Joaquín Alberdi owns a wine shop in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, one of the funkier areas you will find in the city, and his wine tastings are a combination of sharing an amazing amount of knowledge, with pure spectacle. I ended up there because a friend had recommended that I talk to him about areas I was going to visit in Argentina. Alberdi was relieved to find out that I was going to explore more than just Malbecs in Mendoza, as much as he likes them. He invited me to his tasting, and we expected to have time to talk, as the group was expected to be small, but it ended up being a large group of 10 people, most of whom did not speak any Spanish – so he asked me to translate for him. What ensued was a three hour tasting and discussion of how to explore Argentinian wines.
We had quite the discussion about the role of elevation and Malbecs, as he is partial to Malbecs that are grown in Salta, the northernmost region of Argentina. The difference in elevation between Mendoza (700+ meters) vs. Salta (1700+ meters) show the differences in Malbecs that are grown in Argentina.The thicker skins that the grapes grow at the higher altitudes makes for a darker, more tannic and concentrated wine, and are pretty amazing to taste side by side. The Malbecs of Mendoza are much more well known and greater in quantity, but Salta provided Joaquin with an opportunity to explain how you can plant the same grape, while getting quite different expressions of wine that reflect the soil and climate of each region.
One of the strengths of Joaquín’s tastings is the fact that he meets you where you need to be met – many of the people in the group knew very little about winemaking, or that there were Malbecs made anywhere but Mendoza. Alberdi does a great job letting people taste the wines they expect to taste when they come to Argentina, but then pushing them to explore just a bit more – we also had a nice Tannat from Salta, as well as an excellent Spumante from the region. In short, a nice introduction to the beginning of my Argentina/Chile/Bolivia trip!