So while this may be a cooking/food blog, I firmly believe that wine and beer are an integral part of that – hence trying to do wine/beer pairings with most of my recipes. Also, I really just love wine and beer. So, naturally during my trip since both Chile and Argentina are huge wine producers the goal was to drink all the wines! This was achieved in several ways. Mostly, just drinking wines at restaurants, but my cooking class did some pairings and I went on a spectacular wine tour in Mendoza with Trout and Wine – seriously, totally worth it, the tour was phenomenal.
So here are the four most important wines I had in the region.
Chile: Sauvingon Blanc
So if you’ve been reading this blog, at least in the summer, you’ll know I’m already a huge fan of Sauvignon Blancs. Chile does some of the best, but they are somewhat different from New Zealand ones – less grassy more mineral-y. But since it was warm and early summer down there, I drank a ton of it and was always happy in the process.
Carmenere is a red varietal almost exclusive produced in Chile – the type of grape basically died out in France. I’d describe it as half-way between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, way fuller body than Merlot, but fewer tanins than a Cab. Frankly, I really wish more of them were exported to the US – it’s a great all-purpose red. I don’t have any pictures, but keep it in mind if you are interested in a new red varietal.
A white wine that’s starting to show up a bit in the US, but not a lot. All the torrontes I’ve had have been light and flowery. It’s actually a bit lighter than a Sauvignon Blanc, so you can only pair it with something really on the light side, or have it by itself. It’s nice, but I’d rather drink other types of wine to be honest.
And of course, you can’t talk about Argentinian wines without talking about Malbec. Of course you can get malbec pretty much anywhere in the US so if you haven’t tried it, the US intro Malbec (and Argentina’s most exported one) is Alamos. However, while I was there, not only did I try a number of different malbec, I also had some late harvest malbec. Late harvest means that there was a lot of sugar in the grapes, so it creates a really sweet, really alcoholic wine, not dissimilar to port. I haven’t seen any in the US yet, but I’m keeping an eye out as it was delicious.
There are other things to drink down there. Chile has a slowly developing craft beer market, basically two breweries: Kuntsmann and Austral, and both were pretty good. Also, pisco sours. Lots of pisco sours, which I found to be rather hit or miss while I was down there. Song of the week: Back in the USSR by The Beatles. Self-explanatory and also great song.
So this is one of those recipes that turned out yummy, but it was not actually what I expected it to be. I wanted to do something different with eggplant this week, and I did not want to do a bake or lasagna or something on that end. Then, I found this recipe for eggplant risotto, which was great because I had been thinking it had been a long time since I made risotto. However, I wanted to add cheese. Normally I’d use fontina, but Whole Foods didn’t have any and I didn’t feel like making a second trip to Trader Joes. So after a brief consultation with my parents, we decided that gorgonzola would be an acceptable but risky choice and so I ran with it. After all, what’s the point of new-recipe day if I don’t try risky or surprising food combos?
1/2 a large eggplant
2/3 arborio rice
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2-3 ounces gorgonzola cheese
Start by cutting the eggplant in half, a lightly coating one of the halves in olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 until the eggplant is soft – aka when you press the skin of the eggplant and the indent remains. Scoop out the inner-flesh of the eggplant and chop it up (or puree it) so its all soft and mushy, not fibrous. Set aside
Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and onions and saute them for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and saute that as well for a minute or two. Slowly add the broth, one 1/2 cup at a time, letting the rice absorb each 1/2 cup before adding more. When the rice are close to done, but not there yet, add the white wine, then add more broth if/when needed. Once the rice are done (no hard, crunchy bits in the center but still on the firmer side of things) mix in the eggplant, parsley and cheese. The cheese should melt into the risotto. Serve while still warm.
Result: super creamy and quite good. The only downside (if you can call it a downside) is that the gorgonzola overpowered everything. I like blue cheese,so that wasn’t a bad thing per se, but it might have been nice to taste the eggplant. That said, given that the eggplant just sorta blended in with the rice, the flavor might not have been there regardless, in which case, the blue cheese is a welcome addition. I served this with a white wine, a South African Chenin Blanc specifically. It worked well, but I think a red would be better – gorgonzola always pairs better with reds. Also, for the record, I don’t really like South African wines, even though I’ve tried a number of them in an effort to give them a fair chance. Maybe 1 in 5 is actually decent in my opinion (this one was good though). Not good enough odds to be worth it in my opinion, when most other regions 3-4 out of every 5 wines are good. Finally – the song of the week is Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver, because I just visited my sister in Boulder and its a great song (I may have been singing it to myself while hiking in the mountains …)