For too long, the geographical location of Argentina made their place in Rugby unsure – should they join the New World nation’s championships or come to Europe and potentially become a 7th Nation? Many of their players play in France or England at Club level.

But fleet of foot and always impressive, the Pumas beat South Africa 37 – 25 in August and so they come into the world cup on a very positive note! They have reached at least the quarter finals in the last four World Cups and given their pool draw, it should be a good result for them in 2015. They have the unpredictability to upset the expected result in key matches (remember them beating France in 2007 opening match?). They also have an in built gene to keep fighting and never giving up – so it will all be down to their continued concentration and consistency throughout the whole match.

Captain: Agustin (Gus) Creevy

Player to Watch:  Nicholas Sanchez, who played last season for Toulon, will be important to the team for his accurate boot which will gain them valuable territory.

Dates of Pool Matches:

Sunday 20th September vs New Zealand – Kick off 16.45 – Wembley

Friday 25th September vs Georgia – Kick off 16.45 – Kingsholm, Gloucester

Sunday 4th October vs Tonga – Kick off 14.30 – Leicester City Stadium, Leicester

Sunday 1th October 12.00 vs Namibia – Kick off 12.00 – Leicester City Stadium, Leicester

For more details on Argentine Rugby   http://www.uar.com.ar/

For full details of the Rugby World Cup follow : http://www.rugbyworldcup.com/

 

What to Eat & Drink whilst watching Los Pumas

Food: Beef.

Well there are other things but when it tastes this good – why bother with anything else?

Beef is big on menus in Argentina, with  menus offering featuring at least 6 different cuts of meat. A typical Asado (BBQ)  in the countryside would be a cross, with the meat spread eagled and placed upright next to a wood fire. Today,  most people use more conventional  parrilla racks to grill their meat but still always with wood fire.  As well as beef, expect to see tender black pudding, sweetbreads and chorizo on the barbie.  There will often be chimichurri sauce on hand to serve with the meat (parsley, garlic, olive oil & vinegar). To lay your hands on some authentic Argentinian beef – http://www.tomhixson.co.uk

Argentina had a huge influx in the 19th century of Italian & Spanish immigrants, and especially the Italian influence can been seen in other principal dishes with lots of pasta in many forms popping up.

So although a BBQ would be a great thing pre match – if you prefer something more simple to eat during the match  then ideal match day food is Empanadas – beer in one hand, Empanada in the other – perfect! Think something along the lines of a Cornish pasty, the dough is different (you can use puff pastry as a cheat if short on time!). Fillings are traditionally meat, hard -boiled egg and lots of juicy onions but of course everyone’s Grandmother has the best recipe!   Most of them come designed with giants in mind – but if you want to make it more elegant, make canapé sized ones stuffed with cheese instead. There is an excellent recipe in Vino Argentino by Laura Catena – ISBN 9780811873307 – which is also a brilliant book to read about the wines of Argentina.

Argentina is a vast country, and there is still regionality to some of the foods, and Patagonia is the source of some excellent lamb as well as goat.  But the modern face of Argentinian cooking is very exciting. One key chef Francis Mallman reinvigorated the cooking of his home  country and today there are many exciting young chefs,  trained or inspired by him,  reinventing the marvellous natural products that Argentina has but in a modern and sometimes lighter way.

A word on puddings or rather three words – Dulce de leche. This glorious thick caramelised sauce should come with an addiction warning. For perfect finger food during the match, heat some thin pancakes, slather with Dulce de Leche, roll into cigar shapes and chop into mouth sized bites of wonder! It’s easy to make at home from condensed milk but I recommend the Merchant Gourmet brand – https://www.merchant-gourmet.com

Drink:

Mate: The national drink of Argentina (like Uruguay) is Mate. Made from the dried Yerba Mate plant, it is infused with boiling water.  Taste wise, think a rather particular tasting tisane. The locals walk around everywhere (park benches to the beach!)  sipping it through metal straws out of small gourds, and it is a sign of friendship to be offered to share Mate. Caffeine rich it could be a good one for the designated drivers!

