Wining On: Drinking with the big boys

Although Buenos Aires predominantly, and logically, most frequently holds wine-tasting events, there are relatively few food-tasting events which are accessible to the average wallet.

Last month saw the first Buenos Aires Market, uniting organic producers which is organized by foody website and magazine Planeta Joy, take place down San Telmo way. A veritable success it was, by which I mean if you got there at around lunchtime and had to wait 30 minutes for something to munch down, such was the demand, or had to drink your organic champagne straight from the bottle given that the merchant Bodega Vinecol had run out of tasting cups (as Asli, Lizzie and I did), well then a success it was.

(A note to readers. Swigging back wine from a bottle or warm lager from a can is never acceptable in public. Swigging champagne straight from the bottle always is.)

A free venture taking place on Caseros Avenue, hopefully this weekend’s market (which took place yesterday and is also on the go today) includes more stalls stretching down street so that everyone has a chance to try and buy, and has less of a scrum atmosphere as if vendors were giving away dollar bills instead of a tasty chunk of ciabatta.

Look out for La Riojana and her organic juices and olive oil, Terrasana’s honey and olives, the fabulous L’Epi bakery, which makes a pain au chocolat so mean it will make you cry, and Luz Vida, which will be selling wheatgrass to give smoothies an extra energy boost.

Still, the good intentions should be lauded, and as long as you’re wrapped up warm, hopefully the venture will continue on a monthly basis throughout the dregs of autumn and the whole winter season.

Another free gastro event coming up is Taste!, which takes place, for one night only, at Recoleta’s Buenos Aires Design on the shortest day of the year. Admission is only via online invitation, so start tapping up friends to get in on the action. Organized by those purveyors of dining brought to your front door, Buenos Aires Delivery, this is the second such event, and promises to be a tasty little number.

With a venue change since the first Taste! took place last year, here’s hoping the event can accommodate all those who want a slice of the pie this time round. Although one aim is for BA Delivery to give the restaurants listed on its website some additional exposure, it also allows eaters to try the wares and fares of restaurants they might not necessarily order from online. As of this past week, Los Maestros, La Querencia, Vanshelato, El Peruanito Ray, Sushimoto, La Negra Chocolá, Tataki Sushi & Peruvian Cuisine, Garbis and Josefina Gortariall have all signed on the dotted line, and others are surely set to follow. I list those, because I’ve only heard of a couple of those names, and I’m gagging to give some unknowns (to me) a fair shot.

Still, one fair to ever so cunningly combine both food and wine is Cuisine & Vins. Although the cuisine side looked a little lame come last Thursday, with just three stands confirmed on the attendance list, no fear, dozens of bodegas are participating at the magazine-hosted event, including the usual suspects of Trapiche, Flichmann and Las Moras, as well as Salta winemakers Amalaya and Dominio del Plata, more from which in a jiffy.

Taking place on June 6, 7 and 8, for some reason I’ve never made it to the Palacio Paz (Santa Fe 750) for a C&V sampling, and the feeling is mixed as to the venue. Some friends have called it completely naff and highly inappropriate for such an event, while others, whose views may be tainted by the amount of booze they “tasted”, say the palace is the best thing since sliced bread. And the glasses are “properly” filled.

Since I’ve never been, I have no idea, but for 130 pesos a ticket, which will grant you access to just one of the days, why not give it a whirl, and head directly to the wines from a great height arena — which is theoretically where I shall start off, if I get to go.

And although we aren’t yet in public wine-tastings season quite yet, Vinos de Autor was on two weeks ago, which is a buzzing event aimed exclusively at the industry. Buyers. Sellers. Sommeliers. And me.

Taking place over two days at a small San Telmo location better used to foreign DJs trying to break the sound barrier any old night of the week, Samsung Studio hosted around 40 wineries at Vinos de Autor.

Now this was a complete luxury for me, and akin to the super-intimate vertical tastings I have been lucky enough to attend of late. Why? Because I get to drink with the big boys, and that means that the fabulous stuff laid out.

While on an upper good night at home, I may sip at a Patritti Malbec or a 25/5 Cabernet Franc, and these are wines which are definitely better than middle of the road. I love the robust and interesting 25/5 from La Pampa province so much I’d have it every day if I could.

But when it comes to the higher end of the grape spectrum, I tread on terroir unknown, principally, and I’m not ashamed to say it, I can’t afford a 100-peso plus bottle every week.

So it really was a treat to be let loose on some Dominio del Plata samplings, a winery based in Luján de Cuyo. Enologist Susana Balbo, whose CV includes Bodega Martins and Catena Zapata among others, says she considers Dominio del Plata to be her third child.

While her Crios Syrah/Bonarda 2010 had a velvety finish and was a blend I’d not tried before, it was the simply named Nosotros that was one of the most complex reds I’ve ever laid my tasting instruments on.

Taking simplicity a tiny step further and looking back at my notes, all I wrote down next to Nosotros was “wow.” Considered to be “a selection from the selection” by the winery, Nosotros 2008, which is simply a Malbec, was very much a wine-to-remember moment. “So this is what it is like to drink great wine,” I thought. And wept.

The 2007 garnered a not-to-be-sniffed-at 93 Robert Parker points in The Wine Advocate, but the 2008 took it up a notch — to 94. Although it surprised me that it’s not a blend due to its complexity, the 2008 was as smooth as a baby’s bottom, profoundly purple in colour, bursting with red fruit — and worth every cent of the 650 pesos it costs.

Problem, of course, now is that I’ve developed a costly wine habit, I urgently need to work out how I’m going to fund it.

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on June 3, 2012
Photo courtesy of Ana Paixao Diálogo & Medios.

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