A New World Bordeaux Blend

Brand Name:  Quimera
Vineyard: Achaval Ferrer
Vintage:    2009
ABV%:      14%
Varietal: 40% Malbec, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.
Appellation:   Mendoza, Argentina
Price:        $37 (online price)   

After exploring the streets of Buenos Aires on a skateboard for a few hours, and being too fatigued to prepare dinner, it was decided to indulge in a home meal which would not require major preparation yet it would be appealing, mixed, and entertaining. What better way to meet our meal expectations than to enjoy the evening with a platter of cheeses and charcuterie, unique and distinctive as they are delicious, and accompany the food with a wine; interestingly, the recommended wine was a 2009 Quimera by Achaval Ferrer, a new world Bordeaux blend originating in Mendoza, Argentina.
Buenos Aires w/ MPGM
The Meal

Chacurterie, cheeses, and other appetizers were selected for our evening: 


Charcuterie:
  • Salame Mercedes: A well seasoned, dry, salty, salami with a hard texture.
  • Salame de campo:  A well seasoned, salty, and moist salami with a medium texture and noticeable oiliness.
  • Salame Tandil: Similar A dry, salty, and seasoned salami with a hard texture and more noticeable fat content than the others.
  • Jamon Iberico: Similar in style to the dry-cured “prosciutto”. 
  • Jamon York: York Ham: Pork based cold cut. Mild-flavored, lightly smoked and dry-cured.
Cheese
  • Cheddar: Firm texture, rich, mild, and with a tendency to melt in the mouth.
  • Gruyere: Cow’s milk cheese offering great contrasting color and flavor with a pale yellow interior and rich, nutty flavors.
  • Manchego: A sheep’s milk cheese yielding nutty flavors.
  • Brie: Creamy cheese
  • Provolone: Semi-hard smoked milk cheese with a very sharp taste
  • Philadelphia Cheese: By request of my companion who is a big fan of it. 
Other: Olives (black and green), pistachios, nuts, & bread. 
The Meal
After purchasing the food, only two elements were missing to complete the meal: Good tunes, this time provided by Lisandro Aristimuno, and a bottle of wine. 

Given that our platter included a variety of items yet it was only two of us, we wanted to choose one wine that would be in harmony, as much as possible, with all the elements of the meal:

  • Cheeses: The “rule of thumb” to follow when pairing cheese is to use wines with good acidity, low tannins, and light in body; a wine which will not overwhelm the flavors of the cheese, ergo multiple white wines or a light red wine. I write “rule of thumb” since in actuality the type of wine will depend on the weight, the texture, and pungency level of the cheese
  • Charcuterie: Each slice is different depending on the saltiness, fat, meat (%pork-%cow), and protein content thus there will be a better wine for each slice.  A good guideline is to select a wine with good acidity to cut through the fattiness of the meats and with some tannin to bond to the protein in the meat while not overpowering the flavors of the charcuterie. The goal is to harmonize the flavors of the charcuterie depending on what one enjoys; for me the goal is to have a wine with enough fruit concentration to refresh my palate and balance the saltiness of the chacurterie.
  • Olives: “Partes humani cultus necessariae vinum… atque √≥leum olivarum” an ancient Latin saying translating to “The necessary ingredients of civilization are wine and… olive oil.” These two components have a long history together and as such harmonize well. There are multiple styles for olives but one can generally say that green olives, salty and briny, have affinity for white wines while red olives, salty and fruity, have an affinity for red wines.
  • Nuts: Nuts will heighten the perception of oaky nuances imparted by oak barrel-aged wines.
The above mentioned guidelines provided us with tools to select a wine; however, wine is not a problem with one perfect solution, many variables form part of the pairing function: mood, weather, location, and personal taste, amongst other variables are important when selecting a good match.

The Wine

There is an expression used when pairing “if it grows together, it goes together,” given that the evening was taking place in Buenos Aires and all the cheeses, olives, and charcuterie were local products, the smart choice was to select a local wine; also, given that it was winter time, we wanted to get a “warmer” wine, thus a red wine was the ideal path to take. A 2009 Quimera, which is produced by Achaval Ferrer, was recommended by the wine store clerk. The Quimera is what is considered a “Bordeaux style blend”, a wine combining grape varieties typically used to make the wines of Bordeaux. The Quimera adaptation of the Bordeaux blend was composed of 40% Malbec, 22% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot.

The first thoughts in my mind questioned the suggestions, not because of quality, but rather for two reasons: (1) red Bordeaux blends are known for their powerful structure, complexity, deep flavors, and high tannins, factors which could overpower some elements of the meal and (2) I felt the wine deserved a more intricate dish, such as a juicy steak. After considering other options, we decided to follow the advice of the store owner and let the evening surprise us.

At home we opened the wine, lacking a decanter, we poured 2 glasses to maximize the exposure to the atmosphere, and while we prepared the platters, 30 minutes or so, the wine was able to breathe in situ where the wine aromas opened up and the profile softened due to short and small contact to oxygen.

Once the platters were completed, we set off to taste our wines. Visually the wine was violaceous in color with ruby red tones, sings of a developing wine. On the nose the wine displayed notes of plum, figs, and assorted black berries, followed by some pepper and oak under tones of vanilla, and coffee. On the palate the wine was a juicy and layered wine: plum, figs, blackberries intertwined with elegant and lightly toasted oak nuances. Notes of graphite also asserted themselves.   The significant amount of Malbec and Merlot in the 
blend provided richness, ripeness, an ample concentration creating a style closer to a Left Bank Bordeaux as opposed to a Right Bank Bordeaux.  The wine had medium tannins, medium plus body, and medium plus acidity. 

The 2009 Quimera was complex and balanced with a long finish and a round tannic structure resulting from the barrel fermentation and the 12 month oak aging. The early implementation of barrel fermentation could have impacted the wine by providing early lactones, the compound adding wood odors, which can add to mouth feel and help round off edgier green tannins. The wine finishes with ample fruit concentration and a medium plus vibrant acidity resulting from grapes originating from high altitudes zones (which Achaval Ferrel is known for using). A delightful wine to enjoy with food or on its own [ABV: 14.0% • ± $37.00].

The Pairing

Paring the wine with the meal produced the following conclusions:
  • The components of the meal with a hard texture and noticeable fat, such as the Manchego Cheese and the Salami respectively, provided enough proteins for the tannic structure of the wine. Paul Breslin, professor at Rugers University Department of Natural Sciences explained the interaction of tannins and proteins in Wine Spectator Magazine in the following manner: “if your mouth is feeling dry, you want something creamy to restore lubrication. And if your mouth feels greasy, you want something to clean it out.” Fatty foods lubricate the mouth, while astringent, or tannic food dry out the mouth; two opposites that attract, react, and combine to produce a balanced sensation. 
  • The elements of the meal with significant salt content enhanced the fruit concentration of the wine, which in turn offset some of the saltiness, leaving a juicy aftertaste.
  • Finally those elements nutty in flavor –nuts, olives, and gruyere cheese- complemented the oaky nuances in the wine.
  • The creamy and soft cheeses such as the cheddar and brie were overwhelmed by the structural profile of the wine (The brie and cheddar would do better with wine with high acidity, such as a Sauvignon Blanc, which would have be ability to cut through the creamy of those cheese.
All in all wine is bottled science and art, all it requires to make the experience more interesting and memorable is good music, experimentation and imagination for an enjoyable paring to occur, but perhaps the most important thing, to me,  is good company. Salute! 


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