Argentina food and wine is reason enough to head to the southern Americas for your dude ranch vacations. Famous for the Malbec grape and world-class beef, Argentina guarantees a full belly and satisfied taste buds for guests taking a horse riding holiday at any of Top50's Argentina estancias - Estancia Huechahue, Estancia Ranquilco and Estancia Los Potreros.
So what can guests expect from food and wine in Argentina? We take a look at the varied cuisine and tipples of the South American country...
Argentina beef might make its steaks some of the most flavourful and succulent in the world, but this country is about much more than a grilled rib-eye. Argentina cuisine takes influence from many other world cuisines, including Italy - in fact, it is estimated that up to 25 million Argentines can trace their family roots back to the European country, so it's no wonder that Argentina produces some great pizza and pasta dishes. Relief for any vegetarians taking an Argentina horse riding holiday!
If you do venture to an Argenine restaurant and find the term "a caballo" (translating as "on horseback") on the menu, fear not - you won't be getting any horse meat on your plate. This simply means adding a fried egg on top of the dish, something that's popular in Minutas - Argentina's version of fast food, where simple, quick, short-order dishes are waitor-served from a sit-down menu.
Then there's the sweet "alfajores" - a cross between a biscuit and a cake, coming in many different flavours such as chocolate, coconut and dulche de leche, or combinations of ingredients.
Street food, too, is popular in Argentina's cities - choripan (sausage sandwich), chipa (a bagel-shaped cheesy cornbread), bondiola (pork shoulder sandwich), milanesas (beef schnitzels) and empanadas (meat pastries, pictured above) to name but a few.
Bife de chorizo
Go to an Argentina estancia and chances are you'll find yourself eating a lot of steak. Known as the steak capital of the world, Argentina produces big, flavourful, tender and juicy steaks that only need a large glass of Malbec for company. If you normally like your meat well done, trust us and go with what you'll be recommended - pink is the way to go in Argentina and it really does showcase the world's best beef at its very best. Argentina restaurants normally use cheaper cuts such as asado (ribs) or vacio (flank), but when you do find a steak, you'll likely see cuts referred to as "bife de chorizo" (strip loin or top loin, pictured above), "lomo" (tenderloin), "bife ancho" (rib eye), "bife de costilla" (T-bone) and "cuadril" (a rump roast).
"Asado", or barbecue
Traditional Argentine barbecues, known as "asados" (pictured above) often see more than just the meat from the animal being put to the flame - Argentines are big offal fans and will use as much of the animal as they can. A great excuse to try something new if offal is not normally your thing!
Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world and is most famous for its Malbecs - big, full-boldied reds that stand up well to a juicy steak. Although deep, inky-black purple in color, good Malbecs are surprisingly floral and aromatic, translating into sweet, well-rounded flavors on the tongue. The balance of fruit and tannin is what makes a top Malbec so perfect with a juicy, tender steak.
A Mendoza vineyard
Argentina's most important wine regions can be found in the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja. Salta, Catamarca, Río Negro and, more recently, Southern Buenos Aires are also wine producing regions. Mendoza produces more than 60% of the country's wine and an even greater percentage of Argentina's wine exports. Often termed the "Napa of the south", Mendoza cultivates vines that enjoy long hours of sunshine for ripening, and the cold night air ensures the grapes hold on to their delicate aromas. Mendoza's poor soils encourage deep roots and impart a minerally depth in the wines.
And it's not all about the Malbec - Argentina also produces Torrontes grapes that make aromatic white wines, and some excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and other international varieties.
Try it for yourself
One of the best ways to sample Argentina's finest food and wine is to take a horse riding holiday at an Argentine estancia...
Asado at Estancia Huechahue
Estancia Huechahue is virtually self-sufficient and specialises in asados (pictured above) and picnics by the river. Tuck into ham and bacon from their own pigs, eggs come from the ranch chickens, milk and homemade yogurt from their dairy cows and, of course, ranch-raised beef, venison and wild boar. Large orchards provide for preserves, bottled fruit and even apple juice, while Huechahue also boasts a large vegetable garden and freshly baked bread each day. Wines served are from the local Neuquen province, but beers and spirits are also enjoyed at siestas.
Estancia Los Potreros's own-label wine
At Estancia Los Potreros the food is freshly cooked from homegrown and locally sourced ingredients - beef, vegetables, eggs and fruits are all produced on the estancia. Los Potreros's menu reflects local Argentine dishes, while guests can enjoy plenty of asados as well as European favourites. The estancia's own-label wine (pictured above) is made especially for Los Potreros by a local winery - the oldest in Argentina. Traditional Argentine grape varieties Malbec and Torrentes make up the red and white wines, and regular wine tastings are held at the estancia.
Breakfast view at Estancia Ranquilco
Estancia Ranquilco takes fruit from its orchards, vegetables from its gardens, trout from the ranch's rivers, meat from the meadows and fresh milk from its cow. Guests can enjoy Patagonian dishes using traditional ingredients, alongside fresh homemade bread. Dishes such as milanesas, empanadas, guisos (stews), fresh salads and soups are regulars on the Ranquilco menu, served either out on our terrace with sweeping views of the Trocoman River (pictured above), in the cozy kitchen, or silver-service style with crystal and fine china in the dining room. Boasting a well-rounded wine cellar filled with excellent Argentinean reds for guests to enjoy, Ranquilco also enjoys bottling one or two barrels from Neuquen over the year.
Find out more about all of Top50's Argentina horse riding holidays at Top50Ranches.com