Argentina – Tango & Malbec

I went on a pilgrimage last year to Argentina to follow two of my principal hobbies: tango and wine, not necessarily in that order. I spent five days in Mendoza, traveling through the wine country and discovered that Tuscany in the Andes might be an apt description except for the scale of it all. These vines are on the Nieto Senetiner vineyard. I liked many of the wines that I tried during those days in Mendoza, perhaps few as much as the 2001 Malbec from this producer. I found the wood treatment just right, the flavors were big and bold without being overwhelming.

The winery had epoxy resin tanks, small wood barrels and a very clean feel to it that showed in the wines. Sometimes it seems that the wines that come over here are “dusty” but I didn’t find that with this wine. I just bought a bottle of the 2006 Malbec but haven’t yet opened it. I may do so later today although if I want to go tango, it will be difficult.

I was in Argentina with an Italian friend and when the staff heard Italian, they were encantada. A large number of Argentinians have Italian ancestry and everyone is happy to speak Italian. It seemed at times that Italy has not 58 million people but almost 100 million people if the Argentinians are to be counted.

As I left Mendoza, I began to worry about what awaited me in Buenos Aires. I knew I had to go to a Milonga (dance place) but was very nervous. I took a taxi to get to El Beso. When we pulled up to the curb, the door opened and miraculously, it was someone I know from New York’s tango scene, an Argentinian who runs a Milonga in New York at La Nacional.

That was the first and only time I felt comfortable all evening. Tango in Buenos Aires is a very different proposition than it is here in New York. They dance much closer together and in tighter spaces. I was very intimidated and only stayed for a few dances but then promptly left after a semi-humiliating encounter on the dance floor. When I came back to New York, I discovered that many had had similar experiences. My first Argentinian tango teacher had also reassured me that only 5% of Argentinians dance the tango while 95% drink Mate’. I immediately bought a Mate’ cup at the airport on my way home.

When I started dancing tango four years ago, I had fantasies that I would be doing beautiful moves, elegantly floating around the dance floor with a handsome and very talented dance partner. Many tango evenings later, I am much more inclined to hope I get through the moves, have one series of enjoyable dances and make it off the floor with my ankles intact. I, of course, own the requisite ten pairs of beautiful tango shoes that women buy when they first start out. Tango dancing can be a lot like a good wine, everything must be in balance. Each individual component, be it the man or the woman, the music, the rhythm, the right height, etc must be well integrated. This happens very rarely I have found, which I think can be said of many wines as well. You can have lots of wonderful dances and good wines but that perfect pairing can be elusive. Along the way though, it can be lots of fun.

These photos were taken at the Black and White Ball that is held yearly in New York City at the close of the New York Tango Festival. It’s a great event and part of the fun is watching the stars of tango, the teachers, strut their stuff.

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