Argentina on a roll

When I first visited Mendoza in Western Argentina, close to the Chilean border, I felt a long way from home, the disclocation exacerbated by a (mild) earthquake just after I arrived. Sitting in a hotel I was aware of a gentle rumble, rather like a tube train passing below. As this increased though I thought I’d copy the locals, who by this time were exiting rather quickly through the restaurant windows! All very exciting, if only for a couple of minutes.

Searching for new wines for our range I was both excited and disappointed. While it was clear that the country had tremendous potential to produce excellent wines, with a great climate, obviously healthy vines and a thriving domestic wine culture, the products I tasted simply didn’t live up to expectation. Too often they were much too woody, often having been left for extended periods in large wooden vats to (in my opinion) gently oxidise and lose their fruit. I felt that if winemakers were encouraged to bottle their products earlier, then harnessing the potential would be straightforward.

Ten years on the picture has changed dramatically. Argentina is now an established exporter of some excellent, well-priced wines, the quality is generally high, and the winemakers have even claimed the grape variety Malbec as their own. Very often an indigenous wine style evolves to suit the local food, and the chunky Malbecs are just great with the fantastic beef served in the Mendoza region.

I’m a real convert to these wines recently, kick-started by a visit to the Gaucho chain of Argentian restaurants. The inky, irony wines are perfect with bloody steak. As luck would have it we stock a couple of great examples, and there is 25% off any two bottles at the moment. My favourite is the “El Malbec de Ricardo Santos 2006 La Madras Vineyard, Mendoza”.

One other thing I learned. Apparently if you are caught indoors during an earthquake, stand beneath the door frame of your room. It’s the strongest and most stable part of the wall apparently…

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