April 2016 came out again this week and our cover features a balloon with Carmen all over it. No, not the opera and no, not a birthday party.

Carmen winery has used ‘Balloon’ and Discovery’ together for some time now. A couple of years ago the team that runs all the Santa Rita Group wines in Ireland (Santa Rita, Carmen, Dona Paula and Nativa) dreamt up the idea of hoisting their own balloon!!

Hole in One?

We were invited up to Carton House in Maynooth to take a flight. To be honest I don’t think a flight was ever on the cards so much as the visual impact was meant to be. (Marketing can be great fun!) As it happens the balloon never took off. It was too windy – (isn’t it always too windy for balloons in Ireland?) Still, the Discovery aspect was brilliant. We all hopped into the basket and listened to the ‘whoooof’ of the gas jets, felt their heat and watched the balloon’s envelope fill with hot air. In a way I imagined what the voyage might have been like.

All fired up

The photos were great! As was the lecture afterwards. It was the first time that I met Sebastian Labbé, head winemaker at Carmen, and I was very impressed. See. Years later the balloon flight has finally taken off for me!


It’s a great cover, great wine and a really interesting wine maker.

World Malbec Day

Malbec World Day will be here on April the 17th. World Days are fairly common place for grapes now and you can take your pick of which one tickles your fancy. It’s all good fun, clever marketing and to a large extent everyone is a winner.

Malbec Day is different as it tends to celebrate Argentina as much as it celebrates the grape itself.  Thus my invite to celebrate reads:

The Embassy of the Argentine Republic in Ireland
in association with Wines of Argentina
Invite you to celebrate Malbec World Day by attending a
   Trade Tasting of Argentinian Wine

Good for the Argentines. There will, of course, be many other grapes from Argentina on show. As I say Malbec Day is more ‘The Country’ and not ‘The Grape’ any longer. If it was the grape alone we would revisit Cahors, Bordeaux and the Loire in France where the grape has been grown for hundreds of years and is often known as Cot and Auxerrois. Indeed, Argentina was planted with cuttings from France as far back as the 1860’s.

Trapiche Reserve Malbec

When we look at French Malbec today we find two schools of thought. Soft, plump fruit driven styles as made popular by Argentina and the tannic, green, rustic styles traditionally associated with the south west of France. Recently the very impressive Quintessential Wines showed a light Cahors (50%Malbec, 50%Cab Franc) Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees rrp€19.50. A little further in the tasting they showed Mas de Perie Les Escures Cahors (100%Malbec, organic) rrp€21.50. It was excellent – all sinewy, rich and long and packed tight with rich flavours. It would be an absolute shame (crime?) if France were to adopt the lighter fruity styles in preference to their tradition as shown in the second wine here. Why? Because the plump fruity style has been dictated by the United States, Argentina’s biggest export market for Malbec – a market dictated by fashion and currency exchange. The US ‘found’ Malbec and wondered where it had been hiding! It is as likely to ‘lose’ it again and not really care that the rest of the Argentine wine trade would be lost also.


Malbec is also planted in Chile (some argue before it was in Argentina at all – still ‘lost’ I suppose), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the US. It is a grape with immense potential and modern science allows winemakers insight into where best to plant, which clones will perform well and, as importantly, how to use those grapes to the best effect in the winery. In this way producers will begin to separate the grape from the wine. Right now it can be argued that Malbec is the wine and not the grape and as with 1980’s oaky Chardonnay if consumers fall out of love with the wine then the grape will suffer!

World Malbec Day will celebrate in style on April 17th and Argentina will have cause to show off. I hope it goes well for them. One day every now and then, however, is a day out. It is not marketing. Wines of Argentina needs to remember that each market has its nuances and right now it runs Ireland from the UK. It’s influence for the past number of years on the success of its wines being sold in Ireland has been negligible. We need home based wine education, home based opinion formers and home based champions.  These are the guys who are here for more than a day out. A UK budget will always favour the UK, will bring people and commentators into Ireland who really don’t have any idea of our market and who leave without having any intention to follow up until, of course, World Malbec Day spins around again in a year’s time.


Last September the cover of featured Marcelo Belmonte of Trapiche. The Malbec tasting that Marcelo gave was, quite simply, world class. He showed nine single vineyard Malbec wines of varying vintages from varying geographies across Argentina. Each would retail between €35 and €40 a bottle. He impressed on us that by maximising his understanding of how to grow grapes to perfection he could supply better material to his winemaking colleagues who in turn would then be in a more favourable position to make better wine across the whole of the Trapiche empire. Comans Wines Distributors continue to preach this wisdom. I hope Wines of Argentina support initiatives such as these undertaken by our local distributors, opinion formers and trade experts. I hope Wines of Argentina see the value in our home grown talent and that above all they see the fabulous potential available to them in Ireland.

Happy Malbec Day.                                                                            Now when is Argentina Day?