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.
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.
Visitors to Mendoza — city and province — tend to have their eye on one pressing matter, and one pressing matter only: fermented grape juice. The reputation of Argentina’s greatest wine-producing province precedes it, however: it’s not just Malbec and its sibling varietals that are hogging the spotlight. A host of restaurants in Mendoza are making waves with their gastronomical and enological offerings, from steak flame-grilled seven ways to closed-door establishments and Asian fusion cuisine…
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.
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…”
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…
At times, the pace of life in Argentina can be a little hectic. Buenos Aires especially moves at just one speed – fast forward – and while that is part of its charm, there are occasions when one needs to step away from the urban rat race and, say, spend a few hours walking around in the great outdoors pursuing a little white ball. A round of golf is the perfect antidote to inner-city blues…
Argentina: a country where you can get ice cream delivered to your door after midnight, where the number of variations on dulce de leche flavour can run into double figures, where homeware stores sell serving dishes that are just the right size for a one-kilo tub. Ice cream isn’t just an occasional treat here, it’s an essential food group.
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.