Last week I was touring the vineyards of Burgenland in Austria as part of the EWBC and at one point we were tasting the wines of Eisenburg, eastern Austria. One of the producers described his wine as having boysenberry fruit characteristics. At which point, one of the fellows in my group wondered aloud, “What does a boysenberry taste and/or smell like?” I had to laugh, as growing up in California, boysenberry syrup was one of my favourite toppings to pour over my pancakes. So what if it was grossly artificial, at least we knew what boysenberries were and we could pick them up from the local farmers market if we were so inclined. Much like I had no idea what a gooseberry was until I moved to England, so goes my friend boysenberry to my English counterparts.
I only mention that story because I am now in Buenos Aires sampling all the wonderful wines that this country produces. I often say that I don’t really care for New World wines but Argentina really is stingy with their wines and keeps the best for themselves. Well, as to be expected from a country that consumes something like 80% of it’s production, why give it to the gringos?
After landing, I went straight to my hotel in Palermo Viejo, the Craft Hotel, where one of best friends,Monika, was waiting for me to go to lunch. I should mention that I lived in Buenos Aires for couple of years last decade so I know it quite well. A lot has changed and a lot hasn’t. It was nice to take a walk down memory lane on the drive into town. Monika asked me what I wanted for lunch and I unhesitantly shouted – “Parrilla!” For the uninitiated, a parrilla (pronounced in the “Porteno” way, as the citizens of Buenos Aires are called, pa-REE-sha) is a restaurant with a very large grill. Everything is grilled right before your eyes. The smell is fantastic and you can smell parrillas a mile away, just follow the smoky scent.
We settled ourselves in under the shade of the trees and commenced ordering. We were hungry but the portion sizes here are huge and Monika and I settled on one bife de chorizo to share with batatas fritas (sweet potato chips) and provoleta to start. Provoleta is a mozzarella type cheese distinct to Argentina. It’s saltier then mozzarella and they grill it with a drizzle of olive oil and oregano. I love it off the grill,crispy crust on the outside and all gooey on the inside. I could eat one by myself but my artieries prevailed and we split it.
What wine to have? Malbec, of course. I had to have a malbec, what kind of tourist would I be otherwise? Although, I once spent a week in Cairo before going to the pyramids, I went with a malbec that I don’t think is available in England, or at least I’d never heard of it, the Estiba I by Bodegas Esmeralda in Mendoza. The first thing I noticed was, you guessed it, boysenberries! Loads of them coming off the nose. A smooth wine, very round tannins, it was a nice companion to have under the trees. I found this malbec to be quite lush with medium acidity but it just went so well with the steak. That bottle slipped down very easily between me and Monika. And the price, the equivalent of £3.50 – in a restaurant!!! The prices here for wine are just ridiculously sublime.
After that big slab of steak and half a bottle of malbec and the heat, I was ready for a nap. I’ll be here for a month so I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots more about malbec, although, with this heat, I may just have to switch to white…torrontes, anyone?