Occasion: Argentine Declaration of Independence
Date: 9th July, 1816
I hope everyone enjoyed our previous little journey to Cyprus and is ready for our first trip to South America and uncover the facts and stories about the world`s largest Spanish speaking country. The name Argentina derives from the Latin word for silver (argentum) due to European colonialists believing that there was a mountain made of the precious metal over there. To further understand the formation of the country we have to apprehend the complicated political situation that was present at the south of the continent during the early 19th century. Argentina was part of the Viceroyalty of the Rio de la Plata within the Spanish Empire alongside Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. After Napoleon defeated Ferdinand VII of Spain in 1808, as the news arrived from Europe, the locals decided to take advantage of the problems and confusions the Empire was facing and these led to the May Revolution in 1810. As the events unfolded the Buenos Aires led First Government Junta emerged and staked its claim for control over the Viceroyalty and hence the Argentine War of Independence had begun. Throughout the next years Mexico (1810) and also Venezuela (1811) declared its independence which made the Argentines believe in the possibility of separation. As Napoleon lost his famous last battle in Waterloo in 1815 all the circumstances seemed perfect and finally on the 9th July 1816 the United Provinces of South America declared its independence.
History of course does not stop here and there were civil wars and major territory losses to follow while Buenos Aires was only unified with Argentina in 1861. Still this is the day that the country commonly and proudly celebrates as their day of becoming independent. If you want to enjoy the day like a true Argentine you have to prepare yourself for a long day of feasting. The main dish that one simply cannot miss is locro (a traditional stew made from beef/pork, chorizo, beans, corn and pumpkin) and for dessert you can take your pick from pastelitos (pastry filled with jam or sweet potato puree) and churros (those long, salted, fried-dough pastries dipped in hot chocolate sauce). When it comes to beverages Argentinians drink `Mate` which is a tea-like infusion made with hot water poured on dried yerba-mate leaves and the locals drink it with a silver (see the connection?) straw. The other necessity on the tables is of course a few bottles of local quality red wines that the country is so proud of so let`s take a look at those Argentinian wines in more detail!
Churros are indeed really delicious!
Although Argentinian people were really glad to chase away those Spanish invaders, it is certain that none of them regrets letting them bring along their grapes and wine making technologies. Thanks to those the country started making wine as early as 1551 and by today it has become the world`s fifth largest wine producing nation. This might come as a surprise to some because in Europe we don`t come across as many of their wines as opposed to products from Chile, Australia or New Zealand which countries are behind Argentina on this particular list. The reason behind this is that up until a decade ago Argentina was a lot more focused on mass production for their home market (90%) rather than creating quality for export. Much like in Chile the majority of the vineyards are on the foothills of the Andes (on the east side as opposed to the west facing Chilean fields) which means that the average altitude is a cracking 900 meters (furthest up the hill is Salta with its respectable 3000 meters in elevation). Due to this and the low humidity Argentine vineyards are pretty safe from grape diseases which means little or no use of pesticides in production which results in an unaffected taste and even organic wines can be produced.
`Vino Country`, Salta Province, Cafayate (1683m)
The country has some really great white wines but when it comes to Argentina we all think of red and standing out from the crowd is their world conquering Malbec that is even being exported to the birthplace of wine, to France. The Mendoza Province is the centre of Argentina`s viticulture (it accounts for more than 60% of the country`s wines) and that’s where we can find the best of the Malbec too. It is characterised by a deep red colour, very intense fruity flavours, a velvety texture and less tannin when compared to the French Malbec. On its own or as part of a blend (usually with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Petit Verdot) we should all get a bottle of this amazing Argentinian wine that is rapidly growing in popularity and is a beautiful compliment to a romantic dinner or even to reading a book by the fireplace.
Credit to Bottles Providence for this great video on Malbec wines
Since there is no way I would recommend mixing such good wine in a cocktail, for today`s recipe I will be using `Mate` tea and this drink is a really special variation on a well-known classic. See you again on the 12th when we are celebrating the Northern Ireland`s Battle of the Boyne day with (what else?) Bushmills!
White Russian Mate:
20ml Stolichnaya Vodka
10ml Double Cream
3 teaspoons of My Morning Mate tea
15 ml sugar syrup
Make the tea and chill it
Combine 40ml tea, vodka, kahlua, sugar syrup and shake
Strain into a rocks glass full of ice
Pour cream on top
Garnish with chocolate shavings