You can tell a lot about a city from the contents of its supermarkets. The British might designate a disproportionate amount of space to baked-bean cans; America often has swathes of shelving to showcase the flair and ingenuity of its peanut-butter variants; and Buenos Aires chinos will consistently dedicate whole aisles to a looming variety of wines. You don’t really know anything about wine, you just brought that one because, you know, Malbec, and sixty pesos… You heard the varietal had a strong year in ’98? Cute. You think it’s oaky, huh? Oaky?? Shut up and let the grown-ups talk, you pretender.
We spoke to Daniel Karlin, wine aficionado and founder of Palermo’s wine-tasting hub Anuva Wines, and– according to him–here’s how much technical knowledge you actually need to appreciate wine and develop your palate:
“None. Precisely none”.
Karlin, who set up the business after a passion for wines brought him to the fertile soil of Argentina, takes a moment to talk to The Bubble about the art of wine appreciation.
THE BUBBLE: Can you offer us any advice on how to go about picking a wine we’ll like?
DANIEL KARLIN: Wine is 100% subjective. it’s just like picking pictures you want to hang on your wall, picking your clothes, or telling your friend what movies they should see. It’s all about your taste, and there’s no accounting for taste. The best way to pick, honestly, is to taste a lot of wine, and then figure out what tendencies resonate with you.
If you taste a $10 bottle of Chardonnay from different countries, a lot of times, and you consistently prefer the Argentine one, you can know for future that if you see an Argentine chardonnay you can take an educated bet on it. But the best way to do it is to actually know the brand.
BUBBLE: So buying more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buying smarter?
KARLIN: There’s actually a really great video out there [here] that shows a study demonstrating the same basic point: it’s basically a blind tasting of only Yellow Tail varietals, which have a reputation for being super cheap, and they take these 40 and 50 dollar bottles of the same varietal from burgundy, or napa valley, or whichever renowned region, and half the people picked Yellow Tail over the expensive wines. How can we fault them for that? If that’s what they like, then that’s what they like. Wine is a lot about who you’re drinking with, whether you’re having fun, and did you put the right food with it.
BUBBLE: So what about the kind of wine-tasting vocabulary you hear? How can we pick that up?
KARLIN: The only reason you would need technical knowledge is if you want to get into how wines taste and smell and feel different from one another. When you’ve tasted about a couple hundred wines, maybe in a relatively focused way, with a sommelier or a winemaker or a certified expert, you’ll not necessarily be able to say “this smells like pistachio shell”, or “freesia”, or something ultra obnoxiously specific like that. But you will be able to talk about the macro-characteristics, like acidity, tannin, color, whether there’s a lot of aroma or less, whether it’s heavy in the mouth or light and smooth on the palate. These characteristics are much more easily detected and agreed upon.
BUBBLE: Anything you can recommend us for a good Argentine steak?
KARLIN: You’re going to want to go for the bigger headier reds. We have a Gran Reserve Malbec Carinae, or Mairena Malbec blend–but it really again depends on what you’re taste is. With the Malbec, you have a really big, bold, sturdy, and the Mairena blend is a little bit more smooth, a little bit more what you’d call ‘feminine’: a little bit more gentle on the palate. But you really just need to taste the wines and make a decision for yourself.
Anuva offers wine tasting twice a day, six days a week, offering wines from all the major regions of Argentina and paired with specially created appetizers. The tapas are classic Argentine fare, with picada and empanadas, all prepared to perfectly complement the chosen wine, and always with an instructive focus on nuance: dessert, for example, includes two truffles demonstrating the variation you get depending on the cacao production method used.
Conclusion: The good news is, you don’t need to be an expert to make a legitimate claim to having taste in wine. The bad news is, there’s no quick fix to getting there. The good news is, the only way to get there is to drink a lot of wine.
We’ll stop the game there, because we all know bad news is going to win, because bad news can play “liver damage”, and it’s probably going to be super effective.
Stick with us for more guidance through the dizzying world of Argentine wine-appreciation.
And if you’re really stuck, there’s always this.