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.
Following an English Degree, a Diploma in publishing and a formative stint at the popular wine merchant Oddbins, Andrew joined Harpers Wine & Spirit Weekly, later launching and editing HOT (Harpers on Trade) restaurant and bar magazine. This was followed by several years as Wine Correspondent at the Daily Telegraph. Based in Brighton, Andrew now writes on wines, spirits, restaurants and travel for numerous trade and consumer publications including Harpers Wine & Spirit, Decanter, The Guardian, Slowfood, Imbibe, Square Meal, Drinks Business, Wine Business International, Drinks International, OLN and The Times.
The world is awash with examples of inter-continental agricultural meddling, whereby opportunistically minded entrepreneurs and traders have transplanted plant species in the pursuit of profit and convenience, sustenance and sales. Of course vines are no different, with thirsty European immigrants taking them to almost every feasible corner of the world where they might successfully adapt and produce decent grapes for wine.
Following on from our ‘Take 5’ Argentine sommelier focus, The Real Argentina invited five leading sommeliers from around the world to each champion an Argentine grape and its food pairing potential. Andrew Catchpole samples the suggestions.
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.
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.
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…”
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.
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…
Juicy, brimming with fruit and generally packing a satisfying punch for your peso, Bonarda is emerging from the sideline as an easy-going alternative to Argentina’s flagship red Malbec. It’s perhaps no surprise. After all, the country is awash with the variety, this being the second most widely planted grape in the country.