Wine Enthusiast's Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa was one of the women in the spotlight last month during the Argentina Wine Awards in Mendoza. One of the most respected female minds in wine, Susan joined a panel of esteemed female judges to taste through hundreds of wines in order to pick this year's winners. After a gruelling week of tasting, Susan hit a few vineyards with her co-judges before heading back home to New York. Amanda Barnes caught up with her to get her impressions of Mendoza and Argentina's wine scene.
During your week of tasting, what general trends or changes did you see in Argentine wine?
I think diversity in style was apparent within established categories like Chardonnay, Malbec and even Torrontes. Winemakers are mastering these grapes and also experimenting, which I think is great.
What varieties would you most like to see Argentina develop?
Chardonnay could be a play for Argentina. The quality and pricing is very good, and certainly, at least in America, Chardonnay is very popular. I also think red blends and Bonarda are interesting, especially for younger wine consumers.
A Petit Verdot was picked as the top wine of the Mendoza region, what potential do you see in this variety in Argentina?
I know Petit Verdot might not have a huge draw in the mainstream market, but who knows…maybe Argentina could help put single varietal PV on the map! The ones we tasted were very surprising, and delicious.
During your visit, you also went to many of Mendoza’s top restaurants - did any dishes or pairings stand out for you?
There were so many incredible meals and creative approaches. I’m not sure I can pinpoint only a few but I can tell you that the meals and pairings at Azafran really blew me away. And the best steak of the trip was at Lagarde winery, hands down.
As someone who travels to many wine regions around the world, what wine country or production region do you find Mendoza most comparable to? Are there any lessons Mendoza might be able to learn from it?
I kept thinking of South Africa on this trip, because of the dramatic, unparalleled scenery, the passion and progressive attitude of the winemakers, and the Old meets New World approaches. Mendoza should delve more deeply into the various expressions of Malbec possible in the region, and think about the new consumers—food-driven drinkers, women, Millennials—while determining how to market this category to the U.S. In particular.
This year’s Argentina Wine Awards was focused on the empowerment of women in the industry. How have you seen the role or presence of women in the wine industry change over the last few years? Is there still a way to go, or do you think we've reached an equality?
There is always improvement to be made. Until our gender no longer has any bearing on the job we do or how we are perceived, there’s work to be done. But the wine industry is heavily populated by women now, and today's wine consuming public is largely female, so we’re definitely moving the needle.
What did you enjoy most about your experience in Mendoza?
I loved getting out into the vineyards at the Catena vacation home, at Lagarde (where we dined by the vines) and Zuccardi, where we did an olive oil tasting before dinner. The horseback riding in Tupangato was a definite plus and what an incredible spread after…very interesting selection of wines to go with our asado which made for some fun pairing experiments.
You can see the full results of Argentina's Wine Awards here
Amanda Barnes is a British wine journalist who has been based in Mendoza and across South America for over 5 years. When she isn't hopping the Andes to explore the neighbour's vineyards, she is hopping into vineyard pits to get to the root of Argentine wine. You can follow her dirty trail and wine notes at www.amandabarnes.co.uk