Way up there on the list of reasons to visit Argentina is excellent wine, so you’d think that finding good wine tasting options in Buenos Aires would be easy. It’s not.
Our friend Andy, whose love of wine has led him to invest in a wine bar in Seattle, came to visit in January. Like most people outside of Argentina, Andy was mostly familiar with Malbec. I wanted to have him to taste the other great Argentine varietals, namely Bonarda and Torrontes, and I also wanted to be sure I was having him taste really great wines from boutique wineries that he wouldn’t likely find in the States.
Because Andy knows wine, I put him on the task of choosing where to go for a wine tasting. Our guidebooks had no recommendations, so we took to the Internet. Argentina’s Travel Guide had the best collection of wine-tasting options and very good descriptions of each. But Andy wanted more information. He wanted to be reassured that the wine tasting was going to be run by professionals who would not only pour from bottles but be able to answer his questions and guide him to the must-visit bodegas (wineries) on his trip to Mendoza.
We decided to call the various places. Several places were not able to answer our questions at all. In essence, you go there, pay to taste the wines, and have zero guidance or discussion about what you are tasting and why these wines were chosen. Also, we didn’t want a full dinner with the wine tasting. We really wanted to focus on the wines. Paired with the appropriate foods, yes, but not a full meal.
Sarah, the Tasting Room Director at Anuva Wines, answered the phone. She answered all of Andy’s questions and showed such knowledge and professionalism that we knew Anuva was the place. In hindsight, as I write this I realize that a lot of our questions were actually answered on Anuva’s FAQ page, but we were still glad to speak to a person in charge.
Why I Recommend Anuva Wine Tastings
- it’s easy to book right there online
- before booking you can speak to an actual Anuva person (not a call center or recording) to ask questions
- they’re fluent in English (native speakers) and Spanish
- they’re friendly, knowledgeable and professional
- they serve fantastic wines from boutique wineries across Argentina
- the wine and food pairings were excellent
- they don’t skimp on the wines (not in terms of cost or the amount they serve)
- they live here in Argentina but know their wines from around the world
- the discussions were tailored to our audience of both novices and experts (read testimonials)
- the wines came from wineries I rarely see in shops here or in the States
- the price is unbeatable ($40 US per person as of January 2010)
- it’s fun!
The 5 Wines We Tasted
- Hom Extra Brut (Winery: Cava la Carmela) – We started with a sparkling wine from Mendoza. Made of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Chenin, Anuva calls this wine “the crowd pleaser.” We were certainly pleased. It was a great beginning, light and refreshing with the right amount of sparkling.
- Torrontes (Serrera) – This is one of my favorite Argentinean varietals. I don’t typically like white wines that much. Some of them leave a bitter sort of acidic aftertaste in my mouth. I like Chardonnays that have a heavy oak taste and Pinot Grigio because it’s light and goes well with so many dishes. But I tend to go for red more than white, so when I moved here to Argentina I was excited to taste Torrontes and find a white wine I really enjoy. I’ve mostly tasted Torrontes wines from the regions of Salta or La Rioja here in Argentina. This one is from Mendoza which is pretty odd since Mendoza is not known as the ideal location for Torrontes (not high enough in altitude). Anuva calls this Torrontes “an undiscovered gem from Mendoza,” and right they are! It’s light and not too sweet, just right.
- Bonarda (Aguijon de Abeja) – Yes! Yes! Yes! I loved this wine (and it wasn’t my favorite of the five wines we tasted). I really wanted Andy to try a great Bonarda. They aren’t easy to find here in Buenos Aires even in the specialty wine shops. But it’s a varietal I’ve always loved. Part of why I love Bonarda is that I like smoked meats and wild game (see my review of Les Anciens Combattants for a restaurant that serves food that goes sooooo well with Bonarda). Another part of why I love it is that it’s less common, so when you taste it you can’t help but say, “hmmm… what’s that? It’s really good.” Bonarda just hasn’t gone mainstream like Malbec. This Bonarda is from Mendoza and it’s made by two brothers whom you can learn more about on Anuva’s blog.
- Malbec Roble (San Gimignano) – I can’t tell you how surprised I was that the Malbec was my favorite wine of the five. Having lived here for three years, I’ve had my fill of Malbec. But this Malbec, from Maipu in Mendoza, so dark and smooth with a hint of red pepper (I like spicy wines… and food) reminded me of the first time I ever tried Malbec. I couldn’t wait to get a bottle, head to the cheese store, and invite over some friends for an afternoon on the terrace.
- Don Juan Reserve (Las Perdices) – This was the crown jewel of our wine tasting. The most interesting and complex of the five wines we tasted; also from Mendoza, Don Juan Reserve is a blend of 70% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 10% Bonarda, 9% Merlot. We smelled and tasted it immediately after it was poured, again 5 minutes later, and again 15 minutes later. Gorgeous. I felt like I was getting to taste a wine that had been saved in someone’s cellar for just that right moment. One of those wines that you bring to Thanksgiving with people who love food and wine and want to be surprised and then want to discuss the experience while enjoying another glass. When I realized I could taste and smell the evolutions, I felt sophisticated. An absolutely wonderful ending.
We each left with a bottle of our favorite. If I had been buying wine for my uncle, who’s a connoisseur, I would have bought the Don Juan Reserve. But we were headed to an asado (barbecue) at Naty and Gonzalo’s house, so I bought the Malbec.
Anuva’s Wine Club Ships Great Argentinean Wines
Our friend Andy, the wine guy, signed up for Anuva’s wine club. He received his first shipment of 12 bottles a couple of weeks ago and threw a party for some of his friends and other investors in the wine bar there in Seattle. They drank 11 of the 12 bottles and were “blown away,” he said. If you’re in the States and you want to buy great Argentinean wines, I highly recommend Anuva’s wine club.
Thanks Daniel and Sarah for a great experience and another tip to offer our readers. If you’re interested in learning more about Argentina’s trio of varietals, check out Daniel’s post “More than Malbec.”
Has anyone else done a wine tasting in Buenos Aires? Got any extra tips to add?
(Full disclosure: Anuva has since become San Telmo Loft’s first sponsor. If you click on the ad in our sidebar, you’ll be taken to the online booking page of Anuva’s website through an affiliate link which will help to support our efforts to bring you the best that Buenos Aires has to offer. I hope to get more sponsors in the future, but I will only select those I can wholeheartedly recommend. Anuva Wines is the first.)