Tourists in search of sensorial experiences around wine are increasingly attracted by the new offerings of Argentine wineries. And that is because they not only want to visit places of origin and vineyards, or meet the winemakers who create the wine, but also they want to taste the Argentine cuisine for which it has been worldwide recognized.
Visiting a winery, touring its vineyards, tasting its wines are some of the activities tourists look for when they travel to the different wine regions of Argentina. However, in the few past years, wine tourism added a new attraction to the wine routes: winery restaurants. The “Argentine gastronomy” is constantly reinventing itself, experiencing a sustained growth, being tailored to the national and international demand, obtaining international recognitions and awards. The gastronomy has become a key aspect in the wine promotion, what is more, “Chefs are the new communicators of the Argentine wine. They know very well the product as well as the rest of the ingredients used for their dishes, being masters in the art of pairing. Moreover, due to their contact with consumers, they make wine be regarded as the ideal product to pair with food,” stressed Magdalena Pesce, Marketing and Comunications Manager at Wines of Argentina, who also added that the promotion and communication actions performed by the institution are based on the gastronomy as it enables to communicate better the brand.
To Boris Walker, Chef of Schroeder winery, the most important development that Argentina gastronomy has achieved was the concept of terroir, “today, we can find an Argentine culinary identity with foreign influences. The European classic concept has been present during several years and, in most cases, it was badly misunderstood. According to Walker, today the Argentine food is under a process of consolidation, creating the basis to remain growing. Moreover, the expert said that the international recognition is a logic and well-deserved consequence, making communication easier.
On the other hand, the Chef of Ruca Malén’s winery, Lucas Bustos stressed: “today, we have the opportunity to create a complete experience for those visiting Mendoza and this way, we get established as a world-class wine tourist destination. Wineries and winemakers are experienced in communicating the Argentine wine, attracting the attention of the whole world. Nowadays, chefs can cross this bridge to go on growing and adding more value to the experience”. In addition, Bustos maintained that the task of chefs is to show the Argentine cuisine in an honest and conceptually sound way in order to be as good as the work done by the wine industry, “we have exceptional raw materials and qualified professionals to do it,” pointed out the chef.
From Malma restaurant of NQN winery, its Chef Matías Núñez commented that the new Argentine cuisine is at its beginning, “It is a long process but it is going in the right direction along with an established local cuisine.” Besides, Núñez highlighted that it has the basic techniques, known by all chefs, but with an added value: the local product to create new versions of Argentina’s traditional dishes. “It is really important the fact that we are adopting the responsibility to be the new wine communicators, as we can determine the ideal pairing, from the very beginning of the dish creation,” mentioned the Chef.
In order to be aware of the latest food trends, chefs remain constantly travelling, showing their creations and acquiring knowledge to give the Argentine cuisine an innovative stamp. Boris Walker maintained: “the international trend is clearly a “simple” cuisine of regional seasonal ingredients. I call it ‘transparent cuisine’. In general, customers are interested in and know about the food and wine world. I think it is a very positive trend, where diners consider the delight a way of lifestyle.”
For his part, NQN’s Chefs explained: “when we travel we find outstanding products and variety . The fact of being in contact with trends provides us with even more information. The local cuisine grows day by day, so we should take care of local products.”
In this respect, from Piattelli winery, Facundo Belardinelli, the Executive Chef of its Piattelli Vineyards Cafayate restaurant (Salta), pointed out that, “new trends enrich our cuisine, provide new technical concepts and improve the use of products, enabling to create increasingly simpler dishes, with textures, color, flavor and a greater expression. My vision is based on the haute cuisine, that is to say, to have skill, creation, and a dynamic and expressive menu.” According to Belardinelli, quality entails to use the best product of the region, always looking for their seasonality.
Moreover, Pablo del Río, a well-known Chef nationwide and worldwide, who provides food services in different wineries of the country, explained: “when we travel we realize that Argentina boasts very interesting things, especially the quality of fruits and vegetables we find in Mendoza. The product should be our best ally and producers should know it; so, we have to let them know about that, so that they get involved in this process. Without this integration, we will not progress.” As regards the trends in other countries, Pablo del Río said that they are the result of a hard work and a long time, “we want to set trends when actually in Mendoza, we have been developing just over 8 o 10 years ago a local cuisine to show all over the world”. And then he added: “the Argentine gastronomy is still considered a single-product, in other words, it is associated with meat. However, this is only a part of our culture, we should show other sides as well. The way we prepare pasta, for example, is not after the style of Italy, flavors and texture are different, so I think this is part of our own cuisine: we should base on our grandparents and parents’ legacy.” Afterwards, the professional spotlighted that we can use meat and chimichurri as a spearhead to communicate, but it is important to show that this is not the only we have.
Chef’s advices to pair
According to Matías Nuñez, “kid seasoned only with brine and cooked on firewood of piquillin, and a great Merlot with a short aging in barrels is an unexpected pairing. Other of my favorite pairing is a delicious trout cooked in clay oven with a Pinot Noir without oak.”
As Piattelli’s Chefs suggested, in order to achieve a good food and wine pairing, we should always bear in mind the materials we count on. “There are products that are not good for pairing, such as garlic, onion, celery, chilli, asparagus, and the worst of all: vinegar. I always look for fresh and subtle flavor, products almost in their natural state to match with white wines. In the case of reds, if they are full-bodied or well-structured examples, the ideal partner is red or game meat, served with garnish of powerful flavor and different textures”.
On his part, Chef Pablo del Río stressed that pairing can be made differently: “thinking firstly about what we drink and according to this, we think about what we eat, or vice versa. But there is no magic formula. What happens if I want to eat fish and drink Malbec? Should I do it? Of course, you should. Food and wine pairing is a moment to do what we want to do.” Finally, the expert summed up by saying that “cheers and relax, there are fewer rules than we have been told.”
Lucas Bustos suggested choosing products from the region where the wine is made, using some of the aromatic descriptors of the wine (e.g. Malbec + red fruits), accentuating at least 3 different textures, so as to avoid a monotonous palate, and enhancing the acidity of some element to refresh the palate, “sometimes, the best food and wine pairing comes from the search of opposite tastes among wines and dishes,” concluded the Chef.
The diversity Argentina offers as a tourist destination is incredible. The challenge is to keep up with the international trends and the demands of tourists who visit the country in search of different experiences related to wine tourism. The gastronomy boom seen in wineries is here to stay; there is an increasing number of tourists wanting to live and enjoy not only its wine, what have distinguished Argentina worldwide, but also other aspect that transports us to Argentina’s origins and culture: its cuisine.