Rave: Argentina’s Malbecs

Last week, we had the exciting pleasure of heading to a special wine tasting of Argentinian wines, to celebrate Malbec World Day. Naturally, we jumped on the opportunity to taste a plethora of delicious wines, all in the name of research for the fourth floor.

We were surprised to hear about all of the varieties of wine that come out of Argentina. They’re best known for their Malbec grapes, but have some amazing Torrontes, Chardonnay and even a tasty sparkling wine.

We’ll definitely be looking for this bottle of sparkling wine ($11.95) for our next soiree. 

A little history lesson: the Malbec grape was introduced to Argentina from the south of France about 160 years ago, and it immediately began to thrive in the dry, mountainous landscape. 

Grapes love dry, hot temperatures and the Andes mountains.

The grapes grew like crazy and are now found all over the country, making Argentina one of the world’s biggest producers of the varietal. Canadians are the second biggest consumers of Argentinian wines, just behind the U.S. Because of the varying altitudes of Argentina grapes are grown from below sea level to about 1,000 metres above Malbec grapes show quite different characteristics and flavours, depending on the region they’re from.

Malbec grapes in Mendoza, Argentina’s biggest growing region.

Back to the wine. We tried a whopping 18 varieties (there was a lot of spitting involved, so that we could make it back to the office in one piece), and most of them were delicious. Malbec wines from Argentina are rich, complex and have a pretty, deep red jewel hue. Some winemakers add a bit of another grape, like Cabernet Sauvignon, to create something uniquely Argentinian. Of the six whites we tried, the aforementioned sparkling, the Dominio del Plata ‘Crios’ Torrontes ($14.95) and the Trivento ‘Amado Sur’ (a blend of Torrontes, Viognier and Chardonnay; $15) were our favourites. Each wine was fruity, slightly floral and crisp, perfect for any upcoming summer event. 

Find these at your local LCBO.

There were many more reds to taste, and as the tasting went on it (ahem) became harder not to just love them all. But, of the 12 (!) we tasted, here were the ones we loved best. And yep, the list includes four Malbecs (they really are delicious). 

A lovely vista.

The Rutini Malbec ($21.95) is available only by private order, but we loved the slightly spicy flavour and smooth aftertaste of one of Argentina’s most-visited wineries. Another favourite was Bodega Benegas Malbec ($17.95), which is from a very small winery that grows grapes about 800 metres above sea level. The result is a lovely, smooth wine that’s slightly fruity with just the right amount of tannins (the stuff that makes your mouth pucker). 

We tried this wine from 2009, and recommend you hunt down a bottle, too.

We also loved the Kaiken Ultra Malbec ($19.95), which was made richer and deeper with the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, as well as the Dominio Del Plata Ben Marco Malbec ($20.95; seems like we’ll need to visit this winery the next time we’re in Argentina). 

Two delicious Malbecs.

Non-Malbec favourites were the Pinot Noir from Manos Negras ($14.95) and the limited edition Bonarda from Nieto Senetiner (about $25). The best part about this wine tasting? The fact that every wine we tried was $25 or less, making Argentina’s wines delicious AND affordable (this might be a dangerous combination).

City Living: Classes in Toronto

The same old grind of work, friends, sleep, do it all again can leave your brain a little under-used. Sometimes, we pine for the days of sitting in a university classroom learning and being challenged. We’ve realized that just because we’re all grown up doesn’t mean we can’t continue to learn new things in a formal way. In fact, since we can take classes just on a whim or to satisfy a certain curiosity, learning outside the structure of finishing a degree can be an amazing experience. From wine tasting to a new language, there’s a whole range of new skills to develop.

Wine classes
It’s highly doubtful that you learned about wine as a child, so now is the time to take a wine class if you’re looking to learn something new and practical. Now, we’re not suggesting you become one of those wine snobs that cause everyone to cringe as they describe the subtle hints of berries and aroma of hickory smoke in your wine. But, we think it’s pretty useful to know which wine goes with what food, the differences between wines from various countries, and even how to distinguish a Gewurztraminer from a Riesling by smell alone. 

George Brown Continuing Education offers great introductory classes, like Grape Comparison, New World Wines and Sensory Evaluation of Wines. The Independent Wine Education Guild is another a great option to brush up on your knowledge. The program was developed as vocational training for those working in the hospitality industry, but it is also available to the keen amateur. There are three levels – Intermediate, Advanced and Diploma. The LCBO also runs one-hour tutored tastings and two-hour wine appreciation courses at select stores across the province. 

Cooking Classes
Because you’ll need something to serve with all that delicious wine you expertly purchased, why not try some cooking classes? Whether you’re a total beginner or looking to expand your repertoire, there is a class for everyone. Again, George Brown is a great option with pretty much any type of cuisine or skill level possible (Butchery and Charcuterie? Yes, please!).  Dish Cooking Studio offers perhaps our favourite selection of classes including Demysitifying Macaroons, Date Night Spice up your Life, Nonna’s Kitchen Italian Comfort and Healthy Mediterranean, to name a few. Other options include classes at the Market Kitchen at the St. Lawrence Market, The Culinarium, and The Good Egg.

Language Classes
Being Canadian, we should have at least a basic knowledge of French, but most of us have left that skill in the past, alongside our teenage angst. Because languages seem to immediately disappear from our tongues and memories if we don’t practice, why not re-discover your high school French skills with a language class? Or better yet, learn that sexy Italian or Spanish that you’ve always dreamed of. Being the multicultural city that it is, Toronto has no shortage of language learning options, with literally almost every language you can think of being taught in some pocket of the GTA. The Alliance Francaise offers the largest selection of French courses and study options among Canadian language schools. U of T’s School of Continuing Studies also offers instruction in 15 languages, including Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian and Russian (!). пойдите, научитесь.


Dance classes

While you may be past the age for recitals, you’re never too old to dance. Just like languages, learning ballet, hip hop or jazz can be both fun and nostalgic, as well as a pretty amazing work out. Gone are the days of just gazing up with envy at the beautiful ballerinas in the windows of the National Ballet School. NBS actually offers recreational adult ballet classes that include seven progressive levels of instruction. The program allows you to advance at your own pace through a carefully constructed series of increasingly complex exercises. If ballet is not your thing, Shawn Byfield’s dance school offers a wide range of levels of hip hop and tap dance. As well, the Joy of Dance school offers everything from Latin ballroom to Bollywood-style to burlesque.

While we’re not suggesting that you undertake a new degree, we are suggesting that learning something new might be the perfect cure for restlessness, or at the very least, give you something to chat about around the water cooler at work.