The Grill's pampas-reared, hormone-free Argentinian beef is juicy and butter-tender. The bonus for wine lovers lies in the lipsmacking, all-Argentinian wine list, surely the only one in this country. Such a feature have the Gaucho Grill's wines become that customers spend as much on their wines as on their steaks. This is the payoff for Phil Crozier's passion. The group's wine buyer genuinely thrives on every opportunity to scour Argentina's Andean wine regions for the best matches for the Gaucho's prime cuts, soon to be sourced from its own three herds. "Which doesn't mean you'll be eating Ermintrude," Phil says reassuringly, "but we'll have greater control over supplies."
Phil controls the way the wine is sold, putting staff through a rigorous programme of 20 hours training and tasting, with suppliers also coming in to talk to the staff. The aim is to give them the freedom and confidence to recommend wines to customers. Admittedly we're not talking molecular gastronomy here, with choice limited mainly to different cuts of beef (although nowhere near the bewildering array of cuts available in Buenos Aires). But assorted ceviche (raw salmon) and seafood starters do open up a few more opportunities.
The 150-strong list, with an additional Fine and Rare list, is impressive. The main list acts as an introductory showcase for the regions, grape varieties and different styles and, a nice touch, the altitude of every wine, since, in Argentina altitude is all. Phil selects the wines for the Terruño house-wine range at £15.50 to £22 a bottle plus a choice of grape varieties by the glass: a syrah from Finca Flichman, a merlot from Fin del Mundo, a sauvignon from Norton, along with premium wines by the glass such as the Gran Lurton Cabernet, the Terrazas Reserva Malbec, a Fabre Montmayou Merlot and a blend from Weinert.
While on the lookout for interesting newcomers, Phil has indulged in a smattering of weird and wacky wines, often too limited in number to be seen on a high street shelf. The astonishing Vicien Bonarda comes from a biodynamic producer who's "completely mad". An excellent ceviche match is the fragrant 2005 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés Cafayate. According to Phil, most people go for wines in the £25-£37 range and with "exceptional values" such as Norton Privada and O Fournier Bcrux Tempranillo and the fine dark cherryish Finca Flichman 2002 Paisaje de Tupungato, which won a recent Decanter award.
To replicate the Gaucho Grill experience at home, try the 2004 Tupungato Cabernet Malbec, £5.99, Marks & Spencer, a juicy, blackcurranty, cabernet-based red, or the smoky, succulently strawberryish 2002 Zuccardi Reserva Tempranillo, £9.99, Tesco, with a juicy steak. One of my current favourites is the remarkable-value Clos de los Siete, either 2003 or 2004, £9.99-£10.99, Waitrose, Majestic. On a higher plane still, the impressive 2002 Corbec by Masi, £18.99, Oddbins Fine Wine, blends Italian know-how and Andean fruit in a spicy, rich blend that's halfway to Valpolicella's distinctive amarone.Reuse content