Since arriving in Mendoza, I’ve had many people ask me, “So do you have a lot of experience with wine?” And my answer has to be, “Well, yes. I have a lot of experience tasting and enjoying wine.” I suppose it’s all relative. The great news is that resources and opportunities abound in Mendoza for immersing yourself in the type of wine experience and knowledge you’re interested in whether it is a casual connoisseur or aspiring sommelier.
I started my Mendoza wine experience in The Vines’ Tasting Room in the city, where there is a flight of experiences to have along with your flight of wine. The depth of experience in the staff and the opportunities for various kinds of tastings make for a great pairing.
Hopefully you have had a chance to read Amanda’s blogs about Winemaker’s Night which the Tasting Room hosts each Wednesday, where a local winemaker comes in to share their wines, stories, and wisdom. With a gorgeous plate of cheese and freshly baked breads, we are walked through how the wines are made, the terroir, their philosophies, personal stories, tasting notes, and always an invitation to come out to the winery. There is the opportunity to ask questions and learn all sorts of information in a relaxed environment.
My first Winemaker’s night was with Angel Mendoza of Domaine St Diego. What a treat! He started his presentation by talking about the most necessary ingredients of winemaking, love for nature and passion. It was like he understood exactly why I came to Mendoza and was serving it to me in a glass. He shared with us his idea of a holy trinity: wine, olive oil, and bread. He spoke of the significance of passing along the winemaking tradition and culture throughout generations of his family and the theory of playing music to the barrels as the wines age. A new thing to add to your tasting notes! “I taste a bold tango with a classical finish.”
Winemaker’s Night is a casual and enjoyable way to get inspired, hear others’ questions and insights, and directly experience the intention and passion that the winemaker put into making the very wine you’re drinking. And if you’re like me and trying to learn some Spanish, the discussion takes place in both English and Spanish and is an ideal cultural experience when visiting Mendoza, a ‘must do’.
Personal Tasting with a Sommelier
I returned to the Tasting Room to pick the brain of Ezequiel, a Wine Specialist on staff. I knew that the staff would be able to help me pick out scents and flavor profiles, and I was also looking to get to the basics of how to enjoy wine and why we talk about things like the terroir and tannins and such. Ezequiel suggested that a great place for us to start is perhaps the most obvious, to taste the different types of wines: sparkling, white, rosé, red, and dessert.
Of course you cannot learn everything in one sitting, but it was an insightful introduction that gives me a lot of places to explore. You can check out ExperienceMendoza.com for tips on tasting wine and an extensive glossary that will help you impress even an experienced wine enthusiast. Pair that with the following straightforward advice, and you will have plenty to practice and play with in your wine experience:
If you want to learn how to taste wine, taste a lot of wines. But try to be conscious about it. Take the time to play around with it.
Write down what you taste and experience.
If you want to learn to smell wines, then smell things and focus on your sense of smell often. When you are eating a pear, smell the pear. Focus on the nuances of what makes a pear taste like a pear. You can practice this anytime, anywhere.
Learn the rules first. Then you can destroy the rules and play with the rules.When tasting wine, look for the balance of the key components: acidity, tannins, sweetness, and alcohol. Also think about balance when pairing a wine with food. (Insider’s tip: Ezequiel has a knack for wine and food pairings. Have a favorite dish? Tell him about it and discuss options for an ideal wine pairing)
Finally, never turn down an invitation for wine, food, or both. Never turn down the opportunity to learn and let your tastebuds play.
The Tasting Room also offers the unique opportunities of blind tastings, the experience to blend your own wine, different types of flights like the Malbec flight or the opportunity to build your own flight. It's a great time to chat with the staff about options for more formal education as well, if you are interested in wine courses.
You can even get started before you get to Mendoza by checking out ExperienceMendoza.com. In addition to the tasting tips and glossary, it also offers an overview of the wine regions of Mendoza, tasting notes for an abundance of wines and of course recommendations and details for visiting wineries in Mendoza.
Erin McElroy is a freelance writer living in Mendoza, and taking every chance she can get to practice her tasting skills and Spanish.