Like many wine-growing countries on the American continent, Argentina was introduced to the vine by missionaries needing wine for their rituals – sacramental wine. Today, Argentina has established itself as a serious wine-making country.
Once a land of over-baked table wines, pioneers such as Nicolas Catena and Moët & Chandon saw the potential of high-altitude vineyards. Temperatures decrease as altitude increases, and in an otherwise hot country, this is critical to taming sugar levels and retaining acidity.
The secret to this is something known as diurnal range. Essentially, this is the difference between day and night-time temperatures, and is typically more pronounced the further inland – or from a large body of water – you are. This is because water absorbs and releases heat more slowly than air or soil, and so it acts as a temperature regulator. High, dry areas – such as deserts – show the greatest extremes.
In Argentina, high in the Andes, this range is coupled with blazing sunshine, cooler temperatures due to altitude, and a wide diurnal range. Days are hot and sunny, nights are cold, so sugar develops during the day and acidity is retained over the cold nights after the sudden drop in temperature. The sunshine also tames and ripens the grape tannins, making for ripe, fleshy wines that still have critical fresh acidity. Without that, they’d be wallowing beasts with no grace and too much alcohol.
In cooler climates, a low range isn’t a problem, because accumulation of sugars happens much more gradually. Getting a bit more technical, grapes grown with high diurnal range achieve phenolic ripeness at higher sugar levels – and therefore potential alcohol – than at low diurnal range, but without the extreme night temperatures the grapes would have too low acidity, and without the sunny warm days, they wouldn’t achieve ripeness.
High acidity is crucially important in the production of sparkling wines – particularly those made in the ‘traditional method’ in which the sparkle is added by a secondary fermentation in the bottle. English Sparkling Wine and Champagne are two such examples – also both good examples of cool climate wines with a low diurnal range. In fact, it’s how these styles came about – the still wines of Champagne were too lean and acid alone, so sugar was added to sweeten them. During transit, this sugar would ferment, and having no-where to escape, the carbon dioxide would be dissolved into the wine. It was, in effect, born of an accident – but accident or not, high acidity is what gives a bottle of fizz its refreshing character.
Chandon is Moët & Chandon’s Argentine outpost, born in 1959 of a commitment to make excellent sparkling wine. High altitude vineyards mean that they are able to capture ripe fruit flavours but retain naturally high acidity in the grapes – essential for making top-quality fizz. It was the first overseas venture for Moët & Chandon, and from its success they now make excellent sparkling wines in California and Australia.
Their vineyards rest in the heart of Mendoza, near Lujan de Cujo – an exemplary region for top-quality wine.
Where Champagne or English Sparkling wines tend towards floral, citrus and white fruit characters, the riper fruit of Argentina lends itself to a fuller body and stone fruit character – much like the sparkling wines of New Zealand, such as Cloudy Bay’s excellent Pelorus. Chandon Brut had a gorgeous rich texture and buttery brioche accents from extended development on the yeast cells from its secondary fermentation (how it becomes fizzy). Add to that ripe stone fruit and citrus, you’ve got an excellent bottle of bubbles.
Equally good is their Rosé, bringing strawberry and ripe red apple notes to mingle with peach and citrus over aromas of baked pasties. In other words, very delicious, fruity, refreshing and dry. Both wines are tremendous aperitifs, and the Rosé is particularly enjoyable paired with sliced charcuterie.
Chandon are official sponsors of McLaren-Honda in the Grand Prix, and we’ve enticed them to drop by four of our stores with a race car – you’ll find them on these dates:
11/12 June Majestic Twickenham, 92 Cross Deep, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 4RB
18/19 June Majestic Wirral, Column Road, West Kirby, Wirral, Merseyside, CH48 7EA
25/26 June Majestic York, Foss Islands Road, York, North Yorkshire, YO31 7UR
2/3 July Majestic St John’s Wood, 21a – 23 Loudoun Road, London, NW8 0ND
It’s a once-in- a-lifetime chance to enjoy the spark of both F1™ and Chandon, by getting up close and personal with a McLaren Honda Formula 1 car during four consecutive weekends from 11/12 June to 2/3 July.
But best of all, we’ve got 6 Chandon experiences to be won at the 2016 British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on Sunday 10th July 2016! This incredible prize consists of a pair of Grandstand tickets at Farm Curve, a Sunday car park pass, a McLaren-Honda picnic hamper and gift pack.
To be in with a chance of winning the Chandon experience at Silverstone, all you need to do is look out for one of the life-size, cardboard models of world renowned Formula 1 racing drivers, Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso in any of our stores.
Then it’s as simple as taking a selfie with either of the legendary sportsmen and uploading it to Instagram with the campaign hashtag, #enjoythespark and Chandon handle @chandonuk – quicker than you can say “pit stop”! Alternatively, you can enter online by buying two or more bottles of Chandon from the Majestic online store before midnight 3rd July 2016. If you don’t have Instagram, you can e-mail your picture to firstname.lastname@example.org with #enjoythespark in the subject line.