I have been reading a fascinating travel book entitled "Rough Notes taken during some rapid journeys across the Pampas and among the Andes" written by Captain F.B. Head. Working as an engineer for a British mining company, in 1826 he travelled on horseback from Buenos Aires to Mendoza province and into the Andes Mountains. Captain Head became familiar with the Gaucho lifestyle during these long trips, and his observations are full of respect for the tough Argentine cowboy.
"As his constant food is beef and water, his constitution is so strong that he is able to endure great fatigue; and the distances he will ride, and the numbers of hours that he will remain on horseback would hardly be credited. ... It is true that the Gaucho has no luxuries; but the great feature of his character is, that he is a person without wants."
Though the modern Argentine diet has expanded to include items from other food groups, beef is still a staple element and is undoubtedly the most favoured meat. Lean beef from range-fed cattle is available at every butcher store and is served up in large quantities in every household. We are continually amazed at the huge bags of beef that are hauled out of the grocery stores. (Bear in mind that the ultra-conservative Canadian food guide indicates that one meat portion should be about the size of a deck of cards.)
It took a while to become familiar with the Argentine cuts of beef and we're still not sure what all of them are like, but we regularly order filet and ask the butcher to trim off the fat. We like small, thick portions that can be grilled easily in a few minutes on the barbecue - browned well on the exterior, but rare at the center. Water might have been enough to satisfy the no-frills Gaucho, but we prefer to add a green salad and a potato to the menu and drink a glass of red wine. A good Malbec is the best companion for Argentine beef.
We paired Bournett Malbec Numerado 2007
with our steak dinner. This strong, clean wine has definite plum notes with a finishing hint of eucalyptus and cassis. It is the product of a small, well-managed vineyard- 37 hectares near San Rafael- owned by a family of French vintners who settled in Argentina in the early 1900s. Like buying a limited edition hand-pulled print, each bottle is individually numbered in a series of only 7000. The technical notes for this wine describe a traditional technique for fining using egg whites instead of filtration. This is a gentle way of clarifying and stabilizing the wine while removing bitter, astringent tannins, a method some wine-makers claim adds a silky texture. Bournett Numerado exhibits the full fruity command of the Malbec grape, without the addition of oak. This bottle was purchased for 30 pesos at Vinoteca Luciano Segundo at Balloffet 928.