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Buenos Aires

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Creativity and expression around every corner.

Buenos Aires has the ability to surprise me, even after a decade living in Argentina’s capital. Blink, and suddenly the largest street art mural in the world has sprung up or a closed-door bike repair shop is hosting a pop-up whisky bar featuring guest barbers. They’re quick to carpe that diem, the porteños. And I’m always happy to go along for the ride.

The city never fails to draw me in. Sitting down for a routine caffeine injection and a pastry can turn into a lengthy discussion with the waiter about the day’s news, his granddaughter graduating primary school – and he’ll proudly whip out a photo of her from his wallet – or unexpected football results. An afternoon might have slipped by unnoticed but these connections unequivocally spell time gained rather than hours lost.

There’s always one last song, time for one last drink.

Buenos Aires is inspiring, too. Look up at wrought-iron balconies, have your eye drawn to hand-knitted tree trunk warmers. Peek through a darkened window and catch couples interpreting melancholic melodies through their feet. Creativity and expression is around every corner – in music, dance, art, gastronomy, design and architecture – and that, combined with a genuine live-for-the-moment attitude, means there’s always one last song, time for one last drink. Inspiration and creativity are a consequence of seizing the day.

That desire to create and design, fathoming something out of nothing, is historical. Immigrants arrived from all over Europe and beyond – Italy, Lithuania, Syria, England and Armenia among others – in the 19th century, many with just the clothes on their backs, and had little choice but to make this new opportunity at life work. Tango and its nostalgic lyrics was one coping mechanism spawned by those yearning for the Old World; porteños’ ease in discussing their last session with the psychologist might also be testament to nostalgia.

But immigrants have indelibly left their mark. It's there every time I devour a slice of pizza, take a train or saunter down one of Palermo’s trendiest streets crammed with boutiques and restaurants. This cultural patchwork is extremely alluring and while it’s not Babel like New York or London, I’m certainly proud to call home a city that houses Latin America’s largest mosque as well as a certain fast food establishment’s only kosher branch outside Israel. And, with the recent influx of a new generation of Latin American immigrants from Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, the melting pot continues to expand.

Not necessarily a city jampacked with bucket-list sights (though Floralis Generica, Plaza de Mayo and both the Chacarita and Recoleta cemeteries are musts in my book), Buenos Aires’ beauty and charm lies in wandering, pausing, looking up then down, soaking up the ambience and getting a little lost down San Telmo’s cobbled streets, the same passages that likely inspired Argentina’s literary heroes such as Jorge Luis Borges. Ask for directions: porteños will always lend a helping hand and the next thing you know, it’s malbec o’ clock with your new best Argentine friend then you’re headed out to dinner together who knows where. Truly, it’s that kind of place. And trust me when I say, roll with it. Borges would have.

No need to call her paris of the south. Let her simply be, buenos aires.

Sure, the invites to a harp recital launching a cultural centre, an asado (barbecue) for no better reason than the fact that it’s winter and weather conditions are right, or to a gig in support a friend’s boyfriend’s band’s dodgy cover numbers might be last minute (and tenuous) but if I don’t go... A fear of missing out? Absolutely!

Writer Fabián Martínez Siccardi described the city to me as an older, rather insecure woman who feels the need to enhance her fading assets no matter how many times you tell her she’s splendid. It’s clear that she’s got assets a-plenty. I see Buenos Aires as a younger female, starting to forge her path in the world, eager to share her boundless energy in the search for good times, cosmopolitan, bold yet vulnerable. No need to call her Paris of the South. Let her simply be, Buenos Aires.

Sarah Moseley-Williams

Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a British journalist and sommelier based in Argentina.

Fluent in Spanish and a permanent resident in Buenos Aires, she specialises in Latin America’s southern cone and writes about food, wine and travel, with a special love for Argentina.

Cordoba Mountains

Have you ever seen a herd of cows running for a salt fix?

In the province of Córdoba, I’m discovering one of life’s wonderful and unexpected distractions, observing our gaucho steadily make his way through the blond weeping lovegrass, a silhouette against the emerald hills and blush-coloured mountains as the sun fades away. This is an instant detox from the 21st century and to me, the essence of rural Argentina.

