(My darling Buenos Aires, my most beloved Chardonnay)
An ode to Buenos Aires and the Chardonnay produced in this fair nation.
Today was a good day. It started with a leisurely meander through the streets of Balvanera, Buenos Aires and is ending in a ménage à trois. A romantic tryst between myself, a most spectacular glass (ok, bottle) of Argentine Chardonnay and the irresistible Carlos Gardel.
I only met Carlos recently, researching Tango in the city where it was conceived, determined to find a local seedy Tango haunt spared from the desperate fate of tourism. A time warp where I could hope to be a wall flower absorbing the melancholy and passion surrounding me without a single tourist in sight to detract from my fantasy. The name Carlos Gardel flashed across my screen and I decided to spin some of his sweet music while continuing my search. It was love at first song and I needed to know more. Long obsessed (inexplicably) with Argentina I am surprised I hadn’t already discovered the king of Tango song. Somehow I loved this land long before I ever set foot on its red earth, I dreamed of coming here since I was a young girl. When the sweet smooth croon of Gardel hit my ears I was instantly transported to my fantasy. I could hear it crackling through a 1920s radio in the Parisian chic Porteño apartment of my dreams. Mi Buenos Aires querido indeed.
I visited the Carlos Gardel Museum this morning. A tribute to a national hero right in the house where he once lived. The house was beautiful and all the black and white memorabilia and old pianos and radios stirred something within me. Again I fell in love (this keeps happening in this city). I realised that I don’t just want to be a traveller. I want to be a time traveller. The Buenos Aires I love is that of a bygone era. I want to be like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris when he inadvertently wanders into a bygone decade and drinks with his literary heroes Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Only I want to take a wrong turn in San Telmo and find myself in a Milonga in a Buenos Aires of yesteryear. The black and white tiled floors and dark wood bars would be the same but there would be no depressing signs of modern, homogenised, capitalist culture stealing from the romance of my adventure into old Buenos Aires. I could drink Fernet and dance a passionate Tango in the arms of a beautiful stranger, each one searching for a balm to sooth the aching nostalgia for their homeland…A bit like a kiwi girl, who crossed the ditch and then the entire Pacific for opportunities and prosperity, but could not relinquish her heart of the comforts of home. The motherland, loved ones, a favourite Chardonnay…
Oh Chardonnay, beautiful Chardonnay how you caught me by surprise on this balmy night.
I loved you once upon a time. Many years ago in my home land, I would always make room at my table for a New Zealand Chardonnay. The buttery-er the better. Oh the New Zealand Chardonnay as I knew her. The buttery sweet ripe Otago stone fruits she possessed. The creamy decadence like a Bluff oyster sliding down my throat. A dried apricot perched on an oozing square of Brique d’affinois between calculated sips of Tasman Bay Chardonnay. It was an affair to remember.
But I left you. I flew across the ditch to a land where Chardonnay does not shine. And when I returned five years later in search of my long lost love you were gone. You left behind you a pale and meek imitation, tainted by notes of tart unripe nectarines, lemons and dare I say it, gooseberries. “Buttery, Oaky Chardonnays have gone out of fashion” they said. “They are making them more crisp and zesty” (in a self loathing bid to win back the devil worshipping Sauvignon Blanc drinkers?). Despicable!
And so I resigned myself to the loss of a once great love and carved out a little pocket of my nostalgic old heart for a love now lost. I was almost ready to throw away the key.
Then it happened. “I might open that bottle of wine in the fridge” I said as I was preparing Pollo a Milanesa (Schnitzel, so hot right now. Schnitzel) for supper. A bottle gifted to us by our Airbnb host by way of a welcome.
And so I opened the bottle of Chardonnay. And by opened I mean had some bottle opening malfunctions involving a soft, crumbly cork, a shitty opener (and perhaps some un-coordination by the user), resulting in half a cork out and half a cork in… the bottle. I poured it through a tea strainer and was graced with a wine as golden as the sun shining from the Argentine flag. Glorious golden Chardonnay, the colour of unicorn pee.
We took our plates of Milanesa and our chalices of liquid gold out to the balcony of our Palermo apartment to enjoy the sunset. Things just got so poetic from here.
One sip. Two sips. “this is great, it’s definitely not corked”. Three sips. Oh my.
My Chardonnay. Mi Chardonnay tan amado. I spun my glass like I was the lead and she was my tango dancing beauty, her skirts swished and swirled around the glass revealing the legs of a goddess. Those legs! Firm and defined, slinking back down the curves of the glass. And in a flashing moment of living in the very present so completely and joyfully, I knew it wasn’t a French triple cream that needed to be paired with this Chardonnay, but the sweet croon of Carlos Gardel. Was he my lover in some past life?
The sweet fervent kiss of a lover you thought was forever lost, a pink and orange sky blanketing a city you somehow loved since long before you even met, the crackling melody of a new and old flame wafting from an old radio like the smoke of the shisha-pipe-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland. I was in a wonderland. A wonderland of Chardonnay that hit the nose like a vanilla infused Chantilly cream and then the tongue with apricots, peaches and cream and buttery brioche.
“I’m having a moment” I declared. “I’m just so unbelievably happy. I just want to sit on this balcony, listen to Carlos Gardel, get drunk on this Chardonnay and write odes and poems about Buenos Aires and Chardonnay and Carlos!”
It was so beautiful even the sky cried a little, her tears sporadically hitting my laptop as I typed.
And so here I sit, overlooking not an old, but a new Buenos Aires. High rise apartments lit up for miles, the sun has gone home to his lover and the moon has clocked in for her shift. “It’s a beautiful city, mi Buenos Aires querido” I gush to myself as I swish and savour the nectar of the gods, and Carlos agrees. “Bajo su inquieta lucecita yo la vi, a mi pebeta luminosa como un sol”…
Click here to enjoy the crooning of Carlos Gardel!