January 25, 2011

Laura Catena’s Vino Argentino

In 2009, when I met Peter Perez of Chronicle Books at the IACP conference he told me that Laura Catena was writing a guidebook to Argentinean wines and wine regions, to be published by Chronicle in 2010.  Guidebook is an understatement–Bible of Argentine Wine is a more accurate description–and the wait is finally over!

If you're not familiar with Laura Catena, you'll get a good idea with the video above.  It's a lovely introduction to not just Ms. Catena, but also to her book, Vino Argentino.  Catena herself inspires me and leaves me in awe.  Daughter of Nicolas Catena, owner of the Catena wine empire, Laura herself was educated at Harvard and Stanford and later became an ER doctor in San Francisco.  She's also the mother of three, and when she decided to direct her attentions to wine, she started Luca, her own winery, the fruit of her labor for her life's passion–wine. (A side note–Nicolas Catena is to Argentina what Robert Mondavi is to wine-making in the US–he's credited for pioneering high-quality, exportable, and regulated wines.)

Vino Argentino is the current favorite on my nightstand.  It delves into Argentina's wine history, from its European origins to the grapes grown to the wine-making process, and truly gives the reader an insider's look at Argentina's top winemakers from the perspective of someone who grew up amongst it all.  Catena's voice as a writer, though, isn't haughty or know-it-all, rather, it's like being a fly on the wall in some of the world's finest wineries.  Catena eloquently describes the wines, winemakers, and wineries of Mendoza (including the Uco Valley), but also those of Salta, Rio Negro and Patagonia in a way that makes you feel like you're there alongside her.  And rather than the dry 'wine' reading I've sometimes read (yawn), or the over-simplified approach, reading Vino Argentino is like hanging out with a friend.  A friend who happens to be part of the best-known wine empire in South America.

The book is also a beautifully crafted love letter to Argentina–which is why I've been drifting off to sleep every night with my fantasies of being in my second home, the place to me that is most peaceful, romantic and blissful on earth.  Catena provides a stellar primer on Argentinean culture and customs–from the immigrants and their traditions that have created the foundation of the country, to describing yerba mate  and the typical asado.

Best of all, amidst all the wine and culture, Catena gives readers a taste of the real Argentina with a guide to traditional foods, including recipes for things like Dulce de Leche, Milanesas, and Empanadas.  In the back section of the book, there is a list of restaurants, a series of maps, and a list of further reading.  Vino Argentino is the  guidebook to Argentina's wine and culture.

A final note–the book would only be half as good without the gorgeous, romantic photos by Sara Remington. If I don't feel like reading, just a look through the book, with its beautiful landscapes, food, and candid shots of local folk transports me to Argentina.  Remington's photos perfectly capture all the things I love about my home away from home–all of it's rustic yet refined beauty.

Vino Argentino makes a great read, as well as a great gift.  It's available in my Amazon Store.

Find me on Facebook:   From Argentina With Love (group) or on twitter:@RebeccaCaro.  I can also be reached at rebeccatcaro@hotmail.com.


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