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Come and enjoy an evening of Argentinian food and wine

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There’s an old saying that a bit of suffering is necessary to produce good wine. Argentinian grapes suffer an arid climate and sudden, unpredictable hailstorms to produce some of the world’s most aromatic wines.

Bistro J will be offering a five-course Argentinian food and wine pairing this Tuesday hosted by sommelier Julia Reynals, originally from Mendoza, Argentina.

The menu includes: El Martin Fierro (Manchego cheese and quince paste) paired with New Age Valentin, Bianchi (slightly sparkling), empanadas criollas (crisp fried vegetable and beef turnovers) paired with O Fournier B-Crux, Tempranillo Blend 2007, locro (hearty pork, vegetable, grain and bean soup) paired with O. Fournier Urban UCO, Sauvignon Blanc 2011, bistec à la parilla con a chimichurri (grilled sirloin with a vibrant herb and garlic salsa) paired with Malbec Reserva de Familia 2008 and for dessert pasta frola (short crust pastry cake with quince and vanilla bean ice cream) with Francois Lurton, Pasitea 2007.

“Argentinian food is heavily influenced by French and Italian cooking,” said Ms Reynals. “There are so few dishes that are from Argentina. What is typical of Argentinian cooking is that we don’t over season our food. We don’t use a lot of spicy things. We would use pretty much salt and pepper and chimichurri.”

Chimichurri is a sauce made from finely chopped parsley, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar. Additional flavourings may be added such as coriander, paprika or cumin, among other things.

“Everyone has their own version of chimichurri,” Ms Reynals said. “Empanadas are a typical food in Argentina. The recipe and dough changes depending on where you are in the country. In the north, near Bolivia, the dough is made with corn. In the south it is made from wheat flour.”

Ms Reynals’ uncles ran a family vineyard when she was a child. She would spend summers working in the vineyards and got to know the wine making process intimately.

“Argentinian wines are doing well right now,” she said. “We are blessed by nature. Argentina is a place where you don’t have fungus attacking the vines as much and the weather is pretty much great across the year other than hail storms.”

Vineyards in Mendoza and other places in Argentina are some of the highest elevated vineyards in the world, some located at around 1,400 ft. The elevation keeps down the pests, but it means the vineyards can be subjected to sudden hail storms that can completely destroy the vines. To deal with this, winemakers place thin netting across their plants. Another challenge is the dryness of the mountains. There isn’t much rainfall, so all irrigation must be man made.

“I think the higher up you go, the more aromatic the wine is,” said Ms Reynals. “The winemakers are good in Argentina. They have a high level of education. Many of them study it at the university level.”

Many winemakers in Argentina are descended from old European wine making families, so the tradition goes back for many generations. It is common for winemakers in Argentina to harvest the crop in the southern hemisphere and then travel to Europe or California to catch the harvest season there.

“The only problem is the economy in Argentina,” said Ms Reynals. “The economy is pretty bad right now. It is affecting the industry. Some vineyards are having trouble importing much needed expensive winemaking equipment from Europe.”

Malbec is one popular Argentinian wine. In 2012 Wine Spectator Magazine voted Achával-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza Finca Bella Vista 2010 the tenth best wine of the year.

Ms Reynals said Malbec produced in Argentina has quite a different taste from Malbec from other parts of the world.

“Even within the country, Malbec tastes different from region to region,” said Ms Reynals. “The soil and the weather changes the taste of the wine. If I blend a sauvignon grape here and then did it there it would be completely different wine.”

She thought Argentinian Malbec has an acidity that is fresher, more balanced and more tannic. “Most of our wine is organic,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of fungal problems and diseases, so we don’t need to put so much sulphur in the wine.”

The wine and food pairing at Bistro J is on Tuesday. Tickets are $75 plus grats per person. For more information call 296-8546.

Argentinian wine: Julia Reynals with a bottle of wine from Argentina. She is hosting an evening for food and wine from the South American country.
Argentinian wine: Julia Reynals with a bottle of wine from Argentina. She is hosting an evening for food and wine from the South American country.
Argentinian wine facts

l Wine is the official drink of Argentina.

l Argentina is the fifth biggest producer of wine in the world.

l The Argentina wine tradition began in the 1600s when the Spanish brought vine samples to the country.

l For many centuries though Argentinian wine was considered unfit for export. It was only in the 1990s that the export business began.

l Malbec from Mendoza is Argentina’s best known wine which is characterised by black fruit, balanced acidity, smooth and spicy flavour.

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Published June 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm)

Come and enjoy an evening of Argentinian food and wine

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