Steven and I were kindly invited along to Gaucho, Edinburgh for a wine tasting in celebration of World Malbec Day. This was the Edinburgh locations first wine tasting since opening in November of last year. Gaucho have restaurants all over the country (London, Leeds, Birmingham & Manchester) and many abroad too. Gaucho specialises in Argentinian food and drink, they bring Argentinian culture to you in your home town – and they do it very, very well. Despite specialising in beef, they do have a vegan option on their menu (vegans everywhere rejoice) and it sounds delicious. We didn’t get to try it as we were there for the wine, but we will definitely go back for the food. Gaucho also works with its own winemakers, you’ll find these wines in the restaurant and on the website where you can buy them (and you should…).
As we walked in to the restaurant, we were greeted by the most friendly and approachable staff. Everyone had a smile on their face. We sat in the bar upstairs for a drink, which has walls lined with whiskey, before heading downstairs to start our wine tasting. The host took our jackets, and guided us through the beautiful restaurant, to the private dining room for our wine tasting with Edgar. (you know a restaurant is fancy when they have a cloakroom, am I right?).
We started with a short introduction from Edgar, Gaucho’s sommelier and a palette cleanser of sparkling wine to get our palettes ready for the wine we were about to taste. Edgar explained that we’d be trying three French Malbec’s and three Argentinian Malbec’s to show the contrast of Malbec grapes grown in cooler and warmer climates. Steven and I are both red wine beginners… we knew very little about red wine before the event, as did some others who were there, but Edgar taught us absolutely everything we needed to know. Edgar made it easy for us to understand why the taste would be different using a simple analogy of keeping a piece of fruit in the fridge and another on the table. If you keep an apple in the fridge it stays almost intact and ripens slowly, but you leave a piece of fruit in your fruit bowl on a table it ripens and it becomes more juicy. That’s what happens with the grapes grown in different climates. You’ll also find that you’ll be able to see a difference in the colour of your wines depending on the climate the grape was grown in. Warmer climates produce deeper, more intense reds whereas cooler climates produce more pinky, bright reds.
Anyway, onto the wine.
Edgar had created three pairings for us to try, starting with an entry level pairing of two 2017 wines. Both had gone through the fermenting process of carbonic maceration (I now know what that means, gold star for me), which means that the wines had very low tannins and were very fruity. Both bottles were also screw tops, which Edgar explained was common for wines that had been fermented using carbonic maceration as these wines are ready to drink quickly, and do not age well.
French: La Baume Grande Olivette Malbec, 2017
The first French wine was my least favourite of the night, I was not a fan and neither was Steven. It’s colour was a more pinky toned red and it had a very sweet smell, almost like tutti fruitti bubblegum. It was not as sweet to taste as it smelled, but it was fruity and fresh. I found it dry on the tongue, and tangy at the back of the mouth because of the acidity.
Argentinian: Tintillo, Santa Julia Malbec Bonarda, 2017
The first Argentinian wine was one of my favourites. It had an intense, rich red colour, and a more wild smell than the French. It was fruity and sweet to taste, and went down very smoothly. As someone who doesn’t drink red wine often, this went down a treat.
French: Cahors Malbec, Georges Vigouroux, 2016
The second French wine was from what Edgar called ‘a bad year for wine in France’. Apparently there was a frost, which meant that the fruit wasn’t as good as usual. It was a particularly cold year, and cold years can kill entire vines. So, a cooler climate meant that the wine was more acidic, which I wasn’t a fan of, but Steve loved it. The colour was very pinky red, and it has a strong smell of red fruits. It was much fruitier than the first French wine but still much more tangy and acidic than the Argentinian. The acidic nature of the wine means that it would go well with food as the acid helps you to break down and digest your food.
Argentinian: Sonvida Malbec, Mendoza, 2013
The second Argentinian wine was my favourite. It’s made in very small batches of about 80,000 bottles a year and is named after the wine makers wife, Sonia. The second pairing wines were both from cooler climates, so this vineyard is a little closer to the mountains meaning that it’s cooler than other parts of Argentina. Again, the colour was a lot deeper and more rich red than the French, and much softer. It went down a lot smoother than the French too.
French: La Patrie Cahors Malbec, 2015
2015 is said to be the ‘vintage of the century’ in France and a year that produced great wines all round. Steven appeared to agree, calling this his favourite of the night. Edgar called this a ‘classic Malbec’. The colour was much brighter than the other wines of the night, and the taste was richer. Once again, because of the slightly cooler climate it was more acidic than the Argentinian, but much fruiter than the other French wines of the night. It was by far the best French wine we tasted.
Argentinian: Vina Patricia Malbec, 2013
The final Argentinian wine we tasted was from Gaucho’s own vineyard which produces a teeny 30,000 bottles of wine a year. It had a deep colour (as the vines get much more sunlight in this region), a soft tannin and smelt very fruity and juicy. This would be fab with simple food as it’s not too intense. It was absolutely delicious. Again, Steve preferred the French and I preferred the Argentinian.
Can you see a pattern? Steven’s a French wine man and I’m an Argentinian wine gal. I guess that’s a good thing as we’ll always get a bottle to ourselves…
We had such a lovely time at Gaucho Edinburgh for the wine tasting, doing something completely different and completely new to us. We learned so much from Edgar, and what we loved the most was that Edgar was there to educate us, not sell us wine.