Since the writing of this article, we regret to inform you that Anuva Wines has closed down!
Traveling to Argentina and its passion-filled capital city of Buenos Aires is a gastronomic dream. Tucked away in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo Soho in Buenos Aires one of our favorite spots called Anuva Wines. As one of our top recommendations for travelers visiting Buenos Aires, Anuva Wines provides a unique wine tasting experience with their professional and knowledgeable sommeliers. Specializing in finding undiscovered boutique wines from small, family run wineries in Argentina, Anuva Wines shares them with the world in their beautiful wine loft.
As part of our month exploring the food & drink of South America, we caught up with Anuva Wines sommelier Cara Lester to explore the famous wines of Argentina.
Originally from the UK and after studying at the London School of Wines & Spirits, Cara moved to the New World Wine country of Argentina 3 and a half years