Don Gaucho

Author: The Don

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Competition Winner

Congratualtions to Adrian, the winner of the Don Gaucho Christmas competition to win a chopping board!

His photo (shown below) of Vacio, slow roasted in the oven was the winning photo entry. Thanks to everyone that took part!  We look forward to the next Don Gaucho competition real soon.



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Mendoza’s Famous Vineyards & Wine Origins

The province of Mendoza sits on the eastern edge of the Andes. It is without doubt the most important wine producing area of Argentina. Mendoza borders onto Chile to the west and with Santiago to the south west.

Mendoza vineyards account for approximately 66 per cent of all Argentinian wine production. Situated close to Mount Aconagua (literally mountain with water) and at altitudes of 600-1100 metres above sea level, vineyards are planted with a number of grape varieties. The most prolific being Malbec, whilst Criolla Grande and Cereza (literally cherry) produce around 25 per cent of wines. This is followed by Chardonnay, Tempranillo and Sauvignon varieties.

There are two main areas of production in the Mendoza region, namely Maipu and Lujan. As Rioja is in Spain and Burgundy in France, Mendoza is considered in Argentina as the heart of the wine producing regions where there are more wineries in Mendoza than anywhere else the country.


Historically Mendoza was named “Cuyo” and comprised the territories of Argentine provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis. As with many industries, business in these wine producing areas were given an immense opportunity to prosper with the building of the railways in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mendoza was no exception, experiencing an amazing increase in production becoming the fifth largest wine producer in the world and the first in Latin America. The railroads derailed the outmoded transport mechanism of horse drawn carts, and brought extensive demand due to immigration arriving from France, Spain and Portugal. Immigration brought with it new technology which in turn benefitted Argentina due to economies of scale creating vineyards which covered 45,000 hectares compared to only 1000 in 1830. Previously Chile had the largest planted area, but by 1910 Chile had been left way behind the Mendoza region.

80 per cent of vineyards were planted with French wines, mostly Malbec. It is possible that these vines were originally French using Texan root stock. The vines from France married with the Texan rootstock protected the product after the plague phylloxera in the 1800s which caused vineyards to be devastated and wiped out.

Climate and Geography

Low rainfall and desert like expanses make irrigation an absolute necessity in these western vast areas of Argentina. There is no shortage of water however and mountain rivers provide this in abundance. The rivers of Desaguadero (literally “the drain”), Mendoza, Diamante (diamond) Tunuyan and Atuel bring glacial waters to the region. There is rarely frost, the main concern for vines is heavy hailstorms in the summer called “La Piedra” (the stone). Many wells, some 17,000, provide additional irrigation to the area, some of the irrigation channels and canals date back to the 1500s.

Malbec wines and famous vineyards

The prized Malbec wines of Mendoza come from Lujan de Cuvo and the Uco valley. There are many other varieties, but Malbec is now a world-wide favourite as well as in Argentina. Mendoza is the main wine-making province of Argentina, producing more than 80% of all domestic wine With more than 395,000 acres of vineyards is undoubtedly a centre of reference for the wine industry in Argentina and indeed South America.

The province of San Juan ranks second among the wine-producing provinces of Argentina, with an area of 116,700 acres of cultivated land. With rich fertile valleys, and a warm, sunny climate the majority of the year, San Juan is known for growing rich grapes yielding full-bodied wines with intense, fruity flavours.

Famous vineyards include:

  1. Bodega Caterna Zapata
  2. Dominio del Plata Winery
  3. Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton winery
  4. Trapiche winery

The Argentinians love their wine to accompany their “Asados” where huge amounts of Argentinian beef is consumed.

Argentian beef, Malbec wine, an “Asado” in the Pampas, Gauchos performing, dancing the Argentinian Tango – that’s the flavour of Argentina. A magic mix of tradition and romance.

Don Gaucho is proud to offer a delicious San Juan 2012 Malbec red wine which complements the full range of products – perfect for a sensational barbeque!

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Why is Argentina so famous for its Steak?

There are 13 million cattle slaughtered in Argentina every year. That fact alone indicates that the product must be of the highest quality. That represents an export value of 700 million US dollars per year. However, more product is eaten in Argentina, approximately three quarters of this total is consumed at home. Amazingly each person eats 70 kilos of beef per year!

Cattle were introduced in Argentina by the Spanish in 1536, but they didn’t keep the ball rolling and the cattle became wild, roaming the pampas for many years, into the late 1800s.

Other breeds were introduced to compliment the now indigenous Argentine cattle. Famous breeds such as Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus and Hereford. These cattle settled without a problem, as the climate, environment and the luscious pampas grass is ideal for these breeds. Normally they would be subjected to much harsher weather and inferior foodstuffs such as silage and grain. The Argentinian beef cattle only eat the superb pampas grass, they roam free, are not subjected to enclosure, and are not injected with drugs. The pampas grass is low in saturated fat and has good Omega 3 fatty acid.

It was the gauchos who eventually tamed the wild cattle, and so the story began. The production of arguably the best beef in the world. With the introduction of refrigeration and the building of the railway system in the 1800s production increased massively, due the safe, healthy and efficient distribution network.

All of the above ingredients work their magic to ensure that the beef when mature enough to prepare for the customer is second to none. The unique flavour and quality of the Argentinian steak, accompanied by one or more of our chimichurri sauces make it the number one choice.

It has been argued that Uraguay has the best beef in the world, but there is no evidence to support this assumption. The numbers speak for themselves! Worldwide the demand for this beef is growing rapidly. Specialist restaurants are springing up daily in order to cope with the demand.

