This year Los Pumas, Argentina’s celebrated national rugby team, will end one chapter of their history and begin an exciting new one. Their gruelling quest for international recognition as a true rugby power will finally be completed in Cape Town on August 18 when the Argentinian rugby team takes on South Africa’s Springboks in this year’s edition of The Rugby Championship, the Southern Hemisphere’s elite annual tournament. A week later, on August 25, history will be made again as Argentina play their first home game of the competition in Mendoza.
Had the Americans put the democrat John Kerry in the White House instead of re-electing George Bush in 2004, things might have been very different. How different is impossible to say, but it certainly changed the life of Michael Evans, one of Kerry’s campaign managers. Desperate for a break after the election defeat, Evans bought a return ticket from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires. “I came literally for a vacation and just expected to be here a couple of weeks.” Eight years on, he’s still there.
Aconcagua is one of the world’s great mountains. It rises 6,959 metres (22,841ft) up into Argentina’s sky in the Andes. Despite being the highest mountain in the Americas, in fact the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, it is also relatively straightforward to climb with almost no technical sections. Beware, straightforward does not mean easy – it’s one of the deadliest mountains and an extremely challenging undertaking…
There’s a serious rival for Malbec’s quality crown in the shape of Cabernet Sauvignon. This scion of the great vineyards of Bordeaux has proved a happy émigré to Mendoza and elsewhere in Argentina. And, like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon has taken to the high altitudes, ample sun and rocky soils with gusto, producing similarly aromatic and generous wines, packed with ample fruit and spicy notes, well-structured yet drinking well when relatively young.
Mendoza has been described as ‘the Napa of the South’ and it’s easy to understand why such parallels are drawn. With both sitting at 33 degrees of latitude there’s a neat symmetry at work for anyone with a smidgeon of interest in how the world’s great vineyards lie. Add to this the regional eminence of both Napa Valley and Mendoza, each celebrated as the most famous quality wine producer in their respective American hemispheres, and such comparisons seem almost inevitable.
For a country that takes such pride in its produce (and needs no excuse for a fiesta), it’s remarkable that Argentina’s food and drink festivals are only just gathering pace. Naturally, beef and wine are still the headline acts, but are joined by an increasing number of more specialist events. Here is a look ahead to the best Argentina festivals and fairs in 2012 aimed at the food and wine enthusiast in everyone.
Where do you stand on the cork versus screw cap debate? Perhaps, like several of the recent dinner guests around my kitchen table, you really don’t care, so long as the wines taste good and keep on flowing. Or maybe you are more in tune with the “natural is best” camp. So what are the facts lying behind both points of view?
Mention Argentina to the average wine drinker and Malbec is the variety that everyone knows. Argentina’s vignerons have managed the neat trick of taking this relatively obscure French variety and, in their high altitude, sun-blessed vineyards, creating a new world-class style of wine.
Chardonnay, the noble grape that reaches such sublime heights in Burgundy, famously fell from grace through a mix of over-exposure (think Bridgett Jones and Footballers Wives) and overblown wannabes from the New World. But good old Chardonnay is poised to make a welcome return. Except this time it’s typically leaner and cleaner, cut from a finer cloth that is more in tune with the subtle sophistication of our palates today.
If, like ours, your legs are restless and your head a little fuzzy after a couple of days touring Uco Valley and Lujan in the car, nothing blasts the cobwebs away like a day in the saddle. And it’s a great taster of what the region has to offer for budget travellers. Read on for our top tips.