Saturday, October 13, 2012

Reggianito/Amauta I

I have been selling Argentine Reggianito for most of the last thirty years.  When I first started in the cheese business I was frankly stunned by the quality of the cheese compared to similarly priced domestic Parmesans, so I consistently sold Reggianito as opposed to the domestics.  My current vendor for domestic Parmesan maintains what I already know, that there are better and lesser domestics, but to my tastes, Reggianito rules.

Reggianito of course is the Spanish diminutive of Reggiano, the great Italian Parmesan and arguably the finest cheese of all.  Italian immigrants to Argentina recognized the potential for cheesemaking with the vast pasture lands of Argentina and of course they recognized the need for transplanting their industry in the new world for both personal and cultural reasons.  The "ito" in Reggianito, by the way,  refers to the 15lb size of the wheel in Argentina as opposed to the 80lb Italian Reggiano drum.  Early ox carts in Argentina just couldn't handle the eighty pounders.

In the early twentieth century, ethnic Italian Argentines recognized the marketing potential for Reggianito on the world stage.  It was marketed to America as Parmesan and while it lacks the depth and complexity of its namesake, it has much in common with it.  Reggianito is a natural rind cow's milk cheese aged 5-6 months with an intended purpose for grating and cooking in the kitchen.  Reggianito has a saltier flavor than Reggiano and a grainier texture which, ironically, is caused by amino acid crystals and not salt.

In my research on the subject only one other article writer maintained Reggianito's place on the dinner table as a red wine accompaniment, something I have always felt, which leads me to our other Argentine subject, Amauta I.  Amauta I is a red blend from the far northwest corner of Argentina made up of 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Syrah.  The producers are Bodegas El Porvenir de los Andes who also market an excellent line of reds called Laborum which sells in the $35 range.  When we tasted the $25 Amauta with the Laborum line I thought they were comparable.

Amauta I comes from the Cafayate region of the Calchaqui Valley in the province of Salta.  Salta holds the possible distinction of being the wine growing region at the highest altitude (3,000m) and the lowest latitude (24 degrees) anywhere.  Of course it has a dry, temperate climate with requisite diurnal temperature shifts and alluvial soils comparable to Mendoza.  The capitol city of Salta also boasts some of the oldest architecture in Argentina along with grand natural vistas to go along with their incredible climate.

The Amauta I is now in stock as is the Reggianito ($14.99/lb).  Buy them both (naturally), mention this article, and we'll find a way to work in a 10% discount.

On Friday October 19th from 5 to 7pm Henry Leung of Hemispheres Global Wines returns here to share tastes from his portfolio of superior reds and whites.  At this writing the lineup is not set at all, but with Henry, it doesn't have to be.  Henry is just that good!  Please join us.

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