Despite renewed tensions over the Falkland Islands, Argentina and Britain have peacefully collaborated to produce a wine of dual nationality. Or, more correctly, a “fruit-based alcoholic beverage.”
Lovechild of the British Chapel Down vineyard, Wines of Argentina and Gaucho restaurants, the “beverage” has been made from 1,500 kg of grapes flown over from Mendoza winery Finca La Franca. But because they were pressed, barrelled and bottled in the UK, the resulting tipple is subject to EU labelling guidelines. Namely, that wine can only be termed “wine” and sold commercially if it is produced in the same country in which the grapes are grown.
Unsexy as this “fruit-based alcoholic beverage” moniker is, it’s provided an opportunity for some light-hearted experimentation between the collaborators. Developed to celebrate the second Malbec World Day, an international celebration of this deep, violety red for which Argentine wine is renowned, it posed an interesting challenge for Chapel Down. The vineyard is best-known for its sparkling wines, so a big meaty red like Malbec might be a little outside their comfort zone.
So did they succeed? In creating an enjoyable wine from a unique viticultural exercise – yes – although authenticity is not its strong point. It lacks the depth and complexity of an Argentine Malbec. For me, New World reds are strong personalities, idiosyncratic, and riddled with hang-ups of which the drinker can make sense. Chapel Down’s Malbec is fun but perhaps a little one dimensional – the beverage equivalent of a teenager from Orange County.
That’s just the point though – fun – in the making and the drinking. Wafting blackberries on the nose and infinitely drinkable alongside one of Gaucho’s superlative steaks (Churrasco, you rock my world), Chapel Down’s as yet unnamed beverage will be available to try for free with a glass of Viña Patricia Malbec at Gaucho Piccadilly until their 1000 bottles run out. Or, for keen beans out there, pop along to a Gaucho restaurant today – that’s right, it’s World Malbec Day! – to get a celebratory sample.
Not simply a marketing ploy, Malbec World Day has some interesting history attached to it. 17th April 1853 marked the day that national hero General Domingo Faustino Sarmiento submitted a proposal to the Argentine Government to broaden Argentina’s wine industry, of which Malbec became a mainstay. The traditionally French grape particularly flourished in the country’s assorted terroirs and patchwork of landscapes.
It’s good to know that we can still rely on Dionysian pleasures to unite us during dubious diplomatic times for Argentina and Britain. As Andrew Maidmont, European Head of Wine of Argentina, said to The Times: “We are doing our bit to restore calm. This is a more realistic reflection of the relationship between our two countries; teaming up and enjoying each other’s food and wine.” Let’s raise a glass (of Malbec) to that.