Argentine/Kiwi cuisine at the same time? Lola&Simon, a restaurant in Hammersmith

I lived in Buenos Aires for 3 years back in the day so I know a bit about Argentine cuisine, even if I was a vegetarian for 2 of those 3  years. Yes, I know, how could I, was I mad, etc… One thing I can say is that I’m a pretty good judge of Argentine cuisine. I can also tell you that when I visited Gaucho at the O2, I was deeply disappointed. The food bearing only a passing resemblence to anything I’d ever eaten in BA. So, it was with some trepidation that I went to Lola & Simon, an Argentine/New Zealand (?, yes, I’ll get round to that in a second) restaurant in Hammersmith for the launch of their food and wine tasting menu. Lola & Simon is run by a charming Argentine/Kiwi couple, Nico and Kirstin – that’s where the NZ connection comes from. Their idea was to serve the best of these two Southern Hemisphere countries from the lamb and mussles of NZ to the steak and emapandas of Argentina. The wine list is also a mix of the two countries with over 50 wines currently on the list and they are set to add another 15 wines in the next few weeks. The specialize in the flagship varietals of each country, malbec from Argentina and pinot noir and sauvignon blanc from NZ. They are taking every step to ensure their customers can enjoy the wine at it’s best, even installing wine preservations machines behind the bar. Last week was the launch of the food and wine matching flights and platters. They’ve started with the malbecs and are offering 2 flights of 3 wines (50ml each) each paired with an Argentine ‘tapa’ (for lack of a better word). They’re calling it, Mad about Malbec. The first flight consisted of Picada 15, 2007 Malbec, Luigi Bosca 2006 Reserve Malbec and Rupestre 2004 Malbec/merlot/tannat blend. The Picada 15 malbec was paired with tasty grilled veg in a basalmic reduction. Full on...

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And now for something a little different… Argentine pinot noir, Torino ’08

I don’t know what it is but recently whether knowingly or not, I’ve been encountering organic wine everywhere. I was out to dinner with fellow wineblogger, Sarah of Wine90, the other night and she spotted an Argentine pinot noir on the wine list. Now I know Chilean pinot noir’s quite well, even had some very good stuff from Cono Sur  the other day but Argentina is not my go-to place for South American pinot so it was with a bit of hesitation that I agreed to order it. The Michel Torino vineyards are located in the northeastern province of Salta, in the foothills of the Andes.  The vineyards are some of the highest in the world, over 1700 m above sea level, nestled in the Cafayate Valley. The vineyards get over 350 days of sunshine a year but because of the altitude there are plenty of cool breezes to cool down the grapes and because it is isolated on all sides by desert, it makes the region virtually free of viruses and pests, enabling Michel Torino to practice organic wine production. They’ve been certified organic since 2006. So I ordered the Michel Torino 2008 ‘Coleccion’ Pinot Noir. It certainly was like no other pinot noir I’ve had before. It wasn’t bad at all, as a matter of fact, it was very well made but it certainly wasn’t what we were expecting. It was quite an intense deep ruby colour. I thought it was smooth but medium bodied whilst Sarah thought it was more medium to full bodied. We both agreed that there wasn’t much of a nose, I got some minerality, loads of rocks and dirt but not much fruit. I was really trying hard but just didn’t get much and neither did Sarah. The taste however was some intense berry flavours coming out of the glass. Dark berries, blueberries, berries,berries, berries! I was diggin the intensity of the fruit. The finish was toasty and nutty and I even detected a bit of dark cholocate. Nice balance of acidity kept it from being an overblown fruitbomb. For me, it didn’t have...

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Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz ’05 & Mendel Malbec ’06

One of the advantages of working in a wine shop has got to be customer tastings. Not only do we get to try the wines but it’s also a great opportunity to talk with our customers,  to get an understanding of what consumers are looking for in their weekly wine shop. I also love the look on people’s faces when they try a wine for the first time and discover something new. I definitely get a sense of satisfaction when they enjoy one of my recommendations. What if they like the wine and I don’t? Well,  I’ve learned to be quite diplomatic in my critiques and of course, if they don’t like it, then I let rip and steer them to wines I think they’d like. We had two wines on tasting the other day, one I loved and the other? Meh. What surprised me the most was the wine I liked was an Australian shiraz and the wine I wasn’t crazy about was an Argentine malbec. Usually my tastes run the exact opposite so it’s always eye-opening to revisit a style or grape I thought I knew and discover something totally different. I do like Australian wines but when I actually buy wine, Australia is not my go-to place. That is until the Pertaringa ’05 Undercover Shiraz came around. Pertaringa is a small boutique vineyard in the McLaren Vale in South Australia and most of their shiraz is used as a blending grape for other wineries in the McLaren Vale, hence the name “Undercover” since it’s an unbilled player in those blends. The Undercover is 100% shiraz, they’re not pullling any punches here. The first thing that hit me was ripe, red raspberries! Loads of  them mixed up with a heady creamy scent. An image of raspberry ice cream jumped into my head. Very fruity nose, I was loving the aromas coming up from the bottom of the glass. On the palate more of those ripe, raspberries but not jammy which I detest in New World...

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