Beer:  Quilmes with its distinctive blue & white labels is THE beer of Argentina. Light and slighty hoppy. Available at Majestic .  https://www.majestic.co.uk

Fernet & Coke – Sounds odd to a Brit when most people’s experience of the Italian Fernet Branca is usually as a not so well advised hair of the dog. But the Argentinians drink it by the bucket full – apparently the secret blend of 27 herbs and spices that go into it works well with Coke. The drink even has its own song in Argentina! Not my ideal drink, but if it’s that or a Mate……

Wine:   Argentina is one of my favourite wine countries to visit, not just because of the incredible warm hospitality but the quality and drinkability of the wines produced.  Set against the stunning back drop of the Andes, there are ancient Malbec vines and even a cellar in the shape of a Mayan Temple.  Two flagship varieties are Torrontes for the whites and Malbecs for the red and whilst there are stunning examples of both produced, Argentina’s climate means that other varieties work well including Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah  and Pinot Noir. The Italian influence shows also in the vineyards with Bonarda being much planted and a host of other Italian varieties being trialled.

Whites:

Dominio del Plata Torrontes £9.50 – Coming from the high altitude Salta region of Argentina, this is a lovely example of Torrontes. Made by one of the world’s best female winemakers, Susanna Balbo, this fragrant wine with notes of honey and white peaches is very distinctive and works well with any food of Asian leanings. Available at M&S – http://www.marksandspencer.com

Urban Torrontes O Fournier £9.95 – From the Uco valley, this lively white also from the fragrant Torrontes variety made by  O Fournier  is very quaffable as a pre match drink. https://www.ten-acre.com

Catena Alta Historic Rows Chardonnay  £18 – The grapes for this elegant white, come from high in the Andes foothills. A serious wine with tropical fruit mixing with great minerality, this will develop well in the glass if you have the patience. A fabulous food wine – the complexity stood up well to roasted guinea fowl. Available from The Wine Society.  http://www.thewinesociety.com

Rosé:

Familia Cassone, Obra Prima Cabernet Sauvignon Rosado £5 – £7 (approx.). Quite simply one of the greatest rosé wines ever tasted.  Plus made by one of the nicest winemakers in the wine trade, Federico Cassone. Pure strawberries and cream on the palate. Will convert even non Rosé lovers. Available at Justerini & Brooks  https://www.justerinis.com Do also look out for their Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon as well.

Reds:

Alamos Catena Malbec £9.75 (on promotion starting September) –  For those who love their Malbec that packs a punch with lots of sweetness combing with spiciness – this ticks all the right boxes.  A real crowd pleaser and well-made wine. From Majestic  as above.

Familia Zuccardi Vista Flores Malbec £11.99. V good value for this quality of wine. Made by the wonderful Zucccardi family, this comes from their Vista Flores vineyard. Slightly spicy nose gives way to plums and cherries with a velvety mouth feel.  Perfect with steak! Available at Waitrose Cellar http://www.waitrosecellar.com

Familia Zuccardi Q Tempanillo  £14.99 – Another reliable and gorgeous wine from the Zuccardi stable. Tempranillo more famously known in Rioja, has found a great home in Argentina and this is one of the country’s best examples.  Great with lamb.  Available at Hard to Find Wines, https://www.htfwines.co.uk – if looking for something a little less on the pocket, check out the Santa Julia Tempranillo from the same producer selling at £9.99 in Marks and Spencers.

A special note must be made of South American Wine Online – who have a fabulous list of gems from Argentina  – http://www.southamericanwinesonline.co.uk/

Websites for the wines mentioned:

http://www.familiacassone.com.ar

http://www.familiazuccardi.com/

http://www.catenawines.com

http://www.ofournier.com

Also look out for wines from:

http://bodegassalentein.com (not the Portillo range but the Reserve level)

http://www.bodeganoemia.com

http://www.familiaschroeder.com – look out for their Pinot Noir from Patagonia.

http://www.micheltorino.com.ar

 

For more information on Wines of Argentina – http://www.winesofargentina.org