Vendimia or “grape harvest” holds huge importance in all 18 corners of the province, bringing together mendocinos from Malargüe in the south to Rivadavia in the east and Luján de Cuyo in the west. Named one of the top 10 harvest celebrations in the world by National Geographic, the main aim is to give thanks to the patron saint of grape harvests, the Virgen de la Carrodilla.
The marriage of Malbec and meat may be as famous as Maradona, but ask five leading Argentine sommeliers to champion any grape and its food pairing potential, and the results give lie to the versatility of Argentina’s diverse wine styles.
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Few people beyond South American shores realise that Argentina is the fifth biggest wine producer in the world, making myriad varieties from vineyards that stretch from lofty Salta in the North West to the windswept river valleys of Patagonia in the south. From aromatic, spicy Torrontés to supple Pinot Noirs, by way of Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernets Franc and Sauvingon, plus up-and-coming grapes such as Bonarda and Tempranillo, Argentina’s rich heritage of vines delivers a surprising wealth of styles.
In Mendoza, the grape harvest can start any time from the end of January and continue until mid-May, depending upon the varietal and wine a bodega intends to make. Many wineries used to be located in the city of Mendoza, but over the years they have dispersed in a bid to find new terroir, a move that has seen many wind their way south. I’ve travelled to the province three times since February and have compiled this collage of 2013’s harvest across some of the different vineyard areas of Mendoza.
As grape harvests across Mendoza, Patagonia and the north-west provinces are in full motion, that can only mean one thing: it’s time for a new batch of wines to start reaching store shelves and restaurant cavas. And who can we trust for a solid opinion on floral aromas and tobacco notes? Sommeliers, that’s who. Some of Argentina’s top wine experts – already established or coming through the ranks – talk about their work in this flourishing industry.
The term “New World” is a pretty intriguing concept when it comes to Argentine winemaking given that its history stretches back some four and a half centuries. As with much of the Americas, it’s a story that involves Spanish conquistadors, Catholic missionaries, European migrants and, more latterly, the coming of the railway. To put this into perspective, the English Tudor monarch King Henry VIII had only just died when the first vitis vinifera cuttings (the wine grape vine) were planted in what was to become Argentine soil.
Restaurateur, sommelier and consultant Aldo Graziani of Aldo’s Vinoteca fame talks to Andrew Catchpole about a life immersed in Argentinian wine. Q: What sparked your love of wine? Aldo: “In Argentina the wine culture is very old, you grow up with wine in your house every day…”
This December, we are counting down our Twelve Wines of Christmas with a new wine every weekday from December 6th to 21st. Feel free to sing along! “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…”
The appetite-whetting sight and scent of an alfresco Argentine asado is enough to bring out the inner caveman in even the most sophisticated of metropolitan food lover. And nowhere is this more apparent than after a hard day’s wine tasting, out among the vines of Mendoza, as the first sizzle of meat hitting the grill sends a plume of smoky welcome into the crisp Andean air.