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Where's Jonny? Care to dine with me? You would think that 11 years of daily food tasting for a living might put me off?......au contraire! Chomp away with me across 6 continents. Seduced like a bloodhound to the scent of good food, I anticipate the misty waft of steaming broths, the satisfying crunch of mudbugs and the vibrant aroma of freshly pulverised lemongrass. Buon appetito

Grape expectations

ARGENTINA | Monday, 10 September 2007 | Views [1107]

Mendoza Bodegas - this one is Italian owned by the De Tommasi family

Mendoza Bodegas - this one is Italian owned by the De Tommasi family

Americans would hate red wine tasting.  Swirling a staining liquid around those pristine gnashers would render the, "Hollywood smile," useless.

That said, Napa Valley in California could well be next on my wine trail after South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina.  Like big reds to oxygen I've opened up to new world wines. 

Being a foodie I've always favoured old world pairings, Riojas from Spain, Chianti from Italy and Burgundy from France.  Not anymore.  There is no better example than Argentine reds with red meats.

Anyway, why is Argentina new world?  They have been making wine here since 1500.

Our journey to the wineeries or bodegas started with a 12 hour bus trip from Buenos Aires across some truly arid zones.

Mendoza is the burgundy-red heart of Argentinas most important industry and its led by the reds, Malbec being the most famous grape grown here.

Hiring a bicycle is one way of dying errr I mean touring the wineries.  I would not recommend this option unless you have the calves of Lance Armstrong the navigational skills of a homing pigeon and speak fluent Spanish.

We drove around in a hire car on the same basis that Bill Clinton took Cannabis.  (He only tried it in his mouth but did not inhale)

Some of the worst signposted, badly tarmacced, oddly-routed roads I have ever driven on are here.  So a 1hour journey took several and although it was winter a low sun shone through the car windows we created our own unique fermentation on our bodies.

We had gone through the wine area at least twice without realising.  This is partly due to the area being dusty, barren and unremarkable. (and quite poor in parts)

In stark contrast to wealthy, hilly Stellenbosch or the lush valleys of New Zealand this was very, very flat.  The "hills" in the distance were pretty spectacular though!

Luckily the wines were anything but flat and the hospitality was intoxicating.

As we didn't make it until lunchtime we started with the medziadia at a place called, Jaques Francoise.  (could there be a more French name?)

There we ate mud oven rabbit, an all-in-one dish of succulently tender meat on the bone with peas, onion and potatoes.  Maria had chicken leg cooked in a similar peasantty way.  This was the first time we had eaten anything that was not derived from an animal that went, "MOOOOOOO"

Postre (dessert) was queso e alcayota e nuestro (cheese with ALCAYOTA???and walnuts)  Keen to find out what in the hell alcayota was I summoned the waiter.  Pronounced AL-Cay-ODA it sounded like a terrorist organisation that George Bush wants to catch.

After many unsuccessful attempts to describe the stringy, sweet, viscose marmalade that adorned my queso, the waiter brought one to the table.  Its a cross between a white melon and a squash although the texture and the fact it must be cooked, point to a type of squash.  Apparently common in the area.

In the afternoon we visited two boutique bodegas in the area.  the first, Carinae is owned by a Toulouse family who acquired it in 1998.  Named after a star constellation its an enterprise producing only a select number of wines.  We tried several easy drinking malbecs such as the 2005 (strawberries, hay, cherry, tannin, dried fruits)  - Octans 2006, cab sauv/malbec another easy drinker -

There were two specially aged reds. "El Galgo" (the greyhound) 2004 Gran Vintage, fudgey, soft, oozes vanilla, long notes. My favourite was Carinae presige 2005 combining cab sauv/malbec/syrah, a full frontal of fruit mmmm

We next headed to another bodega, also run by a family, this time it was the Italians. The Di Tomassi family.

Est. in 1869 and originating from Triese in Friuli region (a town I have visited) this was my favourite bodega.

Huge brick vats and temperature controlled cellars more than made up for the lack of greenery outside.  Who better to provide Maria and I with a personal tour than a member of the famiglia di Tomassi? 

We learned about malbecs and a white grape called Torrontes which is grown exclusively in Argentina.  We also learned about the characteristics imparted by using American or French oaks and what constitutes the classifications, reserva, gran reserva etc.

Two crackers from this visit were the 100% cab sauv, not harsh or oevrly cassisy, full fruit, unique flav, classy. (oaked)

The Malbec 2004 (Roble) had utilised fFrench and Americans oaks for 6 months each to develop subtle layers of flavour.  Delicious.

The great thing about the wineries here is that the tours and tastings are often free if you purchase a bottle at the end although theres no obligation. However at 20 pesos (3.50) it would be rude not to.

At the end of the day the only down side was that my smile looked like a Victorian wench.  Then again, I never did have a Hollywood smile. 

Tags: Food & eating

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