Of Greece and Argentina, with German


What do Greece and Argentina have in common? Sure they both have blue in their flags, and a fair measure of experience with catastrophic fiscal meltdowns, but I’m here to talk about the important stuff: food and wine.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting lunch at Estia, a Greek restaurant in Center City Philadelphia. The wines weren’t Greek, however, but Argentinian, with Trivento’s head winemaker, German (I know, this is getting confusing) di Cesare, presenting. Trivento has a big presence in Pennsylvania and is certainly one of the first wineries I think of when someone mentions Argentina, so I was all too happy to accept the invitation. It also helped that I’ve been a fan of the Trivento Torrontes for years, and lo! – it was on the lineup for the afternoon.

Trivento, named for the three prevailing winds that are integral to the terroir of Mendoza, literally translates to “Three Winds” (fancy that!). The winery has been around since the mid-1990s, when Concha y Toro, currently my favorite mega-producer of Chilean wines, purchased some land in Argentina, for reasons we can only begin to guess at (personally, I think they wanted to grow wine grapes). As fate would have it, that’s exactly what they did, and today Trivento is one of Argentina’s largest wine producers, with 3,185 acres of vineyards to their name.

German di Cesare has been working at the winery since 2002. In 2008, he was placed in charge of the Trivento Reserve range and Amado Sur blends, where he was quite successful. Now, he also oversees Trivento’s Golden Reserve range of single variety wines. My impression of German is that of a sincere and friendly man who genuinely wants Argentinian wine to be the best it can be, and who has the knowledge and — thanks to his position at Trivento — the influence to realize this passion. He seemed genuinely intent on receiving our feedback and incorporating this into his craft, and I can only hope I was able to provide something of use.

(He did not play guitar for us.)
(He did not play guitar for us.)

The wines of the day numbered five, with the first being the aforementioned 2014 Reserve Torrontes ($11/bottle). Already a wine I purchase for myself on occasion, I’ve long been a fan of its intriguing floral character as well as the fact that I won’t go broke drinking it.

The 2011 presented familiar aromas of white flower and lychee, with a hint of apricot beneath, The palate told a similar story: flowers first, then fruit, all against a backdrop of balance. We learned from German that Trivento has actually changed its Torrontes techniques since he’s been with the winery; in the past, they picked the grapes later in the year, resulting in a less acidic final product. And indeed, Torrontes from other wineries has the tendency to fall a bit flat. Appetizers arrived while we were tasting this one, for me Estia’s life-changing grilled octopus with onions, peppers and capers (pictured above), whose vinaigrette and dill notes complemented the crisp, floral wine perfectly. Suffice it to say that the 2011 Trivento Torrontes is another winner.

The next wine was the only one that wasn’t a straight varietal: the 2014 Amado Sur Malbec ($15/bottle), containing 70% of the eponymous grape, with 20% Bonarda (Argentina’s signature grape prior to the advent of Malbec — rare to find on its own these days, though it’s out there) and 10% Syrah. Unlike the Torrontes, this wine was aged for eight months in French oak, and it shows. Redolent of caramel, plum and balsamic spices, it tasted of chocolate and more plums. This too paired well with the octopus, but in a different way, with oak influence underscoring the char of the delectable mollusk. I would, however, be more inclined to pair this with red meat on a day-to-day basis, especially given the impossibility of replicating Estia’s octopus in my own kitchen.

Onward we drank, coming to the vertical component of our wine tasting lunch, it always being a treat to compare vintages of the same wine. The 2011, 2012 and 2013 Golden Reserve Malbec retail (or will, anyway) for about $21 a bottle, and while the 2013 hadn’t yet been released, it should be available soon. These wines are all 100% Malbec, come from Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza, and were aged for 12 months in French oak.

The lineup. Rest assured that the 2012 and 2013 Golden Reserve Malbecs look pretty much the same as the 2011.
The lineup. Rest assured that the 2012 and 2013 Golden Reserve Malbecs look pretty much the same as the 2011.

The 2011 presented notes of blackberry and cedar on the nose, with more dark fruits on the palate. This one (predictably) had the lightest tannins of the three and paired best with the fish I ordered for my main course (it was some sort of bass, but unfortunately I neglected to write down which sort). A well-balanced wine with a long finish, this is what I think of when I think of Malbec: a fine example of varietal character.

Despite showcasing the most restrained nose of the three Malbecs – with faint red and blue fruits as well as some black pepper – it showed the most potential. Though more tannic than the 2011, it still came across as relatively soft and quite drinkable, if a bit coy. The consensus at the table was that given time, this would age into the best of them all, and I tend to agree, despite my lack of cellar space or patience (mostly due to the joys of apartment living). Even so, I’d certainly recommend that anyone with the means to lay a bottle down for a few years take a chance on this one.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and weekday wine tasting lunches are no exception. Despite being the youngest, the 2013 Golden Reserve Malbec was easily the most approachable of the three, with big aromas of raspberry and blueberry, and a palate to match. This, too, showed some signs of oak influence, with a faintly wooden and peppery finish, but fruit was the main player here. And while I usually consider fruit-forward wines boring, they’re still undeniably delicious when done right, as this one was. I’ll be picking some of this up for sure when it hits the shelves.

So, what do Greece and Argentina have in common? Well, Greek food and Argentinian wine sure are a hell of a lot of fun to consume together, especially when both are this satisfying. Aside from that, I honestly couldn’t say.


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