On a recent trip to Uruguay I tried a food-wine pairing that I grew especially fond of.
On the plate? A deliciously juicy chivito, Uruguay’s national dish, a sandwich traditionally made of pounded-thin and grilled churrasco beef with slices of hard-boiled or fried egg, a layer of ham or bacon (or both), lettuce, tomato, olives, faux-mozzarella cheese and some mayo spread over the it all, packed between two fluffy buns. This one was home-made and customized to my palate and that of my lunch companion (and chef extraordinaire) – good bread from a nearby panaderia, the beef herbed with rosemary and plenty of cracked pepper, no heavy eggs, no olives, crispy pancetta instead of the typically chewy old bacon you get at restos, more mustard than mayo, American cheese instead of fake mozz and plenty of onions for my Eastern European palate.
And in the glass? A deliciously sweet, cool blend of 3/4 Viña Santa Teresa Blanco Clásico packaged in Tetra Pak and 1/4 Sprite. I first tried this combination at dinner on trips up to the northern villages of Uruguay, places such as Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio, where during off-season, supermarkets (the ones that remain open) are a bit limited in the fine-wine department, but almost always have a few dusty boxes of Tetra Pak packaged wine available for those rambunctious surfer-youths ready to have a good time. As Gabriel Fernandez Azzato mentioned in my interview with him, Tetra Pak containers have the advantage of being very durable and thus facilitate transport to these remote locations. The containers are also aseptic, protecting the quality of the living liquid inside for a longer period of time, increasing shelf-life. He also mentioned that they are particularly popular in Uruguay, a fact which I got to witness first-hand on my trips there. In terms of quality, Santa Teresa Blanco wasn’t the most complex in flavor and aroma but it blended well with the Sprite, curbing the sweetness of the soda with its refreshing acidity and adding a pleasant vinous buzz to each sip. This simple drink combined very well with the savory mosaic of flavors and textures in the chivito, alleviating the palate of the heaviness of the beef-pancetta-cheese combination while harmonizing wonderfully with the crispy cool crunch of the lettuce and tomatoes.
This was actually my first experience with Tetra Pak packaged wine and while I understand that in some circumstances boxed wine isn’t the best choice, on a hot summer day near the ocean in Uruguay, with a meaty fistful of chivito, somehow it just works.