Monday, November 10, 2014

Self-Medicating with Malbec

A few days before flying to Buenos Aires, I suffered what, according to the Gospel of Spinal Tap, might be considered a “bizarre gardening accident.” In the morning, while squatting to fill the compost bin, I felt a brief twinge in my right quadriceps and, though I brushed it off at the time, by mid-afternoon it had become sore and, when I finally looked, it had swollen to the point where it appeared inflated.

Alarmed, I phoned the Kaiser advice nurse and arranged an appointment with my GP for the following morning. He speculated a torn muscle or tendon, but said he had never seen anything quite like it and referred to the orthopedics department, where x-rays and even an MRI didn’t tell us much more – the orthopedist told me she hadn’t seen anything exactly like it either, but suggested that it should heal with time and cleared me to travel.

In the weeks since I arrived in Argentina, I’ve gotten out and about far less than I would like – while the swelling and pain decrease at night, both continue to return the following day, though I think the swelling has diminished gradually every day. I have bruises from the ankle to the groin.
Nevertheless, I did manage to get out of the neighborhood on Wednesday evening for the annual Vinos de Lujo tasting at the Alvear PalaceHotel. After a quick stop at a Recoleta cueva, where I changed dollars for pesos at a 13:1 rate, I made a slightly longer stop at Casa SaltShaker and then hit the hotel for what I can only describe as a wine-tasting free-for-all.

In reality, Vinos de Lujo is not a sip-and-spit operation with sophisticated sommeliers, but rather an overwhelming assemblage of at least 50 wineries, mostly Argentine but a few Chilean, offering unlimited samples for the price of 500 pesos (US$59 at the official rate, but only US$38 on the informal exchange market). I, however, got a discount ticket for 350 pesos (U$27 at the informal rate) through the non-profit autism research organization Panaacea.
Vinos de Lujo drew a few fashionable people but most of us were, despite the elite venue, informally dressed. It was so crowded, though, that moving from one stand to another presented problems, and it was to get close to some wineries. Arriving early, I took the approach of trying the whites first, then gradually moving to the reds, but at times it was elbow-to-elbow. Given my sore leg, simply standing up for the three hours I was there was an effort, but I can’t deny that it’s good value. I took a taxi home.


Surprising, Vinos de Lujo has no dedicated website, though there’s a fairly good general description (in Spanish) at Espacio Vino. That description, though, focuses primarily on the major wineries, not the smaller boutique operations that were abundant at the event. Still, there were representatives from all of Argentina’s major wine regions, including the Andean Northwest (Cafayate and vicinity), Cuyo (primarily Mendoza) and northern Patagonia (primarily Neuquén’s Chañar district). The handful of snacks consisted of rather small samples of cold cuts, cheeses and chocolates.

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