Aaah, it’s a tough life going wine tasting in Mendoza, the region renowned for its world class Malbec although (as we soon learned) various other delicious wines including white wines are also produced here. Actually because we chose to do the wine tasting by bicycle in the 30+ degree heat cycling about 25 km in the Maipu neighbourhood, it did involve a little bit of effort on our part so it wasn’t a complete indulgence (she says trying to justify it)!
Maal Vineyard, Mendoza
We visited 3 different wineries: at first we thought we would be able to fit in a lot more but actually it took a while to get from A to B and in the heat, only so much was possible. Our first vineyard was the Maal vineyard which is a really small one which only produces about 170,000 bottles of wine a year: apparently a vineyard in this region is deemed to be small if it produces only 1 million bottles each year so this one operates on a tiny scale. They only produce Malbec but interestingly, they also produce what they call a white (or “blanc de noir”) Malbec (which had a slight pink colour) called “ambiguo” which was really delicious. Next on the list was “impossible” a more traditional red malbec (but produced using oak staves inside the cement vats rather than traditional barrels which gave rise to its name). Like “ambiguo” this was also served chilled which seems to be quite common practice in Argentina – in many (but not all) restaurants, our red wine has been served straight out of the fridge and that’s just because it would get too hot if stored at room temperature. The wine specialists at the vineyards told us that it does the Malbec no harm to be stored in the fridge (at a slightly warmer temperature than a normal food fridge) but then generally once it has been opened it is left to “warm up” rather than being put in an ice bucket like white wine would be.
After a full day of wine tasting, we felt able to tackle the extremely long wine menus in the restaurants in Mendoza – they tend to list all the wines by the name of the wineries and so we were able to spot a couple of familiar names and felt like “old pros”.
L: Now that is what I call a parilla (grill); M: A perfect rare steak; R: Cycling through Cechin vineyards
And obviously what goes well with a great bottle of Malbec when you are in Argentina? Yes, that’s right, an amazing steak or two (or maybe three or four). Some of the portions though were ridiculous– on one menu, the sizes were either 400g or 800g – I mean 400g is about 14 ounces so who on earth is meant to eat a 800g steak? Even tackling 400g felt like I was eating half a (very delicious) cow and was not something that could be undertaken lightly, albeit it was a challenge I was happy to accept. It’s strange to think though that this time last year we were pretty much vegetarian when we were in the Indian sub-continent: when in Rome etc etc. To be fair, if you are vegetarian in Argentina, food options can be rather limited, especially outside of the big cities.