When one thinks of wines from Argentina, the first grape varieties that come to mind are most likely Malbec and Torrontés – as well as the country’s most well-known wine region, Mendoza. However, one of Argentina’s younger and promising regions is Patagonia, which has a similar southern latitude to New Zealand.
In Patagonia’s grapegrowing areas of Chubut, La Pampa, Neuquén, and Río Negro, one finds Argentina’s southernmost vineyards. The topography is desert-like, with plentiful sunshine during the summer days, but with cold nights. Patagonia often experiences unpredictable weather with regard to precipitation, winds, and extreme temperature variances. The eastern area bordering the Atlantic Ocean sees a maritime influence. Due to the aforementioned extreme climatic and weather factors – including a longer growing season to achieve optimal ripening – Patagonia is emerging as a notable producer of Pinot Noir. Two wineries enjoying success are Bodega Tapiz’s Wapisa and Bodega Familia Schroeder.
Bodega Tapiz’s Patagonian winery, launched in 2017, is called Wapisa, which means ‘whale’ in Yámana, the language and name of the indigenous inhabitants of the southern coast of nearby Tierra del Fuego. In 2015, the winery purchased Finca Los Acantilados and tapped former Pétrus winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet as the consultant to work with winemaker Fabián Valenzuela. The Los Acantilados Estate is located on the Río Negro River, 12 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. According to Bodega Tapiz, it is the only winery located in Patagonia Atlántica that enjoys the coastal effects of warm days, cool ocean breezes, and mild nights. Its vineyards thrive in a combination of loamy clay topsoil enriched with plentiful organic matter and rocky soils approximately one meter below, which allows for optimal hydration and drainage. Wapisa produces four wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
The 2017 Wapisa Pinot Noir, San Javier Río Negro, Patagonia, Argentina (suggested retail price $19; available through importer, Vino del Sol, at Bay Area and online retailers), spends only eight months aging in oak; thus, the tannins are softer, and the acidity is vibrant. Youthful aromas and flavors of tart red berries – think cranberry and red currant – and baking spices like clove – are begging for food.
The winery’s suggested pairings include herb-roasted turkey, wild rice with mushrooms and bacon, mushroom omelets, sautéed mushrooms, cranberry and toasted pecan chutney, cold green bean casserole with citrus vinaigrette, and a roasted vegetable dish with broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and squash. However, Wapisa’s favorite recipe, mushroom parmesan savory grains scones, is sure to stand out.
Bodega Familia Schroeder is a family-owned and -operated winery located in the San Patricio del Chañar Valley in Neuquén, at 39 degrees south latitude, about 33 miles outside of the city of Neuquén. Its location in Northern Patagonia’s arid plains exposes the vineyards to a wide diurnal range – the day-to-night temperature extreme – strong winds, and a long, warm growing season, which results in higher ripeness, pronounced acidity, and intense color and flavors.
The winery, under the helm of winemaker Leonardo Puppato, produces a variety of labels, including their Saurus Select, whose name is a nod to the discovery of Aeolosaurus fossils during the winery’s construction. Paleontologists Juan Porfiri and Jorge Calvo named the species Panamericansaurus schroederi after Pan American Energy, which funded the excavation, and the Schroeder family.
Under the Saurus Select label, the winery produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, and Pinot Noir. The 2017 Saurus Select Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina ($18; available from online retailers) – an unfiltered wine – also goes through a hybrid malolactic fermentation and aging program in 40% new French oak, 60% stainless steel, which results in a rustic and textural palate expression of wild raspberries and strawberries cradled in smoky vanilla spice. While this pinot noir will pair with dishes like roasted poultry, baked salmon, nearly anything with mushrooms, and vegetable side dishes, Bodega Familia Schroeder recommends their favorite recipe of burnt peaches stuffed with patagonzola – Patagonia’s take on gorgonzola-style blue cheese – as a delicious accompaniment.
Mushroom Parmesan Savory Grains Scones
Makes eight large scones
Skill Level: Easy
One pouch Patagonia Provisions Savory Grains Mushroom + KAMUT®
¾ cup milk
1¼ cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) of cold butter, cubed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Add the savory grains, stir, and set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, combine flour and baking powder.
Add in butter cubes until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add cheese and stir to combine.
Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the dough comes together into a ball.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead 2-3 times. Flatten into a disk about 1 inch high and 10 inches in diameter. Cut into 8 wedges.
Place the wedges on a baking sheet. If desired, brush the tops with milk.
Bake until golden brown, about 12-16 minutes. Serve warm.
Burnt Peaches Stuffed with Patagonzola (Gorgonzola)
(With pearl barley, cherry tomatoes, almonds, and arugula leaves.)
2 medium-sized peaches
200 grams (7 ounces) of patagonzola (gorgonzola) cheese
12 cherry tomatoes
120 grams (4 ¼ ounces) of pearl barley
30 grams (1 ounce) of almonds
Two tied arugula leaves
Olive oil, apple vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste as described below
Peel the peaches, cut them in half and remove the pits.
Peel the patagonzola.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in the middle.
In abundant boiling water, place the almonds a couple of minutes, then remove them from the water, place in a dishcloth, and rub until the skin is removed.
With the boiling water used for the almonds, cook the barley until it becomes tender.
Chop the green part of the arugula and add it to the barley along with the tomatoes. Season to taste with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Make a vinaigrette with olive oil and apple vinegar, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a pan with hot olive oil, place the peaches. Once cooked, remove them from the heat, add the patagonzola (gorgonzola) cheese and place in a hot oven until the cheese melts.
On a plate, place a base of barley, the stuffed peaches, top with chopped almonds, then finish with the arugula leaves previously soaked in the vinaigrette.
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