DISPATCHES FROM EXOTIC LANDS
Mendoza’s outstanding gastronomy
Mendoza Province is one of Argentina’s most important wine regions accounting for nearly two-thirds of the country’s entire wine production. Its name alone is synonymous with fine wine and exceptional dining and sitting prettily in the eastern foothills of the Andes it glows with a sense of cosmopolitan chic. People here spill out onto leafy avenues, water burbles from fountains and the atmospheric plazas hum with animated chatter and the clink of glassware. Life is good, the people are beautiful and the temperate climate and rich heritage gives rise to some of the best gastronomic experiences on the planet. Here’s our pick of the best…
Wine tasting at Belasco de Baquedano and the Aroma Room
Belasco de Baquedano’s private tastings are offered in a glass-walled room overlooking the vineyards and the magnificent Andes soaring to the west create a suitably imposing backdrop. The minimalist interiors are starkly modern and the techniques used are cutting edge. But that’s not all. The only one of its kind and scale in the Americas, the Aroma Room presents 46 fragrances including butter, geranium, mint and mushroom, lining the walls in clear Plexiglas posts. Twist a lever, a baffle spins and an intense fragrance is released from a small capsule of oil. Novel, yes, but the Belasco’s Aroma Hall also reveals the many levels of a well-crafted wine’s nose, which adds greatly to its art and appreciation.
Dining at award-winning restaurant Ruca Malen
Ruca Malen pioneered the concept of tasting menu. The menu here not only offers the best pairings for Ruca Malen’s outstanding wines but also develops and celebrates the identity of local products – Lunlunta’s superb olive oil for example and its outstanding beef. Following this philosophy, all the ingredients used in the kitchen are produced in Mendoza or personally cultivated by head chef Lucas Bustos and the menu changes according to what the land offers each season.
Mallman’s Siete Fuegos at The Vines
At his ‘Siete Fuegos’ restaurant (located at The Vines) legendary chef Francis Mallmann savours the rustic, fiery flavors of specialties like 9-hour slow-grilled rib eye, cast-iron baked salt-encrusted salmon and grilled seasonal fruits. The name ‘Siete Fuegos’, or ‘seven fires‘, describes Mallmann’s honed (and famous) philosophy of open-flame cooking, inspired by Argentine gauchos and European migrations, refined through hundreds of years of history. It’s an iconic Mendoza experience, a great introduction to the grilled meats of the country and a unique way to taste the heritage of rural Argentina.
Horseriding and asados among the vines, Gimenez Riili
Founded in 1945, Gimenez Riili embodies the age old Argentine passion for winemaking excellence. It’s a cosy, family owned establishment run by a father his sons, one of whom, Pablo Gimenez Riili, is the Co-Founder of The Vines(above). Guided tours are personal, informal and intimate and trailing unhurriedly through the vines on horseback(or cycling if your prefer) until you reach your beautiful asado lunch spot seems to epitomise the very spirit of Argentina.
Visit Alejandro Vigil – Chief Winemaker of Catena Zapata Group
Cementing his position as a legend among Argentina’s oenological community, Alejandro Vigil has joined the list of greats on Decanter magazine’s Power List and holds the highest rating ever given to a pure Cabernet Franc wine by Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. As Winemaking Director of Catena Zapata, one of the country’s biggest and most prestigious premium wineries, he has a sizable task on his hands, but also finds time for his own brainchild – El Enemigo. Alongside historian Adrianna Catena he produces wines that reflect ‘the divine inspiration of art and nature’ and can be enjoyed ‘the way you listen to Mozart or read Cronopios’. Even the name, El Enemigo – ‘the enemy’, is profound, referring to the battle that ‘we fought against ourselves, the original enemy, the one that defined us’.
“Winemaking is a way of life that revolves around contact with nature and a true love for the work. To produce wines from a place you need to breathe the same air as the vine, suffer the cold and the heat, and feel a sense of belonging to that place.” – Alejandro Vigil
Enjoy Argentina in the slow lane
Of course this is just a selection of the banquet of experiences vying for your time in Mendoza and beyond. Like much of South America, Argentina is best enjoyed in the slow lane with lazy afternoons dedicated to wandering cobbled streets with no agenda, sipping coffee whilst nibbling dulche de leche churros or leaning back, Malbec in hand, and watching the clouds roll over an Andean lake from your cosy estancia. With so much on offer, we’ll tailor make the perfect itinerary for you, focusing on your personal interests and offering unique experiences that no-one ever tells the package traveller about…!