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French influence in Argentina plus 12 wines to seek out

From the 1850s until today, a host of innovative, risk-taking French winemakers and entrepreneurs have crossed the Atlantic to make their mark on Argentinian wine.

Antoine de Tounens was a grand cru nutcase, a real-life Don Quixote who travelled to South America in search of adventure after reading an epic poem by the 16th-century Spanish writer Alonso de Ercilla. The French lawyer landed in the Chilean port of Coquimbo in 1858; two years later, citing the support of indigenous Mapuche tribes, he declared himself King Orélie-Antoine I of Araucanía and Patagonia, publishing a constitution and claiming dominion over a vast territory that stretched from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Scroll down to see Tim Atkin MW’s examples of French influence in Argentina

De Tounens’ ‘reign’ lasted for 18 years. During that time, he was expelled, in 1862, after being declared insane by a Chilean court, but tried to return – mostly unsuccessfully – to his ‘kingdom’ on three further occasions. He died a pauper’s death in France in 1878 with no descendants. But to this day, there are still pretenders to his imaginary throne. They are known in French as ‘monarques et souverains de la fantaisie’ (monarchs and sovereigns of fantasy).

Atkin’s dozen: the French influence in Argentina

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