By Jimmy Quaile, Certified Sommelier
In the wine industry, you think of Argentina and you immediately think Malbec. Fair enough. It has become the country’s signature grape. However Malbec’s origins are in France’s southwest region of Cahors where it is known as Cot or Auxerrois. The grape remains one of the six “allowable” grapes in Bordeaux, but it was almost completely wiped out in the mid 1900’s by the insect Phylloxera. Enter stage left; Argentina!
Forward thinking winemakers (namely Catena Zapata’s José Galante, as well as Michel Rolland and Paul Hobbs) believed in the possibilities of Malbec…not only as a blending grape to add color and tannin, but also as a single varietal wine. Their vision transformed the country’s wine industry. No longer producing mediocre bulk wine for local consumption, Argentina is now the fifth largest wine producer in the world. But Argentina is more than than the world’s largest producer of Malbec.
Have you ever tried Bonarda? No? Well this is where it gets fun…and complicated. Ya see, experts can’t agree on the origin of Bonarda. Some say it’s the same as Italy’s Pemontese Bonarda. Others point to genetic analysis to claim its the grape Douce Noir from the Savoie region of France. To make things worse, in California it’s called Charbono. (I just call it tasty!) This Rodney Dangerfield of wines is deep purple with aromas of black fruit, fennel and plum, followed by complex notes of leather and dried fig. All this in a tannic package that allows for great aging potential.
Next on the list of soon-to-be-known (or should be) wines from Argentina is the flat-out delicious Torrentes. Think of it as an Argentine specialty – even though there is evidence that suggests that one of Torrentes’ parents is the Mission grape, one of the first grapes grown in America. This aromatic varietal white has white peach and apricot on the nose followed by a mouth-watering, citrus finish with a hint of spice. Viognier meets Gewurtztraminer! Quite possibly the perfect summer wine.
I have been blessed to visit quite a few wine regions in my career. Argentina was one trip in which I brought preconceived notions as to the style of wines I would be trying. I was never happier to be wrong in my assessments. Argentina can and DOES produce world class wines at a value far exceeding their price. Even grapes as widely produced as Cabernet or Chardonnay get given a whole new identity when produced in this Old-World country producing New-World wines.
Zolo Malbec Dark plum, chocolate & spice!
Colomé Torrentes White flowers and tropical fruit!
Zolo Signature Red 30% Bonarda, 30% Merlot, 25% Cab, 15% Malbec Lush & juicy!
Five Fun Facts
1- The average Argentinian drinks approximately 10 gallons of wine per year compared to the U.S. average of 2.
2- Most of the nation’s wine regions are near the foothills of the Andes mountains. With elevations up to 4,900 feet above sea level, these vineyards have the highest altitudes in the world.
3- Land and labor costs are roughly $30,000 per acre. In comparison, the same costs in the Napa Valley are ten times higher @ $300,000.
4- Mendoza accounts for 70% of the country’s wine production.
5- April 17th is Malbec World Day. It is celebrated in over 70 cities in 43 countries, making it the world’s biggest celebration of a grape variety.
Beef Tenderloin Empanada Recipe
The word Empanada literally means “covered in bread”. The recipe for the stuffing, whether it be chicken, beef or pork, is handed down from mother to daughter in Argentine families.
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cups chopped white onions
1 small red pepper (seeded and diced small)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 small potato (peeled and diced small)
1/2 lb. beef tenderloin (diced small)
1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup green olives (pitted and chopped)
2 eggs (hard boiled and chopped)
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 beaten egg
Pie crust dough (homemade or store-bought)
- In a small saucepan, heat canola oil and butter. Cook onions under low heat until lightly browned. Add bell pepper, salt and red pepper flakes and cook till soft. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan of lightly salted water simmer chopped potato until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté beef tenderloin to medium rare (pink inside). Add stock, onion, cumin and paprika. Stir in the potatoes. Let cool.
- Fold in raisins, olives, eggs and breadcrumbs.
- On a floured surface, cut and roll dough into 5 inch rounds. Put 2 tbsp filling into each round, moisten edges with beaten egg, fold over and form into half moon. Press edges with fork.
- Brush empanadas with remaining egg wash.
- Transfer to prepared baking sheet, placing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
- Bake in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Makes about 2 dozen.