Forget floral undertones and fruity notes, for Local Guide, Peter wine is so much more. Born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina, the malbec capital of the world, Peter has spent his whole life surrounding by Argentine wine culture. When he was little, the vineyards were his playground, and as an adult, they are his passion. From selling wine, teaching classes, and eventually becoming a winemaker, Peter knows everything about the business. Now, as one of the city’s top wine guides, he is revealing the biggest secret of the industry- wine doesn’t have to be so scary. We caught up with this former winemaker to learn about the true meaning of the Mendoza wine culture, beyond tasting notes and pairings.
How has your background as a winemaker helped you as a tour guide?
I’m pretty sure that I’m the only winemaker who hosts tours in Mendoza at the moment, which gives me both a unique perspective and a lot of connections. For example, I love introducing my guests to the owners and winemakers at almost all of my tours. I also have a lot of wine-industry secrets that I sometimes like to share with my guests.
What kinds of secrets?
For example, many people think that corks are better than screw tops, but that’s just a myth. In reality, if it is properly sealed it doesn’t really make a difference.
Also when a winery is buying grapes from the vineyard, sometimes the grape growers will hose down the whole field so that the grapes weigh more and the winemakers buy fewer grapes for the same amount of kilos. So as a winemaker, if you don’t know that then you can end up with a watery batch of wine.
Besides learning all the secrets of winemaking, what was your favorite part about being a winemaker?
Seeing the final product. Every time a harvest finishes, every winery throws an asado for the staff at the vineyard, where you celebrate by feasting on traditional Argentine food and drinking the wine that you worked so hard on. During this party, it didn’t matter whether you were the winery owner or an 18-year-old rookie; everyone was right there next to each other celebrating as equals.
From working in Mendoza’s wine industry for so long, what do you see for its future?
I think it’s true what the wine experts say, the Uco Valley really is becoming the next Napa Valley. This region is really unique because it’s one of the few valleys in the world without any sea influence, and so the grapes grow smaller and make really fine wines. Combine this natural marvel with the innovative techniques the region uses, and in the next 20 years, we can really expect big things.
It seems like Mendoza has changed quite a bit in the last decade or so.
I was born in the small Mendoza neighborhood of Chacras. Thirty years ago this neighborhood was just family-owned vineyards, a small square, and a church. It was like everything was stuck in the 1930s. Growing up, all there was to do was spend time in the vineyards. So as a kid you would find me either playing behind the grape terraces or with my father learning about the crop.
Wow, wine really has been an integral part of your life!
Yeah! Actually, my family has a tradition that once we were over six-years-old, our parents would put a tiny drop of wine into our sparkling water, so we would grow up appreciating the flavors. As far back as I can remember wine has been a centerpiece of every family event or even just meal. For me, wine is cemented in my fondest memories, from the big family celebrations to the simple moments of sitting with a friend and discussing life over a bottle of Malbec.
If wine is such a joyous and traditional thing, then why is it so scary for some people?
People make it seem harder than it really is. They use lots of big words and talk about it like they are preaching. From growing up in a place where wine is so cemented in our culture, I don’t think that how it’s supposed to be. My father and grandfather, for example, have spent their whole lives drinking wine and surrounded by the industry. They are the real experts, yet I never hear them analyze it or discuss it. They simply enjoy it.
So for someone looking to learn more about wine, where should they start?
Most people don’t realize it, but everyone is actually an expert on tap water. We drink it so much that can usually taste when it’s different. In reality, the only difference between wine and tap water is that you don’t drink as much. My best advice for anyone who wants to learn about wine is start tasting more wines, more often!
With that philosophy, you must be a great wine teacher.
That’s part of the reason I love hosting tours. I want to make learning about wine fun and accessible, and reduce this fear around it. Getting to do that every day, is hardly a job. In fact, I’m meeting people who are on holiday and are usually in really great moods because they are spending the whole day tasting wines. I can’t think of a better way to meet people.
What’s your favorite memory from a tour?
When I was working as a guide at one of the vineyards, a couple from New Zealand came in near the end of the day for a tour. Since they were my last tour of the day, and we really got along well, we ended up sharing a bottle of wine after.
At one point, the boyfriend asked me if I could grab a bottle of sparkling wine. When I came back with the bottle, the boyfriend was down on one knee, proposing to his girlfriend! Of course, she said yes, and we popped the bottle right there!
Inspired to visit Argentina’s vineyards and learn about the famous Mendoza wine? Talk with one of our travel experts to plan your perfect trip!