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Masterclass: Chile and Argentina with Condor Wines

Wednesday 3rd April, 2019

Presented by Lee Evans

The Oxford Wine Company Shop, 6 Turl Street, Oxford, OX1 3DQ

With the weather suddenly turning on us this week, relentless rain, hail stones, snow and a bone chilling wind, the prospect of an evening tucked away in the Turl Street cellar sipping wines with true expression of the climate and cultures of Argentina and Chile was a blissful invitation.

Another sell-out event, our shivering tasters descended into the cellar eagerly and sat chatting amongst themselves, eyeing the wine line up.

The evening was hosted by the managing director of Condor Wines, Lee Evans. Lee jointly runs Condor Wines with his wife Maria, who is of Argentinian heritage. They set up the business in 2011 and have been travelling South America for over 15 years meeting winemakers, learning about the vines, listening to their stories, their history, immersing themselves in the food and culture of these regions and always feeding a love for the beauty of the countries and their expressive wines.

The first wine of the evening was Los Hardoldos Chacabuco Malbec. Lee revealed that truth be told, his heart lies with Argentina and the story behind this wine is a good example of why. The winery began with one man, his bicycle and a desire to share the quality of his fruit. The Falasco family have now grown from door to door selling and are one of the top five producers in Argentina. Round and juicy with blackberry, blackcurrant and a little spice the group warmed and relaxed.

While the second wine was poured Lee explained the why Argentina is built to be a wine making country. The influence of the Andes, high altitude, low rainfall (Mendoza gets as little as 200ml of rain per year!), warm sun, cool evenings and sandy soils (good for drainage but retain moisture) make for perfect grape growing and Tannat thrives here. We tasted the Quara Estate Tannat which with crunchy red fruits, well balanced acidity and a jammy finish was suggested as a perfect match to the Argentinian Asado barbeque.

Pais Salvaje, the third wine of the evening and oh my what a wine! Intense smoke on the nose with a punchy sour cherry, herbaceous but very light palate. Pais is a grape variety that until the 21st Century was Chile most prominent; it is also grown in California (Mission) and Argentine (Criolla Chica). A wild and wonderful wine that comes from the world renowned Bouchon family; fourth generation winemakers with heritage from Arveyres, France. If you haven't tried their wines you simply must - we have a good selection at The Oxford Wine Co!

The next wines was one of the favourites of the evening; Toro de Piedra Carmenere & Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The Vina Requingua family sourced inspiration for the label of their Toro de Piedra range from a famous Chilean sculptor. The wine is bold and rich with the classic Carmenere characteristics of blackcurrant, chocolate and cedar with a meaty and subtle aniseed finish.

Next the Hermandad Malbec. Also, part of the Falasco family, the story here is very much about heritage and culture. Hermandad means 'brotherhood' and the label depicts animals that represent each sibling of the family. The grapes for Hermandad are harvested from vineyards in the Uco Valley which has a reputation for premium quality wines because of the high altitude and soils present. The wine gives a sophisticated nose with prune, blackcurrant, violets and leather characteristics. Great aging potential!

The grand finale! Altrocredro 'Alandes' Paradoux, a unique wine because is it a blend of grapes and vintages: Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot taken from vintages 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. Karim Mussi, originally from Lebanon, is the head winemaker and sources his grapes from quality vineyards along the Andes mountain range - hence the name 'Alandes'. Dark fruits but with a freshness on the palate, a very well balanced and enjoyable note to finish on... until the next time temptation lands on this elegant bottle.

Paris Barghchi