°C, with the minimum in winter of 3.5°C and maximum in summer of 24°C.

The average annual rainfall is just over 700 mm, and the vines receive about 2,200 hours of sunshine per annum.

Soils: The soils in the mountains consist of a mixture of fine elements, quartz and slate. The vineyards are planted mainly on humid, dark soil which is slightly acidic and low in carbonates. The acidity ranges from 4 to 8.5, with values of over 6 in the valleys. Lime content is low, less than 3000 kg/ha. The carbon/nitrogen ratio is 11.9 in the valleys and 11 on the plains.

Grape Varieties: The wines produced under the Bierzo DPO must be made only with the varieties that are authorized by the Consejo Regulador (Regulatory Council).
● Red grapes: Mencía and Alicante Bouschet (Garnacha Tintorera).
● White grapes: Doña Blanca, Godello, Palomino, and Malvasía.

Wines produced:

1. Young whites: Made with Doña Blanca, Godello and Palomino. Between 10° and 13°.
2. Young reds: Made with a minimum of 70% Mencía. Between 11° and 14°.
3. Aged wines without crianza: the vintage must be shown on the label and certain criteria complied with.
4. Rosé wines: made with a minimum of 50% Mencía and may contain white grapes.
5. Crianza wines: Minimum of 6 months in oak casks plus 18 months in the bottle.
6. Reserva wines: Minimum of 12 months in oak barrels plus 24 months in the bottle for red  wines; minimum of 6 months in oak casks and 18 months in the bottle for whites.



Muga Rioja Blanco Flor de Muga 2019

López de Heredia – Viña Tondonia Reserva 2010

Raul Perez Bierzo Tinto Ultreia el Rapolao 2019

Guimaro – Ribeira Sacra A Ponte 2019

Notes on the Wines of the Camino


  1. Muga Rioja Blanco Flor de Muga 2019

Producer: Bodegas Muga, Haro, Spain
Region, La Rioja, Rioja Alta
Appellation: Rioja
Alcohol: 14%
Grapes: Viura, Garnacha blanca and Maturana blanca (no percentages given)
Ratings: WA 94, JS 95
Bodegas Muga is a Spanish winery based in Haro, in the Rioja Alta region. The estate was created in 1932 by Isaac Muga Martínez and his wife, Aurora Caño, and currently produces several red, rosé and white wines from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Malvasia and Viura grapes.

The second vintage of their top white is the 2019 Flor de Muga Blanco, produced with a blend of 40% Viura from red limestone and clay soils, 30% Garnacha Blanca from classical clay and limestone and 30% Maturana Blanca planted on sandy soils. It fermented in small barrels with indigenous yeasts and then matured in concrete eggs for three months and new barriques built in their own cooperage for six months. The wine is 13.2% alcohol and has a pH of 3.2 with very good acidity. There are only 37 hectares of Maturana Blanca in Rioja, of which they have eight.

It’s the same grape as the extinct Ribadavia variety from Galicia. The variety disappeared because it delivers very low yields, but they love the quality when it is picked fully ripe when it still keeps very good acidity. The wine is still a little oaky and powerful, from a warm and dry year, but the palate is electric and almost salty. This is a white that should develop nicely in bottle (I wish I had a time machine!), and as with the rosé, this feels like the finest vintage to date… only the second one! 11,892 bottles produced. It was bottled in December 2020.  WineAdvocate 94+ points

Structured, complex and layered white with medium body and a creamy, phenolic texture. Dried lemons, apricot stones, cedar, flint and sea salt. Long and evolving. Very fresh, too. Fantastic. About 12,000 bottles made. 40% Viura, 30% grenache blanc and 30% maturana. Drink or hold.   James Suckling 95 points


2. López de Heredia – Viña Tondonia Reserva 2010

Producer: R. Lopez de Heredia, Haro, Spain
Region, La Rioja, Rioja Alta
Appellation: Rioja
Alcohol: 13%
Grapes: Tempranillo 70%, Garnacha 20%, Graciano and Mazuelo 10%
Ratings: WA 96, JS 97, WS 93 pts.

