Rina and Nadim Sawaya: Tango Esencia Studio

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Dominating the dance floor at this year’s Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day in Melbourne is the lovely Rina and Nadim Sawaya from Tango Esencia Studio. We caught up with them to ask about all things TANGO.

How long have you been dancing for? How did you get into Tango?

We have both been dancing respectively 12, 13 years each. 

We formed a partnership in November 2012 and have been dancing together since, happily married and blessed with a beautiful daughter who is now three-and-a-half years old.

Rina started dancing at age three and trained in different dance genres. One day she came across Argentine Tango, and found that it had all elements she loved across different dance genres condensed in this one dance and decided that this would be her forever dance!

Nadim grew up listening to his father’s old Tango records. He studied music growing up and played cello in some orchestras. One day he decided to take his love of music into the physical realm and he felt comfortable with the choice of Tango as he grew up listening to the music…and the rest is history.

What does Tango mean to you? 

Rina: Dancing is like breathing to me. I love the dedication of training the body as well as the mind, focusing on connecting with my partner.

I also like how it transcends into everyday life, drawing parallels to different aspects of life. It is a lifestyle for me.

Nadim: I enjoy the training aspect of the dance as see similarities with my Kendo (Japanese fencing) martial arts training as well as my training in music. It is a way to become a better version of myself and translates through to many different areas of my life.

Is Tango hard to learn? What is the hardest part?

Rina: As a dancer, I am trained to work with my body and control different movements and expressions.

In Tango, there is another layer of attention on top of the above that is needed, fully connecting to your partner so that your movements become one completed movement by working together. I think this is the perhaps the hardest but most satisfying part of the dance for me.

Nadim: The hardest part for me is the discipline of the art form and applying yourself to it with the correct mind set, the same as anything else that you would want to do well.

Rina & Nadim: For students we recommend finding a good teacher that you can connect well with through their teaching, and who can motivate and inspire you. Then, learning becomes enjoyable and you can have fun through the learning process which will help you through the hard bits. Consistency when attending classes and with the learning process definitely helps too! (We’re big with weekly repetition with the open fundamentals classes as we see this makes a huge difference for the learning process)

What are the different styles of Tango? Which style do you prefer?

Rina & Nadim: There are some modern takes on Tango as well as different genres within Tango such as Tango Vals and Milonga.

We especially love the traditional classic style of Argentine tango which is Salon Tango, the most authentic form of Tango which is danced in the dance halls of Buenos Aires. It is also most accessible to a wide audience which means no age limit – as long as you can walk, you can Tango!

What is your favourite thing about Tango? 

Rina: Getting into the “Tango” mindset of pure concentration on my own movements and connecting with my partner and music.

Nadim: Leaving the daily grind behind and connecting with my partner!

Rina & Nadim: One of our favourite things is seeing our students progress and see them dancing well and enjoying themselves at the Milongas (Tango social nights). We have an amazing Tango community here in Melbourne. It is a privilege to see our students transform and evolve over the years, and also to see how Tango can change their lives both mentally and physically. We see this in all our classes, but also especially in the Tango for Parkinson’s class which Rina holds weekly for those living with Parkinsons. We see almost an immediate change come over the students faces, posture and movements when they start dancing to the music.

Aside from dancing the Tango, what are you most looking forward to at Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day? 

Rina & Nadim: Everything! We’re excited to taste the different Malbec wines and empanadas. 

We were invited to dance  at Malbec Day’s event a few years ago and loved mingling with the crowd and the amazing atmosphere. 

We’re really looking forward to dancing and being involved in the event again this year.

If we wanted to learn the Tango, where do we find you? 

Tango Esencia Studio is located at 327 Swan Street, Richmond. 

We offer a great space to learn Argentine Tango and social dance, where you will feel as though you are in Buenos Aires complete with coffee and media lunas!

Classes are beginner friendly, atmosphere very warm and welcoming.


About 4mates Empanadas (Sydney)

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Joining Porteño, La Bastide and Alfamores in Sydney is 4mates Empanadas – an authentic Argentinean eatery run by chef Fernanda and her family. We caught up with them ahead of Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day to ask them all about what they do.

