Argentina’s best restaurant pops up in the Uco Valley
Argentina’s best restaurant – Tegui in Buenos Aires – has launched a six-week pop-up in Mendoza’s Uco Valley in collaboration with winemaker Matías Michelini and his family. Having bagged herself a vine-side seat, Sorrel Moseley-Williams brings us the lowdown on the project.
Dubbed Tegui SuperUco, the pop-up is spearheaded by Germán Martitegui, whose flagship restaurant Tegui is currently at number 10 on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
The concept was dreamt up by Martitegui two years ago, who touted the idea to Michelini of Passionate Wines. Keen to make the dream a reality, Michelini offered to host the pop-up project at his family’s biodynamic estate a few miles from the Andean foothills in the Uco Valley.
Neither of them likely realised the challenges ahead. To get the project off the groud, Tegui temporarily battened down the hatches in Beunos Aires and shipped everything but the kitchen sink to SuperUco.
Then there was the small logistical issue of constructing a kitchen and a dining room, and cooking without gas. Closing on 24 February, Martitegui hosted his first dinner just three nights later on tables that seem to float above goblet-trained vines.
“Being in Mendoza means we can forage for ingredients such as wild arugula, but also source products that we could rarely get in the city,” Martitegui told db.
“Here, hens are delivered alive for our cazuela de gallina stew, trout is caught fresh that day in mountain rivers, and organic tomatoes are picked a few metres from the bodega.
“We can truly create a Mendoza version of Tegui,” he added.
Star dishes on the 11-course tasting menu include El Tomate, featuring tomatoes cooked confit in olive oil, roasted in a clay oven then served in their juices with oregano oil and goat’s buttermilk.
Also on offer is spit-roasted kid goat served between dehydrated vine leaves; and baked prickly pear with oregano honey and milk ice-cream.
Numerous dishes take inspiration from the vines surrounding the restaurant, and feature grapes, foliage and fermenting juice. Chenin Blanc from Michelini’s vines is reinvented as a sorbet and teamed with a rich Malbec must.
Then there’s that jaw-dropping panoramic view over the Andes. Each table is set at a different elevation so as not to obstruct anyone’s view of the mountain range.
Guests arrive in daylight and begin their experience walking among the vines. As the evening progresses, the snowy peaks start coming into their own, and the sky’s palette offers brushstrokes of scarlet, orange and violet.
“It’s said that no sunset is the same in Mendoza; and no dinner will ever be the same either,” Martitegui told db, referring to the fact that each course is designed to follow the sun’s descent – desserts are taken by candlelight.
As for the wine pairings, sommelier Mariano Camaño draws from the Michelini family’s ample cellars. All of the drops on offer hail from the Uco Valley.
Gems include Altar Uco 2017 – a Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin/Chardonnay blend from Juan Pablo Michelini; Matías’ Montesco Punta Negra Pinot Noir 2015; and an orange wine, Gen de Alma Chardonnay 2015 made by Gerardo Michelini and his winemaker wife Andrea Muffato.
Tegui SuperUco will run until 7 April. Click through for a selection of images from the pop-up.
Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a freelance journalist and sommelier based in Argentina