Because of the terroir, and the cold nights and sunny days, olive oil can often be produced in the same area as wine. Olives are planted at the same time as grapes, and ripen immediately afterwards. Touring the Zuccardi Winery in Mendoza, Argentina I’m introduced to a rich olive oil industry growing up along side the wine industry.
Lunch at Zuccardi offers a range of options like Wine Pairing menus; a Tealosophy menu of inspired infusions and blended teas; and an Olive Oil Tasting menu, including bull Carpaccio with Parmesan cheese petals, beetroot, quince syrup, and charcoal oil from the vineyards.
We begin with a lovely amuse bouche of sweet and tart elements: cherry tomatoes papillote in rose water perfume, herbed with tarragon, presented with a scoop of kumquat sorbet on top, and paired with Santa Julia sparkling wine. Why wait for dessert to taste something sweet when our taste buds can be set alight from the start?
While Syrah, the family dog, enjoys his siesta collapsed in the garden by our table, I crunch on crackling black olive and puffed rice crisps with a luscious scoop of olive ice cream, and listen as Jose Zuccardi passionately extols the history of Argentine olives.
The story goes that when the Spanish came to Argentina they planted olive trees, and when they left, they burned them down. One varietal survived: Arauco, and flourished in Argentina ever since. More recently, when Spanish vineyards were ravaged by phylloxera, Argentine winemakers worried for their own vines, so many of them planted even more olive trees…just in case they had to make a career change.
Zuccardi , Trapiche, Trivento, Tapiz, Vistalba, Alta Vista, and Achaval Ferrer all sell Arbequina, Arauco, Manzanilla, or Frantoio olive oils at their wineries. They are intensely aromatic with pungent, grassy, herbaceous flavours. These wineries are moving from quantity to quality in their wine business, and they are doing exactly the same with their olive oil.