Today we feature a Patagonian dinner party with matching wines. Torrontes and carmenere, two wonderful South American wines, are matched with scallop and leek empanadas and chimichurri-marinated, high temperature-roasted lamb. We finish off with a dessert featuring the the quintessential dulce de leche.
Sticking with tradition at Compass and Fork, our last food post for a country (or region in the case of Patagonia) is a dinner party. We have featured 4 recipe posts for Patagonia, a little less than we normally feature. This is not because the food is not acceptable but for us on this trip there was more of a focus on hiking and traveling, than cooking and eating.
Food in Patagonia is good. The lamb is excellent and there is a surprisingly good range of vegetables for such a cool and at times bitterly cold climate. Food costs are not cheap, but then it is one of the most remote regions in the world.
Our Favorite Restaurant – Aldea, Puerto Natales
Our favorite restaurant on the trip was in Puerto Natales at the Aldea Restaurant (Barros Arana 132). If you are going to hike at Torres del Paine then you have no choice but to go through Puerto Natales as it is a staging post to venture into the park. So if you want to try some food that is a little different try Aldea.
The menu changes regularly and is a chalkboard. The owner, who is also the chef, came to our table to explain all of the dishes before we ordered. A nice touch. The owner sources as much as possible from local surrounds, including growing his own herbs and vegetables for items he finds difficult to source. The menu included hare, which was sensational, as well as more common items.
Like all restaurants in South America, the restaurant is open late and most locals do not arrive until 9pm or even later.
Wine In Patagonia
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Torrontes (in small quantities)
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
You can purchase Patagonian wines and the above links do detail specific wines available overseas, mostly in the US. Patagonia is not one of the larger wine producing regions in South America, but rest assured that Argentine and Chilean wines from other regions are a great substitute as they are high in quality and not expensive to purchase.
Wine In Wider South America
Having spent quite some time in South America, it would be remiss of me not to mention one of its greatest attractions – wine. South American wine is underrated and is at least as good as other “new world” wines. And it is cheaper, especially in the US. So here are our four favorite wine varieties:
Torrontes is a little known white wine grape (there are actually 3 different sub-types), grown primarily in Argentina and not that well known outside of its borders. This is a shame as torrontes wines range in style from “light and fresh to heady and intensely perfumed, often expressing spicy, soapy characters and aromas of white flowers”. There is a slight effervescence to the wine and it goes brilliantly with scallops and Chilean sea bass.
The Holy Trinity Of South American Red Wine
Malbec is the quintessential Argentinian red wine. Often used as a blend variety in the rest of the wine-making world, here in Argentina, it stands on its own. It is brilliant, great value and widely available in the US, Australia/New Zealand and UK/Europe. A great variety to have with a steak in Argentina (the best steak you will find anywhere in the world)!
Carmenere. This Chilean red variety has a great story behind it. Long thought to be lost to the world as a virus swept through Europe in the 1860’s which destroyed all known stocks. In 1994 it was discovered growing in Chile (after a laboratory test from a very excited French vigneron) but mistakenly thought to be merlot! Early vignerons in Chile had taken cuttings from France just before the virus hit. What a blessing this variety was not lost to the world! It is now Chile’s most premium grape. The variety is a little softer than shiraz and cabernet sauvignon and goes brilliantly with lamb.
Tannat. Did you know that Uruguay (to the north of Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata) also produces great wine? Tannat is the great wine of Uruguay and would you believe, it has the exact same story behind it as carmenere? Tannat, thought to be lost to the world, is now the premium grape of Uruguay and goes beautifully with lamb or beef. Oh and by the way the steak in little-known Uruguay is just as good as its Argentinian cousin and the people there are maybe the friendliest people I have ever met. Off the beaten tourist track, Uruguay punches well above its weight for the enquiring tourist.
Consistent Use Of “Reserva” On Labels To Distinguish High Quality Wines
Something we love about South American wines, that I have not seen elsewhere, is the consistent use of the term “reserva” to indicate quality wines.
Standard, entry-level wines, just have the grape variety on the label. You will never see “reserva” on a standard wine.
Higher quality wines, will have the term “reserva” on the label and are at a higher price point than the standard wines.
The terms “reserva especial”, “reserva privada” and “gran reserva” are used for the premium end with the highest price point and also designate more “oak treatment”.
Compass & Fork Patagonian dinner party menu
Do try and source some of the wine recommendations. Better liquor stores, especially in the US, have a wide variety of selections from Argentina and Chile, as well as Uruguayan tannat. They are great value, especially the “reserva” and “gran reserva” wines.
Now that we have covered off the great wines of Patagonia and South America, it is time to turn our attention to our Patagonian Dinner Party.
Click on the recipe name to access the recipe.
Patagonian Dinner Party Menu
serve a Torrontes wine for a great wine match
ENTREE (MAIN COURSE)
serve a Carmenere with the lamb
We feature a dinner party from each country, region or cuisine we feature. You can find previous dinner parties here:
Entertaining Made Easy with 8 Complete Dinner Party Menus
We hope you enjoy our Patagonian Dinner Party. Next month we are featuring exotic Vietnam with no end of herb-inspired dishes to choose from.