When I was living in Mexico years ago, there were two historians that were battling over very different versions of Mexico’s history. One, Enrique Krauz, took the position that Mexico’s history was best seen through the notion of “mestizaje,” or the fusion of Spanish blood with Indigenous peoples – a blending of races and civilizations. Another historian, Enrique Florescano, suggested that this made the Conquest seem as if it were a sudden, permanent and total accomplishment, and that it ignored the local and regional resistance to domination that even now, continued to happen. Florescano is what is known as a micro-historian, and he prefers to dig down into the local stories, even in the face of large-scale forces being at work – an approach I have come to admire. I came to call this argument of the macro versus the micro, the Battle of the Two Enriques.
I found myself thinking of these micro-histories, during my visit to Mendoza -starting with my friend Pedro Quiroga (https://peterwinetours.com), who was driving me around to bodegas. A man born in the United States to parents from Mendoza, who
worked in the mining industry, he is now much happier working in tourism and has seen much of the Mendoza wine industry in its growth period. He is also an incredible source of knowledge and information.
Our visits to bodegas in the Valle del Uco included some of these “large force” vineyards and bodegas; examples of how international investment has come to Argentina. There were other moments though, when you aren’t just doing the tastings, or “desgustaciones” as they are called here, when you get to see the passion and how individuals are passionate about what they do. Tasting with the wine maker, Carlos, at Gimenez Riili led to a great conversation about the battle over the “old way” of winemaking, which emphasizes the winemaker, versus the “new way,” which emphasizes terroir, climate, soil, etc. He finds
himself trying find a middle ground, where the winemaker is not devalued in this new system, while acknowledging, what for Argentina, is a new focus on terroir and a sense of place, and in addition to the wines he makes for Gimenez Riili, he shares an amazing Petit Verdot on his own label, to show me the style he is talking about.
Lastly, there was the stop at Bodega El Azul, a boutique winery that goes back over 60 years with local grape and peach production. The name, El Azul, comes from the story of the father, Francisco Hinojosa, having to split up the land among his children, and each of them choosing a card of a different color. With each color, came a plot of land, a tractor, and other supplies, all marked with that color. The son of that daughter, Ezequiel, now runs El Azul, the bodega, a restaurant and a hotel. Next, you find yourself sitting at a table, drinking a typically enjoyable Mendoza Malbec and a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, out in the back of the hotel near the parrilla, talking about the state of wine in Mendoza and in Argentina.
These individual stories of wine growers and wine makers are undoubtedly set in the context of bigger forces. But wine seems to lend itself to the exchanging of these local, micro-histories in a unique way, and seems to embody the conviviality you find in virtually any wine region.