There is absolutely nothing like the smell of a barbeque preparing magnificent asados, the smell plays havoc with the tastebuds and sets tummies rumbling – either in the pampas or indeed the ever increasing market worldwide in gardens and restaurants. ¡Viva Don Gaucho!

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History of Gauchos in Argentina

Just as North America has its cowboys, wranglers and ranch hands handling cattle, sheep and riding at the Rodeo, Argentina has its own particular breed of men called “Gauchos”. Gauchos are regarded rather differently than their North American counterparts.

Regarded by ranch owners (estancias are the Argentinian equivalent of the American ranch) with respect and reverence, Gauchos were, and to a degree still are referred to as “Don”.

Historically the Gaucho era came to a close in the 1800s as work in the estancias declined meaning many gauchos moved to to the towns and cities to find work. However the decline did not mean the end, as many gauchos stayed on and some stay on a particular ranch for extended periods, earning a fixed wage. Others are mobile, moving from place to place to earn a wage for casual work like mending fences and other maintenance work, whilst still retaining their status and customs.

Typical dress of a gaucho would be a poncho, a great coat for winter and Bombachas which are baggy trousers. Above the trousers would be worn a Chiripa which is skirt-like. A Rasta is a wide belt embellished with silver coins and completes the authentic gaucho dress. The gauchos weapon is a Facon, a long knife which is considered an extension of his arm.

A Retenque would be carried which is a whip, also their lasso made of leather, whereas their America counterparts the cowboy would carry a lasso made of rope.

The role of the modern gaucho encompasses entertainment as well as working on an estacion with cattle and sheep. Tourists visiting the estacion would enjoy a traditional lunch asado of barbecued beef, sausages and typical Argentinian delicacies accompanied by a local wine and local extras such as the amazing spicy flavoursome chimichurri sauces to get the gastric juices going! Later guests enjoy the entertainment of their hosts horse riding skills, roping cattle and maybe a trip into the Pampas in a “sulky”, which is an open carriage. This is the perfect way to allow lunch to digest whilst enjoying the magnificent hospitality of their hosts.

Some Gauchos who are musically gifted may play the guitar and also a “charango” which is similar to a lute made out of the shell of an armadillo. Highly skilled gauchos bring down animals with a set of 3 balls on a rope, these are called “boleadoras”, this was practiced by the original indigenous gauchos. It is fair to say that this is more art than a practice.

Gaucho Rodeo “Jineteada”

Apart from the impromptu rodeos in the estancias, gauchos have organised events where you would see typical local bow-legged men in their Bombachas, hats, and colourful kerchiefs accompanied by their “chinas”, their women by their sides. The Jineteada are a good excuse for a fiesta of eating, drinking and singing/dancing. Again, the magnificent quality of the beef is unsurpassable, as are the local wines. An extra helping of chimichurri sauce doesn’t go amiss either!

Gauchos are able to show off their riding skills by taking on wild horses (riders are called Jinetes) winners are judged by their peers – their jury.

Interestingly, only about 10 in every 1000 people attending a Jineteada are tourists, illustrating that the Gauchos are indeed alive and well in Argentina.

However, a famous Scottish man called Robert Cunningham (born in 1852) was sent by his father to Argentina to a property he owned to “make him a man”. In later years he returned to his native Scotland, and founded the Scottish Labour Party.

It is said that “being a Gaucho is in the blood” and it is, but Don Robert became a successful Gaucho despite that!

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Argentinian Cuts of Beef

Argentinian beef butchery is quite a complicated matter. The flavourful cuts are the ones with “marbling” in them, where fat exists in the flesh of the cut which melts producing a succulent flavour.

This isn’t true of all cuts however, for example loin or “lomo” although of excellent quality and very tender, needs a bit of a kick in the flavour department.

The cuts of beef are not that dissimilar to US and UK cuts, but they are not the same in some cases. Therefore the UK and US translations are as close as they can be so that readers get a good idea of Argentinian butchery.

Readers may see that previously when we discussed “Asado” it was a name given to an Argentinian barbecue or cook out. It is also a name given to the cut of beef which goes on the hot coals of the BBQ asado, shorter or sometimes whole longer rib cuts are used which is the traditional manner of an asado.

The choice cuts that may be more known to non-Argentinians are of course sirloin, entrecote, rib eye, t-bone and fillet steak. The roasting pieces are fore rib/topside/silverside. As you will see in the section on cuts of meat, these are all present with some differences in the way some parts are butchered.

The cut “Aguja” is composed of two cuts, “Comun” (normal) and “Especial” (special). The Especial is the foremost cut from the top of the fore rib and a succulent roasting piece. The “Comun” is the next cut forward towards the head and sometimes referred to as “Cogote”. This cut roasts well, but is more suited to pot roast and dishes requiring a longer cooking time.

Below please find list to help you distinguish the differences:

Spanish US UK
Azotillo Subcut Neck End
Cogote Top neck cut Neck End
Aguja Chuck Roast Beef
Matambre Flank Brisket
Asado Ribs Ribs
Bifes de chorizo T Bone T Bone
Vacio Skirt Skirt
Falda tapa asado Skirt Skirt
Entraña Diaphragm Diaphragm
Lomo Tenderloin Fillet
Nalga Outside round Rump
Peceto Eye of round Middle rump
Bola de lomo Shin beef Shin beef
Cuadril Rump roast Sirloin
Colita de cuadril Tail of rump Sirloin
Ossobuso Shin shank Ossobucco
Paleta Silverside Silverside
Tapada Paleta Shoulder Topside
Palomita Blade Blade
Carzaza Stew beef Stew beef

Argentinians use a variety of sauces with their asados. Chimichurri is the most popular by far.