About as delicious as old-school Rioja ever gets, this is a joy now and will just get better all at just 13.0% alcohol. Pair it up with rich lamb or braised beef and you will  be very happy. The 2010 Viña Tondonia Reserva has all I expect from a Reserva from Tondonia, complexity, elegance and evolution, a developed nose with notes of forest floor and wild berries, herbs and flowers, a touch of iodine, brick dust and very fine, polished tannins. It has the seriousness and elegance of Tondonia. This is a blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacho (they use the masculine form of the name of the grape) and 5% each Graciano and Mazuelo that fermented in the ancient oak vats from when the winery was created 144 years ago and matured in well-seasoned, American oak barrels for six years. Wine Advocate 96 points


3. Raul Perez Bierzo Tinto Ultreia el Rapolao 2019

Producer: Bodegas y Vinedos Raul Perez, Valtuille de Abajo, León, Spain
Region: Castilla y Leon
Appellation: Bierzo
Alcohol: 13.5%
Grapes: Mencia
Ratings: WA 97

The blend is similar to Perez,  Ultreia St Jacques, but all the fruit comes from a tiny plot of 100+ year-old, ungrafted, vines in Bierzo El Rapolao cru. The whole grape bunches go into open-top chestnut vats, ferment at their own pace with native yeasts, and then sit and soak for 30 days after fermentation with no sulfur while a film of flor yeast grows across the top. The free-run juice is drained into two used 500-liter and one 225-liter French oak casks to rest for 12 months.

Around 1,500 bottles are filled.

If you are looking for a blockbuster, big and bold, wine this is NOT it! This is all about delicacy, silkiness, and purity, with highly polished tannins and a floral, blue-fruited, finish that does not quit. It is delicious now, probably at peak from 2024 and best enjoyed through the end of the decade.

It is not clear which vintage is better for the Ultreia range, as it depends on the wine. I think the 2019 Ultreia El Rapolao is better than the 2020, perhaps because it is from a warmer and riper year, when this wine tends to behave better. This is juicy, round and complete, with abundant, very fine tannins and the balance and stuffing to develop nicely in bottle. Wine Advocate 97 points Guimaro – Ribeira Sacra A Ponte 2019

Pedro Rodriguez great project – restoring this formerly family-owned vineyard to its former glory. Slopes range up to 80% here where Pedro and his father planted a classic Ribera Sacra field blend. Amazing amount of power from such a young wine and worth decanting if you are opening it soon.

The single-vineyard 2019 A Ponte was produced with grapes from vines planted in 2010, a vineyard that used to belong to the Guímaro family a long time ago that they had to buy again and replant. It is a blend of 30% Mencía and similar parts of Caíño, Merenzao, Brancellao and Sousón. All the grapes fermented together with 100% full clusters in closed troncoconic vats with a 50-day total maceration time and always matured in 500-liter barrels. It has less color and is rather light and ethereal compared to its siblings. All the 2019s are more closed than the 2020s, and the wines are more austere and, in general, have more depth and balance, with lower alcohol. This has 13% and a subtle nose of wild flowers and herbs, nuanced and complex.

This is superb for such young vines. 4,000 bottles produced.  Wine Advocate 95+ points

4. Guimaro – Ribeira Sacra A Ponte 2019

Producer: Adegas Guímaro, Sober, Galicia, Spain
Region: Galicia
Appellation: Ribeira Sacra
Alcohol: 13%
Grapes: “field” blend of 30% Mencía, 17.5% Caiño, 17.5% Sousón, 17.5% Brancellao and 17.5%
Aging: 9 months in cask
Ratings: WA 95

Pedro Rodriguez’s great project – restoring this formerly family-owned vineyard to its former glory. Slopes range up to 80% here where Pedro and his father planted a classic Ribera Sacra field blend. Amazing amount of power from such a young wine and worth decanting if you are opening it soon.

The single-vineyard 2019 A Ponte was produced with grapes from vines planted in 2010, a
vineyard that used to belong to the Guímaro family a long time ago that they had to buy again and replant. It’s a blend of 30% Mencía and similar parts of Caíño, Merenzao, Brancellao and Sousón. All the grapes fermented together with 100% full clusters in closed troncoconic vats with a 50-day total maceration time and always matured in 500-liter barrels. It has less color and is rather light and ethereal compared to its siblings. All the 2019s are more closed than the 2020s, and the wines are more austere and, in general, have more depth and balance, with lower alcohol. This has 13% and a subtle nose of wild flowers and herbs, nuanced and complex.

This is superb for such young vines. 4,000 bottles produced. Wine Advocate 95+ points.

