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Argentinean Malbec & Gaucho Pizzas

The pizzas at Terrazas de Los Andes, a top Mendoza winery, hint at the Italian influence on Argentina. But the French influence is potent too: Malbec, Argentina's great red grape, got its start in Bordeaux. Pair pizza and Malbec and the result is a multicultural meal that's also a lovely harvest dinner.

Malbec

TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES
Terrazas de Los Andes got a jump on the current Argentinean wine boom—a jump of more than 40 years, in fact. Its sparkling-wine parent company, Bodegas Chandon Argentina, was founded in 1959 by Moët & Chandon. Thus, when Moët decided to produce fine still wine at Terrazas in 1997, there was none of the unfamiliarity faced by other foreign operations. "We had accumulated years of knowledge," says Manuel Louzada, Terrazas' director of oenology. This included knowing where to plant the right vines. The grapes that go into the 2002 Malbec Reserva ($16) come from vineyards 3,500 feet up in the foothills of the Andes Mountains—a far cry from Malbec's original home, in sea-level Bordeaux. The wine they produce is nuanced, aromatic and velvety. It's a natural fit with lamb-topped pizza. Says Louzada, "Lamb with Malbec is a classic pairing in Argentina."

Mendoza

A GREAT NEW RED WINE REGION
These are boom times in Mendoza, the premier vineyard region of Argentina, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. More than $1 billion has been invested in the past decade alone, and a wave of prestigious international winemakers—from Michel Rolland of Bordeaux to Paul Hobbs of Sonoma—has arrived. Now, in addition to good value wines there are $50-plus bottles from producers like Bodega Catena Zapata, Achával-Ferrer and Cheval des Andes (a collaboration between Bordeaux's Château Cheval Blanc and Terrazas de Los Andes) that are among the world's best.

It's easy to understand why winemakers are attracted to Mendoza. Its semiarid, temperate climate, with ample irrigation from Andes snow runoff, is well-suited to grape growing, and its fields are full of old-vine plantings of Malbec and Bonarda, as well as Torrontés, a spicy white.

The undervalued Argentine peso means that many of these wines are available in the United States at bargain rates. Three strong vintages in a row (2002, 2003, 2004) are also helping make Mendoza an international star.

—Richard Nalley

Published October 2004
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