Tell us about 4mates Empanadas?

4mates is by me (Fernanda), the chef, with the unconditional support of my family. We were missing empanadas in Australia, and we dreamed about launching a gourmet shop selling our lovely food. A dream quickly evolved into an idea, which soon developed into a business concept. We opened 4mates in Sydney in 2015, producing artisan empanadas by hand with the best ingredients and with love!

Where did the name come from?

Here’s the break down:

4 mates = For mates = For friends = Para amigos. This means that we are doing empanadas for our mates.
4 mates = Four mates = Four friends = Cuatro amigos. We are a family of four, so we are four friends in 4mates.

Mate is also a typical beverage in Argentina.

Our logo 4mates represents the empanada as the Harbour Bridge shape, a Sydney Icon, which symbolises the link between Latin American cuisine and Australia.

How do you make your empanadas? 

Our secret ingredient in our empanadas recipe is LOVE.

Why do Malbec and empanadas go well together, do you think?

Malbec is a good choice to pair with 4mates empanadas because its fruit-forward smoky flavour holds up well to the spice used in the meat filling; spices like cumin, sweet paprika and aji molido.

What’s your favourite food and wine match?

Chicken and Beef empanadas with Malbec wine. And the Spinach and Cheese with a Chardonnay .

Making Malbec in Mendoza with Jed Wines

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When we call Tom Egan, he’s just finished a tasting of about 40 wines. It’s for Jed Merchants – the importing arm of his business, which brings in wine from Argentina, as well as Chile, Spain and the USA.

Jed Merchants is the reason why Egan and his business partners will exhibit around 30 wines at this year’s Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day. But while this fact is awesome and delicious, it’s not the reason we’re calling – we’re calling to ask Egan about the other arm of the business – Jed Wines.

Egan, together with business partners and fellow Aussies Rob Bates-Smith and Blair Poynten, have been making Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina, since 2006. None of them had even been to Argentina before they made their decision to make wine there, but they’d noticed while working in the USA that there were some incredibly good value wines coming out of that region.

“At that point, Malbec wasn’t even on the map in Australia… we just saw the opportunity,” says Egan. “Once we got [to Mendoza], we found that there was a lot of respect for the Australian wine industry in Argentina. It made things easier for us, we were able to talk our way into setting up partnerships over there.”

There are two main grape-growing regions in Mendoza: Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Lujan de Cuyo, which is in the north, is warmer and the soils are richer and more fertile. Uco Valley is much more extreme – higher altitude, less fertile soil, and, in general, a much tougher environment for the vines. But despite the trickier terrain, “Straight away we knew that Uco Valley was a logical place for us to do our project,” says Egan. “We wanted to do something that was really different to what we do in Australia.”

Egan, Bates-Smith and Poynten found a vineyard in the Uco Valley; not to buy – they still don’t own their own vineyard over there – but one they could work with for years, one big enough to guarantee a continuous of supply of fruit, and one with enough variation in the soil that they could build complexity in their wines. Twelve years on, they’re still making their wines from fruit grown on this single site.

The dream was to spend three months every year in Mendoza, but sadly the boys often only find time (due to life, kids, Merchants, etc.) to get there for a few weeks around harvest. Still, their limited time hasn’t stopped them from having some pretty uniquely Argentinean experiences.

“The first one that springs to mind is this time we were processing some fruit for a small batch of wine we were making. We were in this field with the Andes looming over us, we had a little fire going with a sort of make-shift barbecue, and on it we were cooking these awesome short ribs,” says Egan.

“Another one – this is the best one – is we was invited for an asado (Argentinean barbecue) at a friend’s parents’ house, and we were invited for an 11pm start,” says Egan. “There was this amazing progression of all these different cuts of meat, from the sort of tougher, bouncier textured ones all the way through to these softer, longer cooked cuts. We were drinking wine and having this meat, and all of a sudden I realized it was 4am. I looked down the table and the whole family was still there at the table. It’s a very different vibe.”

Egan, Bates-Smith and Poynton have no plans to stop making Malbec in Argentina. They will – one day – build themselves a proper base over there, a place where they can take their families and friends. In the meantime, they’ll keep making their wines, keep experimenting, and keep importing so that we can try them, too.