Evaluation of the tasted wines by Club del Vino members:

The tasting took place before the wines’ prices were revealed and 15 participants rated them from acceptable to exceptional. The combined results established the preference order during the tasting, as follows:

1 st – Blanco Flor de Muga 2019, White, Rioja
2 nd – two reds tied: Viña Tondonia Reserva 2010, Red, Rioja Alta and A Ponte 2019, Red, Ribeira Sacra
4 th – Ultreia el Rapolao 2019, Red, Bierzo
The white wine Blanco Flor de Muga 2019 was rated both the Best Wine and the Best Buy. The following Table presents the details of individual ratings and combined results.


For those that are no aware of my participation in the Special Forces


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Tasting # 247 – November 15, 2022 – 12:30   The Best Red Wines of 2022:

Tasting # 247 – November 15, 2022 – 12:30   The Best Red Wines of 2022:
Priorat, Ribera Del Duero, Ribera Sacra, Rioja, and Toro

 Capri Ristorante, McLean VA


Power Point presentation version in pdf format by Ricardo Santiago    click here

1 – Objective and Tasting Procedure  

1.1 Objective

Compare the best red wines selected in the tastings of the Club del Vino in 2022.

1.2 Tasting Procedure

– Blind Tasting in random order.

-Participants will rank the wines by order of preference (subjective ranking).

– The preferences are aggregated and informed to the participants.

– Participants will comment on the wines.

– Participants may try to identify the wines.

– The wines are identified, and prices are disclosed.

– Participants select ‘best value’ wine.

Presentation by Ricardo Santiago

Members Present:  TBA


– Appetizer: Calamari Fritti (Fried Fresh Calamari & Zucchini, served with mild fra-diavolo sauce).

– Pasta: Ravioli di Vitello (Homemade Ravioli filled with veal and mozzarella in aurora sauce).

– Meat: Lamb chops with Rice al Fungi.

-Cheese: Cheese from Spain (TBD: Manchego, Idiazabal, Mahon, Tetilla, or   Zamorano).


2  – Red Wines Tasted In 2022

  • 29 red wines were tasted in 2022.
  • Wines were from the 2 Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa/DOQ) and from 9 Denominación de Origen (DO).
  • Great representation of the diversity and excellence of red wines of Spain. (Future tastings should include Vinos de Pago, Mencía wines from DO Bierzo and additional DOCa Priorat and Garnacha Tinta based wines.)

3. Red Wines Tasted By Region And Do/Doca

  1. Green Spain: Galicia   —                DO Ribeira Sacra       2
  2. Duero River Valley: Castilla Y León  — DO Ribeira D. Duero     6,                                                                                                     —    DO Toro    3
  1. La Rioja: Rioja                                     —      DOCa Rioja             7
  2. Ebro River Valle: Navarra             —       DO Navarra                1                                                     Aragon                       —       DO Campo De Borja     1
  3. Cataluña: Cataluña                          —        DOCca Priorat           3
  4. Central Meditter.: Valencia            —        DO Valencia           1                                                                                                     —       Do Alicante            2
  5. The Meseta: Castilla-La Mancha —-DO Manchuela     1                                                                                                          —-        Do Almansa     2


4 – Best Red Wines, Spain, 2022, By Tasting 


#237 – Jan    DO Rib Sacra:           Dominio DO Bibei, Lalama, Ribera Sacra, 2017 (Mencía 90%, Brancellao, And Traces Of Garnacha And Mouraton)

 #238 – Feb   No Red Wines

#239 – Mar   DO Rib Duero:         Condado De Haza, Ribera Del Duero, Crianza, 2018  (Tempranillo 100%)

#240 – Apr    DO Almansa:            Venta La Vera,Ternario 1, Almansa, 2019 (Garnacha Tintorera 100%)

#241- May    Doq Priorat: Ferret Bobet, Vinyes Velles, Priorat, 2017 (Carinena 74% And Garnacha 26%)


#242 – Jun    DOCa Rioja:  Marqués De Cáceres, Reserva, Rioja, 2016 (Tempranillo 90%) And Latitud 42, Gran Reserva, Rioja, 2010 (Tempranillo)

#243 – Jul      Doc Alicante:           Bodegas Artadi De Laguardia, El Seque, Alicante, 2019 (Monastrell 100%)

#244 – Aug   DOCa Rioja:  Sierra Cantabria, Crianza, 2017 (Tempranillo 100%)

#245 – Sep    DO Rib Duero:         Emilio Moro, Malleolus, Ribera Del Duero, 2017 (Tempranillo 100%)

#246 – Oct    DO Toro:        Hacienda Terra D`Uro,  Uro, Toro, 2016 (Tinta De Toro 100%)


  1. Selection of the Wines

Five wines were selected from the best wines in the ten tastings that included red wines.

