As connoisseurs increasingly take the measure of these new South American wines, tourism to Chile and Argentina will inevitably rise. “It feels very European,” says Audebert of Mendoza, a lively city of more than 100,000 residents, where restaurants proclaim national commitment to grass-fed beef and the inky wines from local Malbec grapes, and squares and promenades preserve a hint of a wealthy colonial past. It’s the night after his party, and the Frenchman is relaxing over dinner at Francis Mallmann’s elegant 1884 restaurant, which is known for its wood-fire-grilled bisteca grande that literally stretches across two place settings.
“They have a connection,” he adds about the local vintners. “It is important to them that they are close to the French wine world. They are snobbish in that way.”