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Argentina Pork Churrasco + Ruca Malen Petit Verdot Reserva 2015 #GodforsakenGrapes

Whenever one of my best friends has a birthday, I host a dinner party! And I usually align the wine pairings with something that I'm studying or exploring. This time, I was intrigued by a book I've been reading.

During one of my wine groups' online chats recently, David of Cooking Chat and I connected on Good Reads and I found this title on his virtual bookshelf - Godforsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey through the World of Strange, Obscure, and Underappreciated Wine by Jason Wilson.* I was immediately intrigued and ordered up a copy for myself.

I'm not very far into the book. But, in less than 40 pages, my wine shopping list had over half a dozen varietals to check out. That decided it: Jenn's birthday dinner was going to focus on Godforsaken Grapes. I decided to pair and pour a Petit Verdot and a Touriga Nacional.

Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is one of the original Bordeaux varieties. While it isn’t planted in Bordeaux in vast quantities anymore, it is enjoying a small renaissance. Petit Verdot is used for single-varietal wines in the hotter, drier subregions of Australia, South America, California, and Washington State. Here's a passage from Wilson's book...regarding a single varietal Petit Verdot that he was trying in New Jersey.

“Yes, this all may seem like the pinnacle of wine geekiness: to single out an obscure grape like Sémillon or petit verdot.  But please stick with me. Since petit verdot is known for its rustic character, dark color, powerful flavor, and strong tannins, it’s traditionally used like a chef would use seasoning. Few chateaux in Bordeaux ever use more than 3 percent – . …In any case petit verdot – an odd-ball grape by any measure – makes a big difference in this very un Bordeaux Bordeaux blend.”

In the Glass

 I tracked down a bottle of Ruca Malen Petit Verdot Reserva 2015 from Mendoza, Argentina. The company name has a great story. Ruca Malen, gets its name - the house of the young girl - from an indigenous Mapuche Indian legend. The story goes that a young woman looked up to the skies and fell in love with a handsome god. He loved her back and built her a house that overlooked all the splendors of the world. The founders of Ruca Malen, Jean Pierre Thibaud and Jacques Louis de Montalembert, thought that their estate looked as they imagined the legendary Ruca Malen would look.

From their time spent together at Chandon Argentina, Thibaud and Montalembert saw the potential of Mendoza as a winemaking region and strived to create wines that blended their French heritage with Mendoza’s incredible terroir. They recruited enologist Pablo Cúneo, one of the most respected winemakers in Mendoza. Together, they are using grapes from Ruca Malen’s vineyard holdings from the Uco Valley, Tupungato, and Lujan de Cuyo, with the vast majority in the Uco Valley. Their Uco Valley land was planted in the late 1990s at the base of the Andes, 3000 feet above sea level, in sandy loam. The unique microclimate surrounding the vines would be characterized as Mediterranean where days are warm and sunny and nights are cool and breezy.

Honestly, this Petit Verdot felt a little anemic. And it's not just the difference between a restrained Old World grape and bigger New World flavors. This wine had a thin flavor and unremarkable aromas and notes. It's too bad, really, because I wanted to love this godforsaken grape. I loved the description of tannic, powerful, and dark. This wasn't any of those, so I'll keep an eye out for other Petit Verdots and see how those compare. But, maybe, that is why this grape is less often a single varietal and more often a blending grape. Perhaps it's inconsistent.

On the Plate

I opted to go with the 'what grows together, goes together' adage and picked an Argentinian dish to go with the wine. I loved that this was a long-marinated roast that I could prep, put in the oven, and work on other aspects of the dinner party. The flavors of this dish were layered and the red pepper chimichurri was a great addition.

Argentina Pork Churrasco

I doubled this recipe since I was feeding twelve people. But the amounts listed are for one pork loin roast.

Pork and Marinade

  • 1 T salt
  • 1/4 C organic dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 T mustard (I used a brown mustard)
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 3 t chili powder
  • 1-1/2 t freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 1/2 C cider vinegar
  • 1 C oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 pork loin roast
  • 1 sliced organic lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • 1 sliced organic orange

Red Pepper Chimichurri

  • 1/2 C corn kernels
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1/2 C fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 1 jar roasted peppers (I used a blend of red and yellow)
  • 1/4 t white pepper
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • juice and zest from 1 organic lemon
  • [one of my guests suggested adding some fresh serrano pepper, I'll try that next time!]

Pork and Marinade
Place pork loin in a large bowl and add in all of the marinade ingredients except for the citrus slices. Use your hands to massage the marinade over all the surfaces. Place citrus slices over the top. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. After two hours, turn the roast in the marinade if it hasn't been completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for another 2 hours. You can leave this overnight, but marinate for a minimum of 4 hours.

Red Pepper Chimichurri 
Use a food processor to pulse all of the ingredients to a thick salsa consistency. Refrigerate until you're ready to serve.

When you're ready to roast, remove the meat from the refrigerate. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a wire rack on top of it. Place the roast on top of the rack and top the roast with the citrus slices.

Place the tray in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn down the heat to 200 degrees F and continue to roast until the internal temperature of the roast is between 150 and 155 degrees F. If the slices start to char, tent the roast with foil and return it to the oven. Our roasts took about 4 hours!

Let the roast rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with red pepper chimichurri recipe.

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