– Selected wines are from five different DOC/DOCa.

– Wines are from the main DOC/DOCa.

– Vintages may be different from the wines originally tasted because of availability of wines in the market.

– Prices were not taken into consideration.



     Marqués de Cáceres, Reserva, Rioja, 2016.
     Ferrer Bobet, Vinyies Velles, Priorat, 2018.


      Emilio Moro, Malleolus, Ribera del Duero, 2019.
      Hacienda Terra d`Uro, Uro, Toro, 2016.


      Dominio do Bibei, Lalama, Ribeira Sacra, 2018.


  1. Ratings of Selected Wines by Wine Club Members, %










Varieties: Cariñena (86%) and Garnacha Tinta (14%).
Vineyard: old vines grown on steep slate hills around the village of Porrera.
Harvest: Manual.
Fermentation: In oak and stainless-steel.
Aging: 15 months in French oak and 11 months in bottle.
Bottled without clarification and filtration (may have harmless deposit).
Alcohol: 14.5%



Variety: 85% Mencía and 15% (Brancellao, Mouratón, Sousón, and Garnacha Tintorera).
Vineyards: Vines 23 to 100 years old in different types of soils.
Harvest: By hand.
Fermentation: French oak troncocónicos (25, 35, and 45 HL).
Aging: 18 months in old French oak barrels (300 and 500l)  and 10 months in troncocónicos of French oak (45 HL).
Alcohol: 14%



Variety: 100% Tempranillo (Tinto Fino)
Vintage 2019 in DO Ribera del Duero: Excellent.
Vineyards: Selected grapes from old vines trained as bushes and on trellising.
Malolatic Fermentation: 30 days in stainless-steel tanks.
Ageing: French oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.5%


Varieties: Tempranillo (90%) and other varieties (10%).
Vintage in 2016 DOCa Rioja: `Very Good`.
Vineyards: Old vineyards from Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.
Harvest: By hand.
Aging: 15 months in French oak barrels, equally divided between new barrels and one- and two-year old barrels. Minimum two years in bottle.
Alcohol: 14%



Variety: 100 % Tinta de Toro.
Vintage 2016 in DO Toro: ‘Excellent’.
Vineyard: “Finca La Coscojosa” pre-phylloxera vines of 90 years of age planted in bush.
Viticulture: Organic – Ecological.
Harvest: Exclusively manual.
Fermentation: In 5000 liters oak barrels.
Aging: 20 months in French oak casks of 500 liters.
Alcohol: 14.5%

9. CV Members Rating

The participants first ranked the wines in order of preference without rating their quality. Then participants rated according to the indicators of quality level – from mediocre to exceptional. The combined results are as follows:

Best Rated Wine: Uro Toro 2016; close second: Malleolus Ribera del Duero 2019

Best Buy: Marqués de Cáceres, Reserva Rioja, 2016.

View the full evaluation here:


-Information on the appellations, wineries, and varieties of the selected wines can be found in the Club del Vino tastings:

Tasting # 237 – Ribeira Sacra

Tasting # 239 – Ribera del Duero and Toro

Tasting # 241 – Priorat

Tasting # 242 – Ribera del Duero and Rioja

Tasting # 244 –  Rioja

Tasting # 245 – Ribera del Duero

Tasting # 246 –  Toro

-Recommended book on Spanish wines:

Ballesteros Torre, Pedro. Compreender el Vino: Casi todo lo que aún no te havian contado de los vinos españoles. Planeta Gastro, 2021.

Available on Amazon Kindle, $8.99 (Comprender el vino: Casi todo lo que aún no te habían contado de los vinos españoles: Ballesteros Torres, Pedro: 9788408249795: Amazon.com: Books)



Three wise lessons:

3 lessons:
1. Do not despair before it’s over.
2. Do not celebrate before it’s over.
3. Do not leave your post before the fight is over.


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