Oh, querida Argentina! The land of red wine, the surrogate mother of Malbec!

We’re back in Argentina visiting Jorge’s family for the month. There are a lot of things we look forward to during our yearly pilgrimage to the homeland. Things like: the bread. The meat. The melodic sing-song vos and desis. The relatives, and the chance to get back to rural roots. And perhaps, most of all (sorry parents)? THE RED WINE.

But even though Argentina is known for its delightfully fragrant varietals, not all of Argentina shares the high-browed love of the bodegas. While some Argentinians pass time discussing legginess and obscure fruity undertones, others are content with whatever legally passes as wine.

Red wine in most other places is known by it’s varietal: the merlot grape, the cabernet sauvignons, French Malbec versus Argentinian Malbec. Every bottle gleams with the proud pronunciation of what wine and what year.

But Candelaria is remote, and very rural. And in the biggest grocery store in town, there are only two options for something that isn’t just blanket-statement Red Wine.

So everyone drinks a brand called Toro Viejo down here. Let me be clear: IT IS NOT GOOD WINE. It is boxed red wine dressed up in a glass bottle. It’s passable, at best, but only because I’ve acclimated after several visits now. The first time I came, I was horrified. How could a wine not even make mention of its parent grape? How could it be packaged and sold without making mention of its birth year?



Well that’s Toro Viejo (translation: Old Bull) for you. 700 ML will run you less than $2.00.Talk about value! The cheapest bottle of wine I ever bought in the States was $5, and so disgusting I threw it away after one sip. (Note to self: Bargan Bin wine shopping is to be avoided!)

But living in wine country means even the refuse is guaranteed to be tolerable. It’s sold in 6 packs, because I guess drinking an entire bottle is equivalent to a Nati Light beer in the USA. About as cheap, at least. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a natural spring gushing Toro Viejo wine instead of water somewhere in the sierras.

But Toro Viejo has its perks.

First of all, it’s ubiquitous. You can find it everywhere, literally everywhere. There will be Toro Viejo wine available for years after the Apocalypse, I can assure you. Jorge’s family are cultural wine drinkers, so the bottle of Toro Viejo is at every meal, no matter what. You will NOT find the Avila family without their tried and trusted Toro Viejo. And it will always, always be chilled. This is a natural fact, a law of the land, as implicit as bathing or wiping your ass.

Secondly, it seems the marketing department for the Old Bull brand had a flash of inspiration, one that very well might rock the whole of Argentina. They started a campaign where on random cork bottles, you could win a chance to win millions of bottles of Toro Viejo. I don’t know if that would be wine heaven or hell – but damned if I’m not scouring each cork for the chance to win.

My relationship with this barely-tolerable red wine has grown from one of side-eyed distrust to that of family members who used to fight a lot but now mostly get along. A week and a half into our stay in Candelaria, I’m salivating for the chance to sniff a robust Malbec…but, I can stand another glass of Toro Viejo, I suppose. And come dinner time, I just might have a couple.