Hello, hello! How’s it going? Nicky here, reporting from Mendoza, Argentina. Yup, I’m still on my travels, surrounded by maps, notes, recommendations and adventures, saying goodbye to summer and welcoming autumn in the southern hemisphere. Amazing, isn’t it? I still can’t believe it. The moment I step out onto the street I can see mountains in the distance and take a deep breath of fresh air. It feels like the sun shines brighter here, and the trees reach right up into the sky. It’s beautiful.
Right now, I’m resting in my hotel room, so I’m taking a moment to share some of the notes I’ve made on my visit. As I’ve said before, a lot of different wines are produced in Argentina but one variety stands out above all: Malbec.
That’s the one I’m going to concentrate on today, and the timing is great with Malbec World Day coming up.
In Mendoza everything revolves around wine. It’s a major ingredient in the cuisine and there are thousands of ways to enjoy it. Which is why you’ll find it in all kinds of recipes as well as glasses and bottles. I’ve talked about Malbec recipes before, but experiencing it here is something else entirely.
A few days ago, I discovered Malbec salt in a restaurant. It sounds weird, I’d never have thought that the lovely wine could be used as a condiment. But it really is tasty and easy to make. I looked up the recipe and saved it on my phone so I can put it on my spice rack at home.
So, Malbec salt goes very well with different kinds of meat, cheese, risotto and even salad. You only need two ingredients: coarse salt and Malbec. It’s really that easy.
First, spread the salt on a tray. Then spoon wine over it to soak it but be careful not to add too much so as not to dilute the salt.
Then mix until the salt turns wine colored, cover the tray with clingfilm or another covering and let it rest for 24 hours in a warm place. The next day, voilá! Your Malbec flavored salt is ready: a very easy but unusual condiment. You can keep the salt in any vessel that seals properly and use it whenever you like.
Cocktails with Malbec
Mendoza also has plenty of options for those who want to play around with wine in different ways. Good cocktails are an excellent way to explore new Malbec combinations.
My friends Juli and Tomi recommended a visit to Sagrado Bar, in Luján de Cuyo, to try “Miguel’s vermouth”, a real treasure of the Mendoza bar.
This vermouth (or vermú, as they call it here) is made with Malbec, raspberry syrup, mountain tea and lemon juice, garnished with a chocolate covered raspberry. It combines all the properties of Malbec with fruity, refreshing flavors for a unique cocktail.
Served in an open-mouthed glass, it’s an elegant, delicious drink with an intense ruby color. The chocolate raspberry is a tasty final flourish.
The drink was named in homage to Miguel Aguinaga, who pioneered wine production at the end of the 19th century and was one of the first owners of the mansion that now plays host to the bar.
Another good Malbec cocktail is called “The Big Trick” and was introduced last year at an event called “Wine and Cocktails”.
To make it, put some orange chunks in a glass with an ounce of cinnamon syrup. Add ice and then pour Malbec up to halfway. Finally, add a little Extra Brut sparkling wine for a bubbly texture. Done! Another tasty, non-traditional option.
To complete my list of Malbec combinations, let me share a few tips to help you enjoy the wine in all its splendor: pairings. Knowing how to match a glass with the right dish is a genuine art. Malbec goes very well with red meats but also vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and onions, among foods. A visit to Mendoza is an education in combining different flavors.
At the hotel, they recommended the wine store Vino Bien at 1100 Avenida Belgrano. There you can enjoy a lovely glass with all kinds of tasty snacks. I went nuts over the dish of strawberries, red fruit mousse and white chocolate ganache, a delight for those with a sweet tooth that goes perfectly with a Mendoza Malbec.
Another place worth visiting is Vico Wine Bar at Rivadavia 799, which I’m told is an essential stop for lovers of good wine and food.
Their dispensers are filled with the best wines in the country allowing you to enjoy a relaxed, novel experience accompanied by a delicious range of tapas such as vegetable ceviche, peperonata, pork croquettes with lemon, caponata and roasted pepper along a with lot of other delicacies. Visitors wanting to try something more traditional can opt for the empanadas made in a clay oven with salsa llajua.
So, that’s it for today. I hope these notes help you to enjoy a few more Malbec combinations, and experience the Argentine wonder the way I do.
Right now, I need to plan the rest of my visit. Tell me: what would you pair a delicious glass of Argentine Malbec with? I’ll read your ideas of course! See you when I send my next dispatch! A hug from Mendoza!