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First wine tasting in Carrillo
The Pleasure of Understanding Wine Step by Step

By Arianna McKinney

After sipping a glass of wine, you might be asked if you like it or not, but pause a moment before you decide. “We should learn to understand the wine before saying if we like it or not,” recommends professional wine sommelier Randall Calderon Chacon. 

On Thursday, August 25 Calderon spent the evening sharing his love of wine with 33 guests at El Colibri in Carrillo during the first wine-tasting event hosted in the area by Argentineans Fernando Carre and his wife Roxana Etchebarne. The idea was to let the wine guide the evening, Carre explained. The details of the menu were determined based on the wines.

Four wines from four different parts of Mendoza, where 75% of Argentina’s wine is produced, and one wine from Patagonia were selected to provide a sampling of the principal emblematic varieties of grapes cultivated around Argentina, according to Calderon, and then each wine was paired with a different dish to enhance the experience.

The first wine and the only white wine of the evening was a 2010 Torrontés from Familia Gascón in Agrelo, Mendoza.  Calderon pointed out that it is one of the most aromatic white wines with a fresh fruity flavor. It was paired with a serving of mussels prepared with the same wine, embellished with garlic and parsley. White wines, Calderon explained, go very well with salty flavors such as shellfish from the sea, whereas red wines conflict with salty foods. One of the guests, Roland Garcia from Texas who lives in Carrillo now, noticed that the flavor of the wine changed after tasting the accompanying food. At first the wine seemed slightly bitter and sour to him, but afterward it tasted sweeter. 

Sommelier Ronall Calderon

The second wine, a 2009 Bonarda from Colonia Las Liebres in Rivadavia, Mendoza, was paired with Argentine meat empanadas. The flaky empanadas were baked rather than fried and were filled with a meat mixture that included green olives, adding a surprising touch to the flavor. Calderon said it was paired with the empanada because it is a light red wine, gentle in the mouth. The Bonarda, he explained, is one of the grapes most planted in Argentina. It was brought from the Piamonte region of Italy to Argentina by immigrantes in the late 1800s. “The secret to preserving the freshness of the fruit and the purity of the grape,” he said, “is that it doesn’t receive treatment in oak barrels.” Instead, the wine is produced in stainless steel. 

The remaining wines were all Malbecs. The first Malbec, which ended up being the wine most purchased by guests that evening, was a 2009 Malbec, also from Familia Gascón. Hand picked during in the western part of Mendoza, Calderon considered it to be the least complex of the three Malbecs sampled. It is a light red wine produced from mature fruit with a delicate balance and a hint of chocolate. He explained that it is a flexible wine that can be paired with white or red meat, and on the evening’s menu it was paired with chicken.

The fourth wine presented was a 2010 classic Malbec from Altos las Hormigas in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. Altos Las Hormigas specializes in Malbecs and is recognized at the international level for its production of this typical variety of Argentina. Calderon described this smooth red wine as well-balanced and flexible, also able to be paired with white or red meat. It was served with pork loin topped in an enjoyably tangy tamarindo sauce.

The final wine, Calderon’s personal favorite of the evening, was the 2008 Malbec A Lisa, a boutique wine from Bodega Noemia from the region of Patagonia. Calderon described it as a great wine full of freshness, complexity and finesse. The wine, which is actually 90% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot, isn’t filtered in order to preserve its natural characteristics. While wineries in general might produce 700,000 to a million bottles of a particular wine, Calderon explained that A Lisa is more exclusive, with a limited production only 44,000 bottles. The wine was served with a skewer of very tender tenderloin and a side of petit white potatoes. 

As a sommelier, Calderon has been dedicated to wine for the last 6 years, and also worked with wines for 10 years before that while working with hotels. After traveling to wine-producing countries like Chile, Spain and Argentina, Calderon said he had a feeling inspired him to learn more about wine. In 2009, he attended Escuela Argetina de Sommeliers first course and received an honorable mention as the best student from Costa Rica. With passion, he describes the wine profession as an infinite profession full of flavors, friends and experiences. 


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