Wine-tasting in Buenos Aires

As the saying goes: “When in Rome…”

It would have been churlish of us not to have spent at least one night concentrating on one of Argentina’s finest, and probably most famous, exports – and tourist attractions – this was a ‘fam’ trip, afterall. Research, research…

So we descended the metallic spiral staircase of El Querandí restaurant ( in downtown Buenos Aires, to the wine cellar called La Cava, for an evening of deep appreciation of one of the finer things in life.

The evening was hosted by the affable, skinny and funny Sebastián, an Argentine sommelier in his late 20s who wore his knowledge lightly and had a Roman nose apt for his job.

With him, we tasted three wines in all, aided by a map of Argentina projected on the wall, which helpfully explained the three main wine-growing regions in the country: the North, the Centre and the South. Each region produces different types of wines – nearly all of them more alcoholic than other countries – with different-tasting varieties of the same grape in some cases.

To give you an idea of just how important wine is to Argentina these days, you need to know that it’s the world’s 5th-largest exporter and 7th-largest producer, generating an estimated $600 million for the economy every year, with over 1,300 wineries employing hundreds of thousands of people.

Now, to get an idea of how important wine is to the average Argentine, you need to know that they rank 8th in the world’s top drinkers (although Sebastián said 6th, I checked and it’s 8th – no surprise perhaps, in the porteño exaggeration), knocking back around 30 litres each a year. That’s quite a bit.

We were introduced to the Torrontés grape , which I hadn’t tasted before. The one we had was La Pumila, a green-tinged white wine that was refreshing when combined with a nibble of meat, but too acidic for my linking. Interestingly, when we were in the Salta region later on the trip, we were invited to try a different Torrontés and it was sweeter. I preferred the second one.

Then came a Pinot Noir called Malma, which had some body and some kick, and would gone down all-too-easily on a sunny day for lunch. It comes from the southern Patagonian wine-growing region, from the NQN bodega, which can be visited in the famous Neuquén wine region.

Passing along via another nibble provided by an excellent waiter, we moved on to my preferred territory of the dark, richer reds: Finca Intimayo from the Mendoza region, the central part of the country that produces really what many now regard as the world’s best Malbecs. This was the highlight of the night for me. Excellent bouquet – you can’t help get into the terminology…  — not too sharp, not too heavy, an astringency that played on the palate, leaving you with a delicious, lingering taste. Following a glass of that, we then passed on to the main course, a fine – and almost mandatory in Argentina – steak.

Gabriel Nicolai, Manager of Metropolitan Touring Argentina showing us how it's done

All in all, an excellent way to pass an evening among friends: a bit of learning, a bit of tasting, good food, cool decor, fine wine. Salud!

By Dominic Hamilton, Head of Communication, MT Ecuador. dhamilton AT

To experience ‘tango and wines’ with Metropolitan Touring, see:

For more images of wine-tasting at La Cava, see our Flickr gallery

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