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Argentina: My Wine Trip - Food, Wine & Top Tips

I recently returned from a wine-focused trip to the incredible country of Argentina and I’d love to tell you about my experiences!

The main wine producing region in Argentina is Mendoza and the Uco Valley. This vast desert landscape is a two hour flight west of Buenos Aires, heading towards the Andes mountain range so that on a clear day you can see the snow-capped mountains from Mendoza. The amount of snow melting each year that provides the villages and vineyards with their water supply is reducing every year and the impact of climate change is sadly evident. This wild land filled with horses, foxes, birds, beautiful dragonflies, big butterflies and stray dogs makes for a wine-producing area that is very unique and capable of producing some stunning bottles. Barren desert sits cheek-by-jowl with verdant vineyards and it’s a real juxtaposition. There is a constant airflow coming from the mountains, which ranges from a gentle breeze to full-on wind. This wind comes off the Pacific ocean, up the Andes mountains in Chile and down to Argentina. On my first day, a Monday, many wineries are closed but I was lucky to visit a new restaurant at Catena Malbec called Angelica (named after grandma!). A gorgeous new building has been created, offering stunning architecture and paying respect to the old olive tree. Arched windows invite the vineyard in and big lounge sofas and white linen cushions offer spots to relax in the garden.

Inside, the glass-windowed dining room looks up the drive to the magnificent Catena winery and vines. We were offered a 5 or 10 course tasting menu with wine (as it was lunch five courses was ample!). We began with Saint Felicien 2022 rose wine (grenache, syrah and malbec) utterly delicious complementing a frozen salmon mousse. Then we sampled Angelica Zapata Malbec 2017 from Angelica vineyard plus my favourite malbec – Catena Zapata 2017 (the one with the pen and ink drawing of four women and a skeleton!) with steak, huge flakes of salt and red wine jus. To finish we had sweet wine, which is rare for this region. Next up I visited El Enemigo, translates to ‘the enemy’. This is also from the family of Catena with the sister Adriana and the Catena winemaker Alejandro Vigil. These two good friends came up with the new project in 2009 in London drinking wine along the River Thames. Their cabernet franc is peppered with a hint of malbec, displaying real freshness and tannic grip. Also very popular is the ‘Gran Enemigo’ cabernet franc-dominated blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, petit verdot and merlot. These bottles blend traditional and modern winemaking techniques with new: fashionable concrete eggs and100-year-old Alsatian oak foudres shipped in from Italy before being re-toasted and reassembled, as per tradition. In my on site tasting, they poured - chardonnay 2019, malbec 2018 and cabernet franc 2018 in this order, which makes sense when you sip the cab franc as it is so powerful and strong, bigger than malbec. The wineries were in full glory in January as this is the southern hemisphere and therefore it was their summer. It was amazing to see the bunches of malbec turning from green grapes to purple – like spots on a dog. This means that they are ripening well - harvest typically commences 21st February according to Zuccardi winery, which was the location for my next visit. Zuccardi is the new world’s best new winery according to Wine Enthusiast 2022– and from the beauty of the building it is undoubtably one of the best I’ve seen.

Jesica Vargas, Wine Enthusiast writer for South America, describes the winery ́s trajectory in her announcement of the award: “The winery has focused on elevating the Uco Valley region while positioning itself as one of its most iconic wine producers… Zuccardi Valle de Uco is one of the leaders of a movement in which malbec is no longer the star, but simply a vehicle to deliver the complexity and diversity of a place.” The announcement of this award for the 2022 year is significant because in this same year, Zuccardi Valle de Uco became the first winery from Argentina to have three wines awarded 100 points from Robert Parker Wine Advocate (Finca Piedra Infinita 2016, Finca Piedra Infinita Gravascal 2018, Finca Piedra Infinita Supercal 2019), in addition to a perfect score from Tim Atkin (Finca Piedra Infinita Gravascal 2019). I highly recommend visiting, enjoying lunch and tasting wine at Zuccardi if you get the chance. Finally I felt very lucky to visit Bemberg winery - which is by invitation only, making the experience extremely special as we were on a private tour with the wine maker Juliana Bevilacqua. Bemberg’s wines were among the best I tried in Argentina and well worth looking for on restaurant menus. Bemberg makes chardonnay and pinot noir in the Burgundian style, malbecs from a range of altitude and sites plus a blend called pioneer which was made specifically for the owners who are French/Argentinian - here the wine blend is 60% merlot 25% cab sav and 15% petit verdot.

You can immediately smell the cab sav‘s spice and pepper notes but you also really get the softness and roundness from cab sav. This is a wine to sit and enjoy a glass for hours as it evolves in the glass over time opening up. My key takeaways for the Argentina food and wine scene: Loved the presentation box of steak knives each time you order a steak, it is like a ceremony. Wineries have stunning buildings, deep pockets and a full immersive experience available Moving away from heavily-oaked wines to wines made in concrete eggs which is marvellous making stunning wines that are approachable Wineries setup for tourists with two tours a day at 10.30 and 3pm with many wineries having incredible restaurants for lunch. However everything needs pre-booking Most restaurants are in hotels or wineries however we found a fabulous restaurant called Ruda which you would never find unless told. It is down a 20 minute dirt track and used to be on the site of a golf course (!) but once there it has a very cool Ibiza vibe, fresh ingredients locally sourced and my favourite steak to date. Everyone loves to design their winery, restaurant or hotel in brushed concrete – looks amazing. Book drivers for the day Note: You need dollars due to peso inflation Don’t buy wine directly from the vineyard it is two to three times more expansive than buying in the UK as their target market is Brazilians who pay very high taxes on wine. Plus you can cross the borders with 6 bottles of wine in hand luggages and 9 bottles in the hold per person. Monday wineries are closed Casa de Uco – great hotel with lots of organic food and salads from the garden 1 night is enough in Mendoza city – it is not pretty and doesn’t have great restaurants. I personally would miss it next time and head to Uco Valley

Elizabeth x


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