An Argentine might serve a barbecue without red wine, just as they might ride a bicycle backwards. It’s perfectly possible, in other words, and just as unlikely. As Ian Mount writes in his definitive history of Argentine wine, The Vineyard at the End of the Word: “While Australia, Chile, and other New World countries make great wines, Argentina is the only with an Old World wine culture.”
My late father-in-law represented that culture to perfection. He drank red wine with every meal, but never got drunk. He liked to mix in soda and ice, and if anyone was unhappy about that, they could go to hell. He didn’t know Robert Parker from Peter Parker.
While Argentina will never be a nation of wine snobs, the no-nonsense attitude of the much-missed Horacio is no longer universal. As Mount relates, the quality of wines produced in Mendoza and other regions has improved beyond recognition over the last two decades, and the once-despised Malbec has become the country’s signature grape. So enjoy. And hold the soda and ice.
Duhau Restaurant y Vinoteca
Every Buenos Aires bucket list should include a wine and cheese tasting session at the Park Hyatt-Palacio Duhau hotel. In the snug and stylish Vinoteca, you can enjoy a glass of Viña Cobos Malbec or Felipe Rutini Cabernet while nibbling on a peppercorn-studded gouda from the temperature controlled cheese room. On a budget? Lose the cheese.
If nothing else, it’s a nice story: Oregon native Daniel Karlin visited Buenos Aires in 2004, met his future wife within 36 hours, set up a wine tasting business, and recently had twins. If you want to toast his good luck, book a session in Anuva’s stylish loft space in Palermo. The price gets you five wines to taste (with generous re-pours), tapas-style snacks, and a wise and witty sommelier to guide your palate.
Aldo’s Vinoteca & Restorán
Thanks to his regular appearances on TV and radio, Aldo Graziani is the closest thing Argentina has to a celebrity sommelier. At his glamorous restaurant in Monserrat you can choose from 500 labels with most of country’s top bodegas represented. The mark-up is refreshingly low, and any bottle that can be drunk at the table can also be wrapped to go.
La Cava Jufre
Whether you’re in the market for a full-blown tasting or just a glass of vino with a picada (mixed cheeses and cold cuts), this cozy cellar in Villa Crespo could be just the ticket. Achaval Ferrer, Viña Cobos, and Carlos Pulenta are among the renowned wineries on the carefully chosen list. If you’re sick of Malbec, try a fruity Bonarda or a crisp Torrontés.
Gran Bar Danzón
Soft lit and sexy, this joint has been around since 1999, which makes it a gnarled old survivor in Buenos Aires terms. It’s a top spot for modern Argentine cuisine, but you can just as easily prop up the bar and order a Malbec or Pinot Noir from the extensive wine list. Go early for happy hour, or hang back if you want to dodge the after-office crowd.