Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Liquid Fruit of the Gauchos

I've read that Yerba Mate is known in Argentina as the "liquid vegetable of the gauchos." This nickname has been slapped on the tea-like yerba mate for its supposed healthy benefits. It is traditionally drunk from a hollow gourd, and every now and then in Los Angeles you'll see someone drinking mate from just such a gourd. Yes, you're right, he is the one wearing the angry, smug expression and matching Che T-shirt.

I've tried to get into yerba mate with no success. So, instead, I've turned my attention on the liquid fruit of the gaucho - wine - Argentinian wine. And at the last Brown Bag Sommelier tasting event, I can say I had a lot of success.

Again, the Brown Bag Sommeliers went in search of delicious wines for 12.99 or less. Argentina has a lot more wines that fit that description than does Southern California within a one hundred mile radius of Brown Bag HQ. Of course, Argentina's wine regions comprise an area about the size of the entire state of California( but this is no excuse So-Cal - you still have to wear the Brown Bag of Shame until you start crushing and bottling delicious wines for 12.99 or less). So, there is a greater margin for success. Still, every wine we had had something good going for it. Even the chewy tannat that made my mouth pucker up like a wine-drinking large mouth bass had the chance of showing up again on my table next to an Astro-Burger with a side of fried zucchini sticks.

Argentina's star grape, the Malbec had a strong presence at the tasting, but we also had a bonarda, a cabernet sauvignon, a tannat, and one white, a torrantes, amidst the deep reds.

Over all, the wines were great. They were satisfying. They were peppery, spicy, and went great with dark chocolate. Aside from the cabernet sauvignon, the wines we had should be paired with food. The cab we found was definitely a wine that worked with or without food.

These wines were tight, clean, modern. They aren't structured like the intense, highly engineered California wines, but neither do they have the traditional taste of European wines. Argentinian wines seem a mixture of the Old and New Worlds.

Reviews to follow...