Born and bred in this northern part of the province, Rubén Ginsitsky sees himself as a “native of this land” rather than a gaucho per se. Around 150 years ago his Russian ancestors helped clear then construct the track to Alto Ongamira, a working cattle ranch that includes Dos Lunas Horse Riding Lodge, a farmhouse that transformed into a hotel two decades ago. Rubén’s official job title is land administrator and naturally he knows this territory like the back of his hand. As if traversing this undulating yet craggy estate for professional reasons isn’t enough, Rubén spends his spare time roaming this wilderness he calls home: “I love to pack enough provisions for a few days and go camping with my family,” he says. Sleeping under galaxies. Now that’s a dreamy proposition…

Nomadic, enigmatic and independent

Nomadic, enigmatic and independent, Argentina’s cowboy has been around longer than the 205-year-old nation itself. Sporting distinctive clothing such as baggy bombacha trousers and a woollen poncho, a gaucho always carried his facón (knife) to deal with any unforeseen eventuality. Horse and cattle whisperers, gauchos also played an instrumental role in fighting in the young nation’s revolutions. These days however, as estancias open their doors to visitors keen for a break from city life, you don’t have to travel far for a closeup with this noble and solitary figure.

As I watch Rubén, a centaur-esque figure upon his steed Pistolera, undertaking his daily tasks as generations of horsemen have done before him, I realise that it’s a definitive part of experiencing this rural bolthole and understanding the importance of caring for this land.


Arriving at Dos Lunas also forms part of the 21st-century detox. Only 20 miles from the nearest village, regardless, the drive along the track takes an hour, snaking its way through the Sierras de Córdoba. And while it’s a mere 70 miles from the city of Córdoba, WiFi feebly flirts with smartphones while an actual signal is a total enigma. The farm feels more removed from the 21st century than it is, but the off button is a gift and this is the place to exchange technological distractions for a taste of rural ones. It’s time to indulge in a definitive reboot.

Let’s start with a well-deserved siesta – and siestas don’t just apply to afternoon napping, in my book. Rustic chic stylises my quarters, the fireplace, whose embers have taken the chill off countless winter nights in some 150 years, is made up and the bed is crying out for me to clamber on and doze off under a feather eiderdown. I give in.

Soon, lunch is called, the smell of charring meat giving away the fact that asado, that Argentine staple, is scribbled onto the chalkboard menu. Back in the day, a gaucho would have butchered then cooked his own protein-led meal; it was an unwritten rule that they’d leave the valuable hide out to dry for the landowner.

It’s a less laborious task at Dos Lunas. I saunter over to the quincho, a couple of ranch terriers and some raucous parakeets for company, and take a space at the communal table, looking across the swimming-pool down into the valley and up over the mountains.

Conversation flows freely, as does the wine, beef, charcuterie, coffee or freshly baked bread.

It’s upon these hills and upon this pasture that Alto Ongamira raises its Aberdeen Angus herd before selling it on to be fattened up. The ‘f’ word – feedlot – doesn’t exist in this part of Córdoba, and the farm buys the beef back from the local butcher, grilling it on the parrilla for a weekend asado. No, there’s not a shred of guilt from this carnivore. On the contrary, knowing its origin is our duty.

All meals held at the quincho offer the opportunity to mingle with other guests. Conversation flows freely, as does the wine, beef, charcuterie, coffee or freshly baked bread, depending on the time of day. One lady tells me: “I’ve been coming here for 16 years. This is my place in the world.”

Perched atop Chocolina, my own steed, absorbing the rolling landscape, a string of criollo horses kicking back some dust, cattle lazily mulling over this pasture or that pasture and the utter peace, it’s not hard to see why that guest claims it for herself. The only rush hour I’ll be heeding is geeing Chocolina along to get back for merienda and a slice of oven-warm farmhouse loaf slathered with homemade dulce de leche or, at best, riding back out to catch the sun setting behind the hills, another idyllic distraction.

Sarah Moseley-Williams

Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a British journalist and sommelier based in Argentina.

Fluent in Spanish and a permanent resident in Buenos Aires, she specialises in Latin America’s southern cone and writes about food, wine and travel, with a special love for Argentina.

Wine in Mendoza

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Every meal should be celebrated.

