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Wine Forum wrap-up

Argentinian wines, already well-established in the state, were the focus of this year’s event.

Greg Horton May 4th, 2011

South America has been the source of remarkable value wines for the past two decades. Beginning in the 1990s, Chile began collecting shelf space and market share, especially with familiar names like Concha y Toro, Frontera and Walnut Crest.

Within the past decade, as the market has matured, Argentina has joined Chile as an exporter of excellent everyday drinkers and world-class, critically acclaimed wines.

This year’s Wine Forum of Oklahoma brought together chefs, vintners, winery owners, students and the public to explore the relationship of food and wine in two surprisingly similar cultures: Oklahoma and Argentina. Both have a long tradition of cowboys (gauchos in South America) and beef, and the preferred wines of both places — Cabernet Sauvignon in Oklahoma and Malbec in Argentina — complements the beef culture of both.

Representatives of some of Argentina’s best wineries were in Stillwater in April to showcase their wines on the Oklahoma State University campus.

Hosted by OSU’s School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and the College of Human Environmental Sciences, the event gave Oklahomans a chance to taste new wines and new vintages of old favorites, both in a classroom setting and as part of food and wine pairings.

above Burns Hargis

Many of the names already have gained traction in the metro: Pascual Toso, Crios, Luca, Susana Balbo, La Posta and Luigi Bosca. Participants were able to taste red and white wines from these Argentinian wineries sideby-side, while learning about varietals, climate, culture, pairings and winemaking.

In addition to the familiar names, participants got to taste the wines of Finca Decero for the first time.

According to Stephanie Morton- Small, vice president of sales and marketing, Decero is one of the only Argentinian wineries making singlevineyard wines.

“Argentina only recently started producing wine for export,” Morton- Small said. “For most of its history, the country consumed all the wine it produced. The focus wasn’t on fine wines. Once we started exporting, winemakers began to think in terms of competing.”

Decero makes Malbec, as do most Argentinian wineries, but it also focuses on Cabernet Sauvignon. The Remolinos Vineyard Cabernet is a 90-point wine, according to Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate, for about $20. It’s a solid representation of Argentinian wines. Two of Decero’s competitors at the forum, Pascual Toso and Vine Connections, noted Decero as one of the wineries to watch.

Ed Lehrman, co-founder of Vine Connections, one of the largest importers of Argentinian wines, represents several wineries that produce  excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, including Vina Cobos, Susana Balbo and Ben Marco.

“When exports became a real thought in Argentina,” Lehrman said, “the realization also settled in that they would have to compete in the market of world-class wines. Worldwide, the most revered varietal for fine wine, is probably Cabernet Sauvignon, so Argentina is now focusing on Cabernet.”

Because the forum is meant to be an educational opportunity, wines were tasted side-by-side in classroom settings, and winemakers commented on their offerings.

In the class on Argentinian reds, Decero, Ben Marco and Susana Balbo Cabernet were tasted alongside Malbec and Bonarda, providing an opportunity to understand differences in varietals, climate, winemaking and terroir. It also highlighted that Argentina is making wines capable of holding their own against — and sometimes exceeding — the quality of its competitors.

Steve Ruby, an OSU professor and event coordinator, said it was hard to imagine a better learning environment.

“At every step, our students were learning under worldrenowned chefs and vintners,” he said. “The fact that we are able to provide our students experiential learning experiences while operating such a world-class event is a tribute to the continued work of the program’s students, faculty, alumni and supporters.”

Burns Hargis, OSU president of OSU, also participated and credited the students with its success.

“I travel all over the country and meet students in programs like ours,” Hargis said, “and people tell me our students are the best they’ve seen. I have to agree.”

Ruby said the 2013 forum already is being planned.

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