Empanada and Wine Pairing

Written for Grape Collective

If there’s one dish that you’ll find in every country in South America, it’s the mighty empanada. It may be fluffy and moist, or crisp and crunchy, bite sized or head sized, baked or fried… whatever texture and filling variation comes your way, these pockets of pastry are a perfect, unpretentious appetizer that pair wonderfully with the region’s wines.

One of my favorite dinner parties to throw is an empanada party – you only need to make one batch of empanada dough (a basic pie pastry) and you can let your imagination run wild with playful pairings, and you almost always find they work with South American wines. Here are some typical, and not-so-typical, South American empanadas to try pairing with the region’s wines.

Chile & Peru: Seafood Empanadas, Pisco and Sauvignon Blanc

These neighboring countries have a lot in common: stunning Pacific coastlines, high altitude winemaking and both claim to be the creator of Pisco! It’s not strictly a wine, but Pisco is grape-derived and, besides, a punchy Pisco Sour cocktail is a perfect way to kick off a South America tasting. Pisco (you can side with Peru or Chile) combined with lime juice, egg whites, powdered sugar (or syrup) and a dash of bitters makes a light and frothy, sweet and sour cocktail predestined to get everyone in the mood.

The best pair for Pisco Sour is traditional ceviche for a tongue twisting lime-citrus punch, fresh seafood flavors and aromatic cilantro. While I am the first to say that nothing beats a traditional ceviche, my unorthodox suggestion is an empanada twist on the national dish (let’s hope no Chilean or Peruvian great-grandmothers are turning in their graves at the thought!) 

Leave the mixed seafood (cooked) and fish (raw, in cubes — try sea bass, grouper, sole, snapper or salmon) marinating with lime juice, finely chopped onion (salad onions or regular), red chilies, yellow pepper and cilantro for between 10 and 20 minutes, then stuff a couple spoonfuls of ceviche into your empanada skins, seal them well and deep fry until golden. The result is an empanada with warm, crispy pastry that contrasts wonderfully with the cool Pisco Sour but both harmonize in citrus, spice, sweetness and freshness. That should get everyone’s tongue tingling for the next course.

Another unmissable South American seafood empanada combo is the Chilean-inspired scallop and cheese empanada. Chile has a beautiful coastline and all along the seafront (especially towards the north) you’ll find empanada kiosks serving these freshly fried or baked empanadas that are just impeccable with coastal Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. I recommend wines from Casablanca, San Antonio, Leyda and Limari regions, and look for wineries like Amaral, Casas del Bosque, Leyda, Matetic and Tabali. The crisp, herbaceous and zesty Sauvignon Blanc pairs wonderfully with the sweet scallops and warm, saline melted cheese for a salty freshness and salivating snack that gives you a little taste of the ocean. Prawn and cheese empanadas also work well with Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and if you really want to impress your friends try and get hold of some Chilean King Crab which goes a bit better with the rounder and creamier Chilean coastal Chardonnay.

Argentina & Uruguay: Meat Empanadas, Malbec, Torrontes, and Tannat

In Argentina and Uruguay, carne is king. Every dinner plate is dominated by steak, street corners are evocatively fragranced with a waft of asado (BBQ) in the air, and empanadas are almost always stuffed with their beloved cow.

Continue reading “Empanada and Wine Pairing”


Perfect Pairings for Thanksgiving

Written for Grape Collective Picking a wine for Thanksgiving is no easy feat. One of the most anticipated events of the year, you’ve got a long day of drinking and eating ahead, a large family to please, and the inevitable competition coming from beer drinkers — this is a tough holiday for the noble bottle of wine! Hit it right though, and you’ll get everyone in … Continue reading Perfect Pairings for Thanksgiving

Chimichurri: A gaucho essential

While a gaucho cookout rarely involves much more than lashings of red meat, plenty of salt, a couple rolls of bread and a bottle of Malbec, or a hip flask of something stronger, the one vegetable-like condiment to usually grace the table is a proper chimichurri sauce.

Made of chopped garlic and herbs, this tasty little addition goes well drizzled on top of a good steak, in a bun with sausages, on grilled cheese or just about any BBQ foods. Try it at home, and keep it in the fridge for asado leftovers the next day!                                                                                                                               Written for Casa de Uco

chimichurri INGREDIENTS:

–       a bunch of fresh parsley (washed)

–       4 cloves of garlic

–       a small bunch of fresh oregano (or another herb of your choice)

–       two shallots, or a small onion

–       a teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of black pepper

–       a good pinch of chili pepper flakes, adjust according to how hot you like it

Continue reading “Chimichurri: A gaucho essential”

Power Soup! Banish those wintery blues…

I woke up this morning and it was cold. Autumn is approaching in Mendoza… And having been spoilt living in a place with 350 glorious days of sunshine a year, when the weather is even half a degree below my desired temperature it puts me in a bit of a stinker. So, I decided to make, what I call, Power Soup this morning.

I like to say ‘Power Soup’ with real superhero conviction. It kind of sounds like ‘Pow Wow Slap’ and I can imagine it slapping my winter blues away with lots of explosions and snap, crackle and pop. My secret weapons are chilli and ginger – they are the total A team for kicking some winter blues butt. You know the science. The sweetness of the squash makes it comforting and warm, and the coriander makes me think of warmer climates.

Here’s the recipe (accompanying hand karate movements are optional):

Continue reading “Power Soup! Banish those wintery blues…”