There is no better advocate of open-fire cookery than Francis Mallmann. Arguably South America’s most famous chef, Mallmann was inspired by the gauchos of Argentina, and his thoughts on the use of open fires in gastronomy have spread across the world. Francis Mallmann is the author of 'Siete Fuegos' (‘Seven Fires’). The title of the book refers to the seven types of grilling techniques that use a flame:
• Parrilla (barbecue)
• Chapa (cast-iron griddle or skillet)
• Infiernillo (little hell)
• Horno de barro (clay oven)
• Rescoldo (embers and ashes)
• Asador (iron cross)
• Caldero (cooked in a pot)
Mallmann may be best known as a chef, but he harbours dreams of making his own wine from his small vineyard plot in the Uco Valley. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his love of wine, he counts a number of winery restaurants among those that carry his name, including Fuegos de Apalta at Montes in Chile and Bodega Garzón Restaurant in Uruguay.
Here’s a selection of wines that are perfect for the summer barbecue:
The Limited Selection range matches varieties to specific regions and this Cabernet-dominated blend comes from fruit grown in the Apalta and Marchigüe regions of the Colchagua Valley. Following a pre-fermentation cold soak and post-fermentation maceration for additional colour and aroma extraction, 47% of the blend was aged for 10 months in new French oak barrels to round out tannins and impart vanilla and mocha notes to the ripe fruit profile. This is a deeply coloured, intensely aromatic wine with red fruits, pronounced black cherry and crème de cassis notes. The generous palate balances fruit, spice, tobacco and hints of dark chocolate with silky tannins on a persistent finish. Try this with BBQ pork ribs.
This Malbec is produced from fruit selected from across four sustainably-farmed, high-altitude vineyards in Salta’s Upper Calchaquí Valley, each contributing unique characteristics to the assemblage. At altitudes from 1,750 to 3,100 metres above sea level, the grapes develop thicker, darker skins to cope with the intensity of the UV light, resulting in increased aroma, flavour and colour, with the large diurnal range at this altitude helping to preserve both fragrance and acidity. This full-bodied wine is fresh and fruity with velvety tannins and intense black and red fruits, exotic floral notes and hints of spice from the well-integrated oak. Perfect with a grilled steak.
This family-owned winery is the standard bearer for premium Uruguayan wines. Using cutting-edge technology and ensuring energy efficiency at every stage of the production process, Garzón is the first winery outside of North America to be granted LEED certification. Preferring the wines to be true expressions of variety and place, this Tannat was fermented in large cement tanks before ageing on lees for up to 12 months in a combination of untoasted and lightly toasted oak barrels, both small and large, to support the fruit. Full bodied, rich and with intense red and black fruits and a hint of spice on the nose, the mature tannins frame the juicy fruit on a lingering minerally finish. Try with a slow cooked leg of lamb.
With fruit sourced exclusively from the high-altitude, old-vine Vistalba vineyard in Luján de Cuyo, the proximity to the Mendoza river is reflected in the soil, which is predominantly alluvial gravel. The result is low yielding, concentrated, deeply coloured fruit. This elegant Cabernet is redolent of fresh cherry and blackcurrant fruit complemented by sweet vanilla spice that evolves into plum and mocha on the ripe, opulent palate framed by fine, persistent tannins. Try with spicy lamb kebabs.
Malbec specialists Altos Las Hormigas source the fruit for their ‘Terroir’ series from the oldest parts of the Uco Valley. The mountain-influenced climate, high density planting and low vigour alluvial/gravel soils combine to produce concentrated, aromatic fruit. Minimal extraction, indigenous yeasts and the use of neutral oak has resulted in an intensely perfumed wine. The bright red fruit and floral profile is complemented by balanced acidity and tannins. An ideal partner for red meat dishes.
At close to 1,828 metres above sea level, the vineyards in Argentina’s northern Calchaquí Valley are among the highest in the world. The desert like conditions, increased solar UV intensity and the large difference between day and night temperatures produce ripe, concentrated fruit with bright acidity. This Malbec-dominated blend is deeply coloured with a concentrated red and black fruit profile. Spicy notes and sweet vanilla imparted from the year spent in oak barrel are complemented by the rounded supple tannins. A perfect accompaniment to a mixed grill.