The connection between Argentina and wine
By Magandeep Singh | February 2011
The world of wines is so vast that to try and taste your way through them would amount to trying to traverse the universe in a single lifetime! Luckily, we already know how rewarding checking out wineries can be, and I for one don’t ever get bored of my job. But don’t envy me because I have to taste the good as well as the bad.
When I was in Argentina for a visit, the first thing I realised was how little I know about wines in general. Travel seems to have this sobering effect on me and I am glad that I get to do it often.
Argentina is not just one country. In size, it is larger than India, so you can well imagine how diverse the flora can be. Also, they have a diverse history spanning different cultures and influences. And this diversity shows up in the wines.
The same grape finds new expression as it moves a few kilometres down the wine route and the wines are totally different. Moreover, a major chunk of Argentinean wines are spear-headed by people from all over the world, and with each bringing his skills and preferences to the table, it makes for one lovely melting pot of a beverage!
The top French, American and Spanish houses bear testimony to the promise of the land. From Moet & Chandon to Mumm, from Cheval Blanc to a group called ‘Los Siete’ — it’s the world’s biggest wine party it would seem, and everyone’s invited.
Another important factor is that Argentineans drink a lot of wine. In fact they are the 6th largest consumers of wine in the world, and that isn’t bad for a country of 38 million or so! Sure enough they mostly drink their own wine, and why shouldn’t they!? They have decent stuff that won’t give you headaches the size of Manhattan the next morning.
As a result, they understand wine much better. They understand how it works with food, and they understand how it must be made to be drunk and not to be worshipped. It is considered flagrant to spend more than 40 pesos on a bottle of wine. That’s a little more than US $10! In India it is considered downright cheap to spend anything less than double of that! Needless to say they drink a lot more wine with a lot less pretensions and a helluva’ lot more enjoyment.
I had the chance to closely examine the working of Bodega Valentin Bianchi, and I came away impressed. They make wines at such an affordable price that I possibly bored them by telling them how dreadfully under-priced they were. They thought of me as exceptionally rich or a raving loon. But the wines were fantastic, especially the Famiglia range which I found just so ideally suited for consumers back here in India. I was charmed by their warmth and hospitality. If I was happy downing a few glasses of their stuff and still thirsty for more, there must have been more than just marketing at play.
On the whole, none of the wines I tried, (there or elsewhere) were insipid. And when judged against the price they all commanded, it seemed a small amount to pay for the quality they all offered. For once I had come off well lucky. There were no big downers really. All I had done was gone from one good wine to another, interspersed by some fantastic courses of Argentinean meat.
Yes, you may go ahead and envy me now!
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