Smoke billows from the parrilla, chorizo sausages and a side of skirt steak sizzle away while a popping cork, probably malbec, is followed up by the tinkle of clinking glasses and jubilant wishes of ‘salud’, your good health. Hungry hands pull beef and sweetcorn empanadas from a ceramic dish, the culinary warm-up ahead of bite-size slices of beef, enhanced by just a few grains of coarse sea salt. Framing these joyful sounds, Mendoza’s stretch of the snowy Andes, a powerful vista at the bottom of winemaker Matías Riccitelli’s vineyard. Can this wining and dining moment be improved upon at all? Truly, I don’t think it can.

When it comes to food and drink, every meal should be celebrated, according to Mendoza-based chef Pablo Del Río, and after making that toast, devouring that asado, catching up with old friends and making new ones on a warm afternoon in Luján de Cuyo, malbec’s heartland, I’m inclined to agree. I adore Mendoza, its breathtaking landscape, the charming mendocinos and its fine, fine wine. It’s a unique – and perfect – moment, as unique as every bottle of wine I’ve ever opened, forever savoured, never to be repeated. And this time round at Matías’ winery, he, sister Verónica and girlfriend Gabi not only proudly share the liquid fruits of their labour – merlot, sémillon, pinot noir, chardonnay and of course malbec – but are sure to tell me they made dozens of empanadas by hand, because they wanted to. “We prefer cooking for friends ourselves, rather than ordering in. That way we know everything will be tasty,” says Verónica. No task is too much effort if it ensures my happiness, paramount for my hosts.

Its breathtaking landscape, the charming mendocinos and its fine, fine wine.

I adore Mendoza for being a constant, always able to put wine on the table, even when Argentina has taken it on the chin. And I love the fact that after four centuries since missionaries first planted vines here, this mountainous desert has finally placed its flag on the world wine map.

I also adore Mendoza for its diversity. Here, 120-year-old wineries are equally as revered as trendy and contemporary boutique numbers; goat kid is the province’s quintessential meat (rather than beef), yet Williams pears, figs and pistachios also form part of the mendocino diet; and Maipú’s warm sandy soils are the opposite to Uco Valley’s mountainous limestone yet both districts produce incredible wines.

Are you surprised that Argentina is home to bodegas built in the 19th century? Those Italian and Spanish immigrant vintners saw Mendoza’s potential, building red-brick constructions housing vast concrete fermentation pools and oak casks, and gladly, that history can be still be tasted today.

Then there’s diversity within the bottle. From blanc de noir sparkling wine, late harvest and passito style to French oak barrel-aged, concrete egg-aged or foudre-aged vintages to Argentina’s versions of port and madeira, every potential wining and dining eventuality is covered.

It had been four long months since I last visited Mendoza. My welcome, as warm as all those times before: a balmy autumnal day, heat from the barbecue’s embers, a hug a panda would be proud of, followed up by a loud kiss on the cheek from friends. A celebratory greeting that might overwhelm a rock star, they made a fuss over me, thrust a crystal glass into my hand and demanded I get stuck into the wine, their wine. A singer and her guitar teamed up to play Ramón Ayala’s El cosechero, the grape picker. If ever I need a reminder about the virtues of humanity, Mendoza is the place to find them. And wine is one of Argentina’s greatest virtues. From the provinces of Jujuy and Salta bordering Bolivia in the northwest to Río Negro and Neuquén in Patagonia, it is undoubtedly Mendoza that takes the winemaking crown. For 300 sunny days a year, for pure snowmelt quenching thirsty vines, for its unique altitude that reaches 1,400 metres above sea level in places at the foot of the Andes. You’ll never forget the first time you face South America’s mountainous backbone!

tap into that knowledge and soak up their passion,

These days, Argentine wine goes beyond malbec and winemakers are on a journey of discovery, playing with varieties such as grenache, malvasía and trousseau, understanding the complexities of their land and showing us wine aficionados why we should talk about Paraje Altamira, Gualtallary and Las Compuertas with the same confidence as Pomerol, St. Helena or the Barossa Valley. And while it’s true to say that oenologists are the salt of the earth the world over, Mendoza’s vintners truly love talking about their wines, their vines, their vintages.

Tap into that knowledge and soak up their passion, because you never know where that conversation might lead you, perhaps to another asado with chorizos and steak sizzling away while a popping cork, probably malbec, is followed up by the tinkle of clinking glasses and jubilant wishes of ‘salud’, your good health, all over again.