From the beaches of the Atlantic coast to the dizzyingly high Andean altiplano, by way of regions as diverse as the Pampas and Patagonia, Argentina folds in an incredible variety of landscapes along its 2,295 mile length. Think of the difference in habitats that are home, variously, to condors, cattle or penguins, and this gives a vivid idea of how the mix of terrain, climate and altitude changes as you travel about the eighth largest country in the world.
As Argentina is a country made up of immigrants for the most part, it makes perfect sense that its grapes (excluding Torrontés) are also documented aliens. Take our dearly beloved Malbec. We all know it originates from Cahors in south-west France, don’t we? That’s right, the Old World has had its hand in defining Argentina’s viniculture, thanks to big hitters Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and of course Malbec – from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south…
You’re never more than a few metres from an empanada wherever you travel in Argentina, and you’re all the better for it. Empanada literally means “wrapped in bread” but this description does not do justice to the wonder of this Argentine staple. These savoury pockets are served warm as a prelude to the asado, or on their own at parties.
It was at a 3,457 metre-high pass, somewhere way to the west of Salta city, after four hours on switchback, rubble-strewn dirt ‘roads’, that the extraordinary immensity of the Andean Alto-Plano really sank in. Admittedly the cocoa leaves that my native driver kept feeding me (for medicinal purposes) probably added to the sense of dizzying awe…
Tucked away in the corner of the country, where Argentina, Bolivia and Chile converge, is the magical Andean northwest. The climate is as harsh as the terrain: unrelenting heat and heavy rains in the summer, arid cold in the winter. April, May and September are the best months to visit.
‘Porteño’ is more than just a geographical indicator, it’s a way of being. Porteños have their own slang, their own fashion, their own complex psyche and their own attitude. So if you want to ‘do’ porteño, you’ll need more than a Spanish dictionary and a smile.
One of the most fascinating and compelling reasons for diving into the treasure trove of New World wines lies not just in the drum-roll of longer established flagship varieties and styles, but also with the emerging stars awaiting discovery.
Argentina’s borders stretch from Antarctic waters in the south to Iguazú waterfalls amid the subtropical jungles of the northeast. Needless to say, within its boundaries, nearly all known foodstuffs can be grown or pastured, making for a rich cuisine.
If a developing country’s economic health can in part be judged by the foreign investment it attracts, then by the same yardstick Argentina’s wine industry appears to be in fantastic shape. Some of the biggest names of the global wine fraternity been drawn here, and they have all come to make high quality wines.
Where do you go when you want to see some of Argentina’s lesser-spotted tourist areas and places of interest? Matt Chesterton channels Sir Ben Kingsley and hits the road to find out.