Good airs and good wines go hand in hand in Buenos Aires. Wine is the drink of choice for asados, gatherings of family and friends, milongas and tango shoes, and above all, conversations that go on late into the evening. You can find excellent wines at accessible prices at even the most basic markets, let alone the city’s many specialist suppliers. Here are a few varietals to look out for, including some names you surely know, and some that perhaps you don’t. Raise a glass in the city of many passions and take your favourite bottle home as a souvenir.
Argentina’s most famous red, full-bodied with smooth tannins and fruit aromas.
Malbec has become Argentina’s star wine and the varietal for which the country is best known abroad. Although the grape originally hailed from France, it adapted very well to Argentine soil, so much so that Argentina is now the world’s biggest producer. There are malbecs from various regions, but 86% is produced in the province of Mendoza in the west of the country. This wine goes very well with an Argentine asado, and if you’re going to try one wine in Buenos Aires, this should be it.
Another characteristic local red, fresh with low tannin content.
Bonarda is the second most planted grape in Argentina and is sometimes considered the “new” malbec with similar potential to gain renown internationally. The Argentine version of this grape is believed to originate from the douce noir grape grown in the Savoie region of France. Again its production is largely concentrated in Mendoza as well as in neighbouring San Juan province. With an intense dark red colour, it’s very pleasant in the mouth and goes well with empanadas. Well worth trying!
(Argentina’s very own white, fresh, fruity and low in tannins)
What malbec did for red wine in Argentina, torrontés is doing for white. In this case, the grape actually originates from Argentina itself and you’re not very likely to find a torrontés from anywhere else. The grape is grown in several regions, but most of all in the North West. There are three varieties originating from Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja, with the Riojan variety considered the finest. The province of Salta, however, has become the best-known producer of this wine. Try it with salty food and exotic condiments.
4. Cabernet sauvignon
(Elegant and subtle red with robust tannins and a hearty aroma)
This red needs little introduction since it’s grown in almost every wine producing region in the world due to its great adaptability, and many grand blends are made using this grape. It’s also produced in Argentina along the length of the western provinces. Aromas vary according to the region and the wine tends to age very well. This is another red to savour in Buenos Aires.
(A smooth, well-rounded red with complex aromas)
One of the most recent varietals to take root in Argentina, merlot has yet to take off on a big scale in the country, but there are very good quality examples. The grape is grown in cooler, high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Valle de Uco and in Patagonia. This is another great wine to pair with an asado, with chimichurri sauce of course.
6. Pinot noir
(Fresh and acidic red with earthy aromas)
Pinot noir requires a lot of care and a cool climate to reach its potential. Like merlot, it’s also produced in Valle de Uco, Mendoza, and Patagonia. With its characteristic dark red colour, it goes very well with chicken dishes.
(Light and fresh aromatic red with a silky texture)
This French grape took off in Valle de Tulum, San Juan and the east of Mendoza. It can have a lot of structure when produced in cold regions, and more fruit in warmer climes. It’s another good option for pairing with warm meat dishes.
(A red with strong tannins with a lot of body and a lot of fruit.)
Considered the national wine over the river in Uruguay (the vineyards in Carmelo are a pleasant day trip from Buenos Aires), the tannat, again originally from France, has also gained terrain in Argentina. Production is still very low compared to other grapes, but it has adapted well in the province of Salta thanks to medium temperatures and a dry climate which allows for a long maturing of the grapes. Enjoy this rare wine with meat or marinated vegetable dishes.
(Deep, fresh white low in tannins)
If cabernet sauvignon is the queen of reds, chardonnay reigns supreme in the world of white wines. Chardonnays can vary from the most simple to the most complex. In Argentina, it has the capacity to mature well and produce a wide range of wines. It’s most usually produced in the warmer parts of the province of Mendoza. A good option to pair with fish.
10. Sauvignon Blanc
(An intense dry white with keen acidity and tropical fruit notes.)
This voluptuous French varietal demands a lot of care and is produced only in small quantities in Argentina, though it is expanding. It’s mostly found in Mendoza and serves as a very pleasant aperitif on hot summer days.
Finding exceptional wine in Buenos Aires is an easy task, whether you want to pick up a bottle at a supermarket, consult expert opinion at a specialist boutique wine store, or order a bottle with a meal in one of the city’s many restaurants. We raise a glass to that!