South America Wine and Food Pairings
By: Samantha Nelmes
Join us for an exploration of some of South America’s renowned wine varietals, their distinct regions, and some delightful culinary options to pair them with.
Chile’s premier white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, is celebrated for its aromatic profile and lively character. This wine thrives in cooler climates to maintain its crucial acidic notes. The grapes are planted in locations influenced by cooling factors, with the Casablanca Valley being the most renowned region. Casablanca Valley is situated approximately 30km inland from the Pacific Coast. This region’s topography features low rolling hills to the west and higher hills to the east which creates the optimal environment. Cold, humid air from the Pacific roll in and get trapped making the Casablanca Valley the coolest wine region of Chile.
With Chile having over 6,300km of coastline, Ceviche emerges as an ideal culinary companion to Sauvignon Blanc. This dish is typically prepared with raw or ‘cooked’ white fish marinated in lemon juice, combined with red onion, bell pepper, and spices it pairs seamlessly with the wine’s light and refreshing style. The herbaceous notes of Sauvignon Blanc complement the finely diced bell peppers, while the wine’s high acidity balances with the tangy notes in the dish creating gastronomic perfection.
Other Pairing Suggestions: roasted chicken with grilled asparagus, goat cheese arugula salad, jalapeno poppers
As the flagship grape of Chile, Carmenere has a fascinating history. Back when the country first started producing wine, winemakers thought the grapes they were growing were Merlot. However, in 1994 when genetic testing showed that the grape they were cultivating was actually Carmenere, as so it marked a pivotal moment in Chilean winemaking. Frequently it is featured in blends alongside other international varietals, but the Carmenere grape also takes center stage as a distinctive single varietal wine.
The wines crafted from the Carmenere grape tends towards full-bodied, with elevated tannins, medium acidity, and often reveals notes of ripe black fruits, spice, and integrates well with oak ageing. Carmenere can occasionally exhibit aromas and flavours of herbaceous qualities such as bell pepper, it thrives best in a warm growing environment for optimal ripening. Notably, the regions of Maipo Valley and Colchagua are known for producing high-quality Carmenere styles, while good value-driver wines can be found throughout the expansive Central Valley.
Pairing: Empanadas de Pino
Empanadas are a culinary delight found in various forms across Latin Culture. Among them, the Empanadas de Pino holds a special place in Chilean cuisine. This savory pastry is a filled with a blend of ground beef, onions, raisins, black olives, and hard-boiled eggs. The resulting medley of flavours and textures tantalizes the palate, ranging from sweet and salty to creamy and rich. Pairing Empanadas de Pino with Carmenere enhances the dining experience. The wine’s full-bodied nature complements the rich ground beef, and the raisins interact with the Carmenere’s black fruit notes, creating favorable flavours. Carmenere’s bold profile stands up to the dish’s intense richness, making it a perfect accompaniment.
Other Pairing Suggestions: skirt steak with chimichurri, jerk chicken, loaded nachos
Torrontés (‘torr-ron-tez’) is an aromatic white wine originating from Argentina, resulting from a cross between two grape varieties. Its floral and fruity characteristics, including notes of lemon, grapefruit, peaches, and jasmine, create a delightful aromatic bouquet in your glass. This versatile wine can be produced in a variety of sweetness levels but is often seen dry to off-dry.
Best enjoyed as a young wine, Torrontés boasts well-balanced acidity and refreshing body, making it an excellent choice for warm summer days. The most successful region for cultivating Torrontés is Cafayate in Salta. Despite its proximity to the equator, the vineyards in this region are situated at high elevations. At approximately 1700 meters about sea level, this elevation provides coolers temperatures that prevents overripening and unbalance while still allowing them to develop concentrated flavors under the intense sun.
Paring: Chicken Satay
As Torrontés is known for having an aromatic profile it can pair well with dishes with a lot of favourites intensity as well. The rich floral notes and citrus tones of the wine can match well with the fragrant spices like ginger and lemongrass Chicken Satay. Finish the dish with a peanut sauce and the Torrontés can help cut through the fat refreshing each bite.
Other Pairing Suggestions: Thai Curry, Apple Walnut Quinoa Salad, Lemon Grilled Scallops
Malbec is synonymous with Argentina and is considered the country’s most important grape variety. Originating from the Cahors region in France, the Malbec grape gained prominence in Argentina when winemaker Catena Zapata planted it higher into the Andean foothills. Since then, Argentina has been producing quality styles of this distinctive wine.
This grape thrives in sunny conditions, resulting in a deep colour, development of a rich body and velvety tannins. Depending on the growing site, Malbec wines can showcase aromas of red or black fruit, complemented by delicate florals and herbal undertones.
As Malbec constitutes approximately 20% of the total vineyard area in Argentina, there is a plethora of regions to explore in search of your personal favourite. Keep an eye out for DOC Lujan de Cuyo, known for exceptional full-bodied styles. Alternatively, venture into the Suan Juan Province, just north of Mendoza, for some more budget-friendly options.
The term “Asado” translates to “roast” in Spanish and embodies a meal meant for gatherings with family and friends. Typically, a cut of meat, often beef, is roasted to perfection on an outdoor grill for many hours. Malbec proves to be an ideal wine pairing with red meat as its rich flavours harmonize with the dish and the tannins assist in breaking down the protein. For an enhanced tasting experience, consider pairing your Asado with a more herbal Malbec with a side of chimichurri sauce. This combination is sure to elevate the flavours and enjoyment.
Other Pairing Suggestions: Blue Cheese Burger, Lamb with Mint, Grilled Corn on the Cob