We all know El Dorado of wine is hiding somewhere between Mendoza and Salta, but if your budget or schedule has you tied to Buenos Aires you still have some pretty great options for getting your hands on the good stuff.
Here’s what you need to know if you fancy a bit of an urban wine exploration.
No, having two glasses of red at a happy hour doesn’t really count as a tasting experience. If you’re wanting to step up your tasting game a bit you’re in luck. There is no shortage of options.
For those spending just a couple of days around BA and wanting to get a comprehensive picture of the national wine scene Anuva Wines is the right way to go. Their group tastings are held right in the heart of Palermo Soho. You don’t need to be an expert (or even close to it) to feel comfortable here. Their goal is to guide you through Argentina’s most representative grapes, and dishes in a way that is fun and memorable. The whole tasting centers around tapa-sized sample plates with some of the country’s most traditional dishes. Empanadas are great, but with the right wine they are actually amazing. The tastings are a great fit for out of towners and many are held in English. Prices are set in dollars — around $50 (USD).
For a more private setting you might want to contact Hache. One of our favorite spots in Palermo Hollywood. They hold private events for semi large groups (15 to 20 people), and have a couple of open tastings every month. You can also swing by with a friend, ask for a recommendation for a bottle of wine to pair with a bomb (and very accessible) picada of meats and cheeses from Tandil. Weather you go there for a private event or not, their warm cozy way of approaching wine will take the snobery out from the tasting equation and make you feel at home. If group tastings don’t feel intimate enough, you might want to pay Gran Bar Danzón or Bar du Marché a visit as both bars often flights, a three glasses personal tasting where different labels are featured following a specific theme (Malbecs, blends, high altitude etc). Still not convinced by the traditional tasting format? Cava de Vittorio down in Recoleta might be the place to go. They hold weekly tastings from some of the most prestigious boutique bodegas in Argentina at very approachable price points, but they scale up the game by offering blind tastings every week or so.
La Malbequeria is the most recent addition to the scene. Although it only just opened its doors to the public a couple of months ago, we can already predict this will become the city’s wine mecca. As the owners described it, La Malbequeria is aimed to become a “temple of wine”. Not only do they have hundreds of labels available but they have also set up shop in a beautiful property right in the middle of Soho. Their cloistered garden offers an ideal setting to disconnect from all of the the city’s buzz and fury. They are also holding tastings every week. Currently you can only drink by the bottle at winery prices, but soon rumor has it that wine by the glass will also be an option.
Wine & Food
Now, when you get that weekend escape in Mendoza or Cafayate, every wine exploration is expected to be matched by an equally delightful gastronomic experience. Those are easy to finding Buenos Aires. But which of those offers an authentic experience?
Casa Coupage was one of Buenos Aires favorite closed door restaurants. The secrecy and intimacy of the place garnered it some hefty prestige. But, it was their wine focused philosophy that really help them make a name for themselves and gave the project the large wings it has now.
After eight years operating under the closed door model, the owners decided to radically switch the concept, giving room to three different scenarios within the same house. First is La Bumón, the front door organic-gourmet bistro & café with à la carte selection of dishes offering a wide range of options for vegetarians and gluten free needs. Then, separated by a small patio is the Casa Coupage room where five and eight course menus are served in the most intimate of ambiances, and where wine plays a leading role. There, as it was during their closed door phase of life, the wine pairing isn’t set with the menu but is actually adapted in real time to each client. Finally you only need to go down the stairs to get to the third option — the most spectacular wine cellar where private tastings and the occasional pop up dinner are held.
Looking to Jazz things up a bit? For years Aldo’s was mainly a winery, but over time the owners realized there was no better way to pay honor to their extensive wine collection than by combining it with a high end dining experience. This year San Telmo’s iconic Vinoteca added a major player to their team, Chef Maximiliano Matsumoto former sous-chef at Tegui’s who has proven to know how to conciliate fine dining with wine tasting. The menu changes every month as Matsumoto focuses on only cooking with seasonal products. His cuisine is a feast to the eye, and offers an interesting combination of flavors and cultures. If you’re looking for the perfect wine and dining combination go for the six course menu with pairing. Although the pairing is previously established as the menu changes, Aldo’s team of sommeliers will always adapt to clients preferences. If you like your wines and music smooth, check out the jazz club Bebop nextdoor.
Switching things up we have Tierra Club de Vinos. It’s young wine club that is reversing the standard wine and food equation by building a gourmet tasting menu around their monthly selection of wine offerings and labels. While most restaurants will pick the wine pairing based on an existing menu, chefs Peter Drinan and Laura Jaramillo want to prove that applying the reverse logic delivers the most surprising and delightful results.
Yes, wine school is a thing and it’s wonderful. Whether you’re looking to take your wine knowledge a little further as a hobby or as a profession, the city has a wide range of options to chose from.
Amateurs who are just dabbling into the wine world would appreciate the entry level courses and workshops. The Escuela Argentina de Vinos (EAV) offers an “Initial Wine Course” (available in English) that lasts a mere four weeks (four classes lasting 2.5 hours each) and will take you through the basic principles of tasting for whites, reds and sparkling wines at a very doable fee about AR $600. Their course is also focused in teaching you how to find the best price to quality ratio at your local supermarket. You can later sign up to the intermediate and advanced tasting courses.
CAVE (Centro Argentino de Vinos y Espirituosos) has a similar offer extended over 8 classes, offering a more detailed syllabus that includes a pairing class — around AR$ 2300. If you’re looking to just focus on the pairing you should go for the “Gastronomic Appreciation” workshop made up of four classes.
If you definitely can’t stand a classroom, Pain et Vin’s Escuela de Vinos is the ideal place for expanding your wine knowledge. Held within this cozy Palermo winery, this classes also offer an overview of the city’s current wine scene, and the country’s wine novelties. Ideal also if you’re into small wine boutiques as it is Pain et Vin’s specialty.
If you’re seriously considering to build your professional life around wine, CAVE, EAV and EAS (Escuela Argentina de Sommeliers) are the three top references in town as they offer certified three-year professional sommelier career tracks, as do some cooking schools such as Gato Dumas. If you’d like to work in the wine industry, perhaps even abroad, but not necessarily as a sommelier, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust courses are probably your best fit. These courses prepare you to take the WSET international test and are taught at CAVE and last only one week but almost full time.