Monday, January 31, 2011

Vino Argentino: A Crash Course on Living the Sweet Life

The book came in the mail a couple of months ago. Thanks to things I like to call “real world problems”, I neither had the time nor the clearness of mind to give a book the focus it deserves. But the beautiful cover beckons and entices, and once in a while I would flip through the pages and look at the pretty pictures. Soon I was reading chapter after chapter, finding immediate escape from the stresses of daily life to a country that is both exotic and magical. Before I knew it was happening, I was longing to hop on a plane to Argentina.

Laura Catena’s book about Argentina’s wine culture, Vino Argentino, is not only “a guide to the wines and wine country of Argentina”, but also gives you a taste of the Argentine version of La Dolce Vita. And who could be better than the raven-haired daughter of Argentina’s legendary winemaker, Nicolas Catena, to walk us through it? Despite a prolific career in medicine (Laura holds degrees in both Harvard and Stanford), the lure of wine-making proved to be irresistible as she started her own range of wines under the Luca label. Now, she works closely with her father in the family business in Mendoza, overlooking all the Catena vineyards and wineries.

The book takes you through Argentina’s wine regions, giving you the usual information regarding its geographical location and terroir (the environmental elements that influence a wine’s characteristics), and at the same time featuring some of the local wine heroes and color. Amazingly, the combination of forthright prose, vibrant story-telling, and the most striking collection of photography I have seen in quite a while, transports you to the Argentina that Catena enviously calls home. Aside from satisfying the wine geek’s curiosity about the ins-and-outs of Argentine winemaking, the book also discloses an insider look on the country’s food scene, cool hangouts and cozy B & B’s. If you love pairing your Malbec with delicious food (as you should), Catena also shares some well-loved recipes you will normally find on tables all over Mendoza and the Uco Valley- Empanadas Saltenas, Carbonada (“a classic meat and vegetable stew), and Rib-eye Steak with Chimichurri and Patagonian Potatoes have caught this carnivore’s eye.

As wine critic, Dr. Jay Miller, imparts in the book’s foreword, “anyone heading to Argentina, and particularly to wine country, should be carrying a copy” of Vino Argentino. Not only does it educate, but it gently nudges you to kick back a little and enjoy life and the often-unappreciated beauty that it brings. Could I be stretching it a little? Maybe. But, who cares? I’m still on vacation.

Vino Argentino: An Insider’s Guide to the Wines and Wine Country of Argentina by Laura Catena, Photographs by: Sara Remington (Chronicle Books)