Chimichurri – where have you been all my life? The art of food and wine pairing.



Food, beautiful women, and wine. Not necessarily in that order though. What more can one ask for at a wine tasting?

A month ago I realized, while having the trilogy of Catena’s Adrianna, Argentino and Nicasia in front of me, that whenever the desire for a great Malbec emerged, I should go for the Argentine version. Having tasted a bunch of Cahors Malbec the last year, paired it with food, it’s time to realize that these aren’t a preference of mine. Sorry France. Don’t take it personally…

Tasting my way through Argentine Malbec shows some similarities with my French Malbec experiences, not disliking, but non-interest. So, perhaps it’s all about the elevation then, considering my weak spot for Nicasia and especially Adrianna? The latter is the highest vineyard in Argentina – 1500 meters above sea level. The cool micro climate must be a major reason in my case – perhaps paired with the wine-making style?

Elena Catena

A week ago I was given the opportunity to follow up on the Catena wines when Elena Catena and one of the assistant winemakers, Mariela Molinari, visited Stockholm. I have attended many tastings over the years but few have had that cosy, and yet both educational and enlightening experience as the Catena evening. Why?

My home made Chimichurri!

First of all; I’ve been introduced to Chimichurri! Immediate love (could have something to do with the Rib-Eye Steak it assisted) resulting in me preparing my own one the day after.

Empanadas Salteñas

Secondly, instead of just sitting there listening, we were invited to prepare our own Empanadas Salteñas, guided by Elena and the chef for the evening, Stefan Eriksson.

Third, a five course meal with four of the courses accompanied by Catena wines, reminding us yet again the whole purpose of wine actually; to guide food. Argentinian wines are often racked on, as many other wines from outside of Europe, for not being suited for food and wine pairing. Bull! It’s all about bringing it down to the basics; what do they eat in Argentina? Perhaps that is what we should eat as well when having their Malbec’s?

Elena, Stefan and Mariela

Fourth, beautiful women presenting beautiful wines. But hey, maybe that should be at the top instead?

11 wines tasted – here follows short tasting notes:

2009 Alamos Malbec Good everyday wine. Easy drinking but not without character; herbs, red berries, slightly floral. Sun drenched fruit, balancing acidity and some tannins. Tasted while preparing Empanadas. (86-87 p)

2009 Catena Chardonnay Served with zander in sautéd butter and seasonal greens. Tropical scents and also a mineral feel backed up by vanilla oak. Pears in the taste which shows fine harmony, wet rocks, oak and acidity. Well made wine but not a Chardonnay style that speaks to me. Parts of the grapes from the Adrianna site which explains the wet rocks. Good QPR. (87-88 p)

2007 Catena Alta Chardonnay A step up and served with the fish as well.  More presence in this one; integrated oak, pears, pineapple and wet rocks. Some lemon peel. A bit anonymous when tasted on its own but finds its way when paired with the fish. Excellent combination. Fine acidity, still a bit young, good oak handling and long taste. For the fan of luscious Chard’s ! (89-90 p)

2008 Catena Malbec Reminds me a bit of the Alamos. More depth though with notes of blackcurrants, licorice, herbs, tobacco and vanilla. Good mouth feel, slightly bitter in its herbaceous style. Sun drenched currants. Good length. Tried with the Empanadas Salteñas. Nice matching. (87-88 p)

2007 Catena Alta Malbec Now, things are starting to happen. Dark berries, humus, intense and oak toasty on the nose. Quite restrained on the palate with blackberries, plums, wet earth and tobacco. Intense. Good tannin structure. Give it some further cellaring. Even better with the food. (90-91 p)

2007 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon Best in this flight. A floral and blackcurranty Cab. Creme de Cassis, grass, wet rocks and fine oak handling. Young, vivid taste with compact tannins hiding in sunny currants. Some cedar character and long pure taste. Needs time. Handled the slightly chili spicy empanadas wonderfully. Who would have thought that? (91-92 p)

2006 Catena Zapata Nicasia What a flight! Served with an amazing rib-eye steak, Patagonian potatoes and plenty of Chimichurri. A month ago Nicasia was the weakest of these three (although great) but with food its micro-climate coolness became much more evident. Terrific combination with the food leaving you with the purest feel of dark berries and lots of minerality. Food and wine pairing kept simple resulting in a perfect match! For a TN on the Nicasia, click here. (92-93 p)

2006 Catena Zapata Adrianna Also the Adrianna demonstrated how well it goes with the steak. And just as the case was with the previous wine the Adrianna delivers a wet rocks boost to the taste. The garlic and chili pumped Chimichurri together with the purity of Adrianna is pure pleasure.  For a TN on Adrianna, click here. (93-94 p)

2006 Catena Zapata Argentino Biggest surprise in this flight was the Argentino. I found it perhaps a bit too international in its style and the sweet fruit wasn’t as much to my liking. With the rib-eye steak it was an outstanding match and the evening’s aha-experience for me. This wine eats chili, herbs, vinegar and garlic for breakfast. Still a young wine with years ahead but it showed the importance of not forgetting about the essentials of wine; pair it with food, the right food. For a TN on the Argentino, click here. (93-94 p)


2006 Nicolas Catena Zapata Last two wines to taste were the Cabernet dominated ones. Served together with a Billat Savarin, two aged Swedish hard cheeses similar to a mix of Gruyère/Parmiggiano and a reduction of dark berries. The 2006 is an infant! Intense creme de cassis notes, tobacco, sun drenched blackcurrants, wet rocks and an underlying oak feel. Balanced cedar taste with blackcurrants, tobacco, wet rocks, oak and enormous tannin structure. Intense aftertaste. Many years ahead. Hard cheeses and berries; a great match. (92-93 p)

1999 Nicolas Catena Zapata A real treat directly from the Catena cellar. Big, maturing nose with notes of tobacco, wet earth, plums, currants, lead pencil and new-mown grass. For me, a BDX feel to it. Other co-tasters found a resemblance with Cali Cab. Elegant and dry taste with fine tannins, tobacco, humus, blackcurrants, mint and plum skin. Feels ready but there’s still plenty of fruit and I suspect it will keep on evolving for another three or four years. Great match with the hard cheeses. My wine of the night together with Argentino. (93-94 p)

Decanter’s ‘Man of the year’ nomination last year can’t be questioned. Nicolas Catena shows the true potential in high cultivated Malbec and that their BDX blends can compete with the best in the world.

P.S. For the curious eager to find out more about Argentinian wines, Laura Catena has quite recently published her Vino Argentino. My current evening read and it is a most well-written piece not only covering wine but just as much an Argentinian lifestyle. Worth checking out.

Soon to be an Empanada Salteña!

P.S.2. Both the rib-eye steak and Chimichurri recipes can be found in Laura’s book. Two other courses (and recipes in the book), served after the wine tasting, were the Dulce de leche served with crepes and finally a Helado de Torrontes. Argentine cooking – a new kitchen to discover! At least for me…