Charlie O'Malley is an Irish writer who had originally taken a six month break from the theater in Ireland to write a play on the
beach in Venezuela. Instead he ended up on a two-year odyssey around South America teaching
English in cities as diverse as Quito in Ecuador and Iquitos in the Peruvian jungle.
Charlie was happy teaching in Bogota until three IRA men who had been training guerrillas were caught traveling with false passports and with traces of explosives on their hands. “I was arrested because I was Irish and shown into a cell at gunpoint,” says O´Malley. “I was eventually told I had three days to leave the country.”
Charlie continued traveling south and hitched the Route 40 as far as Mendoza, home to 70% of Argentine wine. He arrived broke and couldn’t get the English teaching job he’d hoped for because all the institutions had closed for the summer. He slept in a tent next to the zoo in a city park campsite and got the fright of his life when he heard lions roaring in the night. “It was just before the Wine Harvest festival and there was nothing in English about the event. Hell, I thought, lets start an English language magazine.” Financed by a loan from his landlord, O´Malley started The Grapevine Argentina with a British partner, Kelly Thornhill. It wasn’t easy convincing locals a couple of penniless backpackers were serious about publishing a wine magazine. Nevertheless, the magazine thrived and visitors began asking for help organizing English language wine tours. Mendoza was on the cusp of a tourism boom and O´Malley and Thornhill found themselves in the right place at the right time. “This really is a beautiful city,” says O´Malley, “with tree-lined avenues and sidewalk cafes not unlike those of Paris. A big bonus is having the snowcapped Andes as a backdrop.”