Exploring Argentina with Jed Wines

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Although they all call Australia home, the three young winemakers behind Jed Wines aren’t content with making Malbec on their native soil. Instead, the team travel to Mendoza, Argentina every year to do it.

“Initially, it was because we were blown away by the value for money that you could get with wine from Mendoza,” says one of Jed’s winemakers, Tom Egan. “But eventually we fell in love with the country, the people, the culture, the beef… and the Malbec.”

They shot this video during harvest last year; a small insight into what it’s like to make wine in Argentina. Look out for the Gauchito Gil figurines!


Melbourne’s 2017 GOLDEN EMPANADA Winners

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Each year at Gauchito Gil’s Malbec Day in Melbourne, five restaurants battle it out for the coveted GOLDEN EMPANADA trophy. This year, the competition was tougher than ever, with San Telmo, CHE, The Mill House, Elyros and Gertrude St Enoteca x Little Latin Lucy vying for the prize. Here’s how it went down. 

San Telmo took out the professionals’ choice category in this year’s Golden Empanada competition for the third year running, decided by a group of Melbourne’s top food critics, from Broadsheet, Good Food, the Weekly Review and The Australian. Empanadas were brought into the judges’ chamber, blind – the judges didn’t know anything more than what was inside them – and then scored on the quality of the pastry, quality of the filling, consistency, and, most importantly, their overall deliciousness.

It’s hard to say whether there’s an advantage in being among the first empanadas to be tasted, or the last. On one hand, when you’re hungry, everything tastes good. On the other hand, if you can find room in your stomach for something when you’re completely full, then it must be seriously great. The standard across the board was the highest it has ever been since this competition’s inception – every single empanada was considered for the prize. But there’s no beating San Telmo. Not only did it win first place with its beef empanada, it also took our second place with its corn and mozzarella empanada. Elyros restaurant came third, with its sheep and goat cheese kalitsounia.

Once again, the professionals and the people disagreed. The winner of the People’s Choice Golden Empanada trophy was newcomer CHE, with its smoked beef brisket empanada. CHE is by the team behind Pastuso, and it was the first time Melbourne had had a taste (the restaurant doesn’t open until the end of May). A pretty good way to start, we think.

Thank you to all who came, ate and voted! Until next year, Melbourne.

MENU: Sydney

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We know wine tasting is hungry work, so we’ve got the following restaurants on board to ply you with empanadas, meat, cheese and biscuits.


Empanadas $7

Steak sandwich $13

La Bastide

Saucisson cones $5
Foie gras


Alfajores biscuits $2.50 each small, $4 regular, $7.50 extra large
Black Sesame
Yerba Mate

Gift Box – $24

Dulce de Leche jar $12

MENU: Melbourne

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We know wine tasting is hungry work, so we’ve got the following restaurants on board to ply you with empanadas and meat and cheese. Don’t forget you can vote for your favourite empanada – the winner of the People’s Choice Golden Empanada competition will get a trophy to display in their restaurant for the entire year. Just log your vote with one of our roving Gauchitos on the day.

The Mill House

Empanadas $5 each
Smoked wagyu brisket with fois gras, truffle, and chimichurri
Arroz con pollo with salsa criolla
Chilli con carne
Bottles of Chilli Sauce $5

Gertrude Street Enoteca

Empanadas $5 each
Chorizo and lamb with chimichurri
Smoked scamorza and potato with tomatillo and jalapeño salsa


Kalitsounia Cretan pies (the original empanda!) 2 for $8, 3 for $10
Sheep and goat cheese
Wild greens

CHE (Chicken, Helados, Empanada) 

Pollo a la braza $10
Charcoal chicken, Peruvian slaw, pickled onion and fermented chilli sauce
Empanada de carne $6
Smoked beef, Botija olives, roasted capsicum and Peruvian yellow chilli.
CHE Sundae $6
Helado (ice cream) de dulce de leche with Malbec and blueberry jam, honeycomb and shaved macadamia nuts

San Telmo

Empanadas $5
de Carne: Beef, burnt corn, capsicum, cumin and paprika
de Queso: Corn, onion and mozzarella


Chorizo and pickled padron peppers $12.00
Asado beef ribs with chimichurri $14.00
Picanha and salsa verde $22.00

Yarra Valley Dairy

Cheese platter $15
A selection of three cheeses served with fresh bread, crackers and quince jam

Individual cheeses*
Persian Fetta 275g $10
White Savourine 200g $12
Black Savourine 110g $9
Hot Cow 150g $8
Yering 110g $9

*Select any three cheeses for $26


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Familiar with a little online publication known as Broadsheet? Well, this Gauchito here is a huge part of how you get your city’s goss. She’s the Social Media Manager (NATIONAL!!) so runs all its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and does a freakin’ great job doing it. Her intimate knowledge of our country’s best restaurants makes her a perfect GOLDEN EMPANADA judge.

Tell us about your experience with Malbec

I’d get the stuff IV’ed in to my veins if it wasn’t going to damage my liver

I would do anything for Malbec, but I won’t do…

Tasting notes (I’ll come undone).

I’m all for judging food. The only thing I’m not willing to put in my mouth is…

A mocha hot cross bun.

Aside from steak, what would you cook to go with Malbec?

Slow-cooked pulled pork. Or salt and vinegar chips (not cook, just open a packet).

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Melbourne?

San Telmo

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Sydney?


What do you drink when no one is watching?

A bottle of Baileys

Follow Emily’s food adventures here:



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Leanne Clancey (aka Tour de Clance, Clancey of the Overflow, or just plain old Clance) is a bonafide food legend. She writes about food and travel for Broadsheet, Goodfood and Australian Traveller magazine, and also works for Studio Round where she writes and puts together heaps of rad content, including for East&Co magazine. Most impressively though, Clance is an ambassador for Scarf Community and also works closely with the Sacred Heart Mission – both charitable organisations raise money for the young and disadvantaged through food and hospitality. Yasss kween.

Tell us about your experience with Malbec

Malbec makes me tango.

I would do anything for Malbec, but I won’t do…

The tango without first drinking some Malbec.

I’m all for judging food. The only thing I’m not willing to put in my mouth is…

Airport coffee.

Aside from steak, what would you cook to go with Malbec?

Some really good grilled chorizo or morcilla.

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Melbourne? 

I rather dig the vibes at San Telmo.

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Sydney? 

Maaaaaate, Porteño. Where else you gonna go?

What do you drink when no one is watching?

Goon in a tumbler, that, in theory, I reserve for cooking. Not shy about it.

Follow Leanne’s food and travel adventures here:



Golden Empanada Judge: Hilary McNevin

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Before Hilary made a big giant name for herself as one of Melbourne’s top food and wine writers (her work is published in The Australian, 9Kitchen, SBS Food Online, Winestate magazine, Broadsheet, The Weekly Review and Goodfood, and she’s contributed to and co-authored a bunch of books as well), she cut her teeth working front-of-house in restaurants for 15 years. So she has ACTUAL hospitality experience to go with all her other rad achievements. She’s also just freakin’ delightful. Yay, Hilary!


Tell us about your experience with Malbec

I’d get the stuff IV’ed in to my veins if it wasn’t going to damage my liver

I would do anything for Malbec, but I won’t do…

Anything that involves moving fast in really hot weather or jumping from a great height without a safety net

I’m all for judging food. The only thing I’m not willing to put in my mouth is…

A well-done steak or something mouldy (that’s not supposed to be mouldy)

Aside from steak, what would you cook to go with Malbec?

I’d braise ox cheeks, sear fresh Yellow Fin tuna or cook up a gathering of friends and ask them to bring food and I’d provide the Malbec.

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Melbourne? 

San Telmo

Where do you go for the most authentic Argentinean experience in Sydney?

 I haven’t eaten much Argentinean in Sydney but the name Tequila Mockingbird always makes me smile.

What do you drink when no one is watching?

I was at the PJ Harvey concert recently and I drank cans of premixed G&T (they were incredibly cold – could have been anything – I loved them!) – and there were lots of people there. My friends saw me do it… is that why I haven’t heard from them in a while??? Hmmmm.

Follow Hilary’s food adventures here