People in Mendoza, the province that makes the lion's share of Argentine wine, care a lot about rock. They care about the kind that underpins great terroir, but they also care about the kind you can blast from your stereo. Wine and music are inseparable in Mendoza -- but why?
Argentina has a proud history of domestic rock music, or "rock nacional," with bands whose popularity has spread throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond. Starting in the 1970s with Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota and leading up through Soda Stereo and Babasonicos, Argentina's own rock became as popular as Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, with vast sections in local record stores.
Many of Mendoza's winemakers grew up with these bands. In fact, a surprising number of them are musicians just as comfortable jamming as generating malbec's jammy flavors. In fact, Marcelo Pelleriti, the first Argentine winemaker to achieve a 100-point score from Robert Parker, has been organizing a Wine Rock Tour at Bodega Monteviejo that will return next spring. Among the acts is his own band, The Cellars, whose lead singer, Mariana Chrabolowsky, is pictured above.
"He's super-busy with winemaking and sometimes forgets the notes," Mariana says of Marcelo, "but he has a lot of personality, especially on stage."
Mariana grew up in a wine-and-music obsessed family; her father, Enrique, is one of Argentina's most senior wine writers. "From an early age I was raised with good wine and classical music," she says. "I encountered bad wines when I was a teenager - when I started to listen to rock. In my life now, good wine has the starring role, and it's gradually mixing with rock, jazz, and a lot of other genres of music."
Even though Mendoza has a somewhat conservative culture, she says, a connection with wine has allowed young people to bring rock into the mainstream as well. "Wine and music connect us at a socio-cultural level that isn't limited by age," she says, "and that's why Wine Rock is so great."
Juan Pablo Michelini, a winemaker and one of three brothers who run Zorzal, says he was a rocker before he was interested in wine. "At some point everyone learned to play an instrument," he says, "but it's happening even more in Mendoza today."
You can sense the rocker personality of some of Mendoza's top winemakers in their wines, he says - Pelleriti, Alejandro Vigil, and his own brother Matias. There's even a local radio show, "In Vino Veritas" with host Jose Bahamonde, that features winemakers discussing music and playing their instruments.
But is there an ideal pairing of wine and music? Natalia Beneitez, a wine expert in Buenos Aires, often tweets her pairings the way you might for wine and food. Mariana says her own music would go well with a young blend of malbec and cabernet sauvignon: "It starts off soft, with rhythm and tannins to sharpen it up." Sounds tasty to us -- salud!