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Sunday, 31 March 2013 20:00

Argentina’s Buenos Aires and Mendoza

Written by  Karen Loftus
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Argentina’s Buenos Aires and Mendoza

Forks, Corks, Villas & Vines

As Pretty as a Picture. There are Many Layers of Beauty to be Seen in MendozaWSouth America’s premier destination knows a thing or two about pairing fine food and award winning wines. They also know how to wow a tourist with the best of both. Argentina provides a perfect travel balance with a pair of destinations that are sure to seduce all the senses, and sate any travel palate. 

Next time you are hungry for some serious southern hospitality, head to Argentina and load up on an ample serving of both Buenos Aires and Mendoza. No matter how full the forks and corks and cultural offerings may leave you, you will leave Argentina begging for more. 

Buenos Aires

For city slickers looking to get their culture groove on, Buenos Aires delivers it in spades. Known as the Paris of South America, or in some circles, Eva Peron’s City, Buenos Aires is by far the most European city in all of South America. 

It’s the second largest city, second only to Brazil’s Sao Paolo in South America. From art and architecture to their turbulent historical history and an unrivaled cafe and culinary culture, Buenos Aires is a can’t miss for savvy and sophisticated travelers.

Once you arrive, take up residence at the French and Art Deco designed Sofitel Hotel (www.sofitel.com/Bue
nos-Aires)
. Set in the city’s art district and near many embassies in the city, this neoclassical structure will give you a window into what Buenos Aires was like in its celebrated hey-day. 

If looking for a boutique experience, head to the iconic Algodon (www.algodonmansion.com) to see and be seen by the urban elite. You can do lunch, grab a rooftop cocktail or get one of the best spa services in the city.

For an artful appetizer, indulge at Fortabat Art Museum, where lunch can be enjoyed at the on-site restaurant. Or opt to hit the streets along with the Portenos, the chic elite of Buenos Aires. Grab a steak sandwich on the go, drizzled with chimichurri sauce at one of the local parillas. Then head to Palermo Soho to do some damage at those chic shops. Cocktail, culinary and couture abound in this ever-trendy outpost.

Finish your visit in the tony neighborhood of Recoleta. Enjoy a long and luxurious coffee at one of the city’s classic cafes. Pay your respects to Eva Peron at one of the world’s most famous cemeteries. It’s best to arrive late in the day at Recoleta when the lighting is perfect.

On our final night, we partook in the celebration of Argentina’s most celebrated grape. Last year was the 2nd annual Malbec World Day (www.wine
sofargentina.org
) where top winemakers and Argentineans toasted their local star. This year, the festivities continue in Buenos Aires and in oeno-inspired cities around the world.

Mendoza

The first things you see as you drive away from Francisco Gabrielli’s International airport in Mendoza are the vines on their lot. So, if you didn’t know you were deep in wine country when you arrived, it becomes crystal clear once you exit the airport. 

Coined the Napa of South America, the fifth largest wine region in the world is producing two thirds of Argentina’s wines. There are other grand regions in Argentina, from San Juan and La Rioja and Patagonia to several other smaller regions. Mendoza may be the mightiest, with vineyard acreage greater than New Zealand and Australia combined. 

Malbec grapes, originating from France, are very different from their French relatives. They create the region’s definitive red and are the most widely planted. Equally distinctive in the Mendoza portfolio are Torrontes, the only grape wholly indigenous to Argentina with a Muscat-y fragrance with hints of peach and citrus, yet spicy on the palate. It stands up well to the Argentinean smoked meats, which abound in town.

We checked in to the fairly new business savvy Intercontinental Hotel in Mendoza (www.ihg.com). Then we headed straight to the wineries. It was clear within minutes of our visit that the agri-tourism in Mendoza was more robust than ever. 

We had a leisurely lunch at Bodega Vistalba’s award winning La Bourgogne Restaurant. It is one of the properties in town offering accommodations on site, which would be very convenient, as it can take an hour to get from Mendoza’s city center to the wineries. 

Visits continued at the Dutch owned Salentein winery, home to Killka restaurant and one of the most celebrated galleries in Mendoza. The only competition to the art is the backdrop of the picturesque Andes Mountains, which frame the property, making it look like a rather impressive art installation.

Kicking off our next day of oeno-activity was a visit to the family owned and run Zuccardi Winery. My previous visit in ‘09 had me pruning their vines. This visit, I harvested my own olives, which we later pressed. Taking a bottle of my own oil home was one of my best travel trophies to date. Lunch at their newer restaurant Pan & Olive was a great way to celebrate.

That evening, we broke bread at Nadia O.F. Restaurante in Mendoza’s city center. The noted Nadia Haron’s husband, Jose Manuel Ortega of O. Fournier Wine Group joined us for the meal. Ortega perfectly paired his gorgeous award winning wines throughout the sumptuous meal. The restaurant was teeming with foodie fans, as Nadia was recently given a top chef award in Argentina. It was easy to see why, as we were privy to her four-course degustacion, an El Bulli-like meal. 

During the meal, her husband Jose shared that his winery is selling both wine villas and plots. You can buy a plot and they will harvest the grapes, make the wine, and sell the wine for you with your own label on it. The return on your minimal investment would be seemingly, quick and easy. Even more enviable than the financial fun was the notion of having your own label. He told us tip-top investors and jetsetters from around the globe were jumping in, hand over vine to get in on the vintner activity. As Fournier mentioned, “What is more impressive than pulling out your own wine at a business dinner?” Hard to argue as vintner visions were already dancing in my head. 

When we arrived at the idyllic Tupungato Winery the next morning, we were told that Tupungato had wine plots and wine villas on offer as well. It’s becoming a point of practice in the region. Not only that, Tupungato also had golf and polo villas for sale. 

True to form, I was leaving Argentina with an even greater appetite for their grapes and plates than when I arrived. I was already placing my order for my next visit. Next time back, I am ordering a villa with my wines.

For more information, visit Argentina Tourism, www.argentina.travel or Buenos Aires, www.bue.gov.ar and

Mendoza, www.turismo.mendoza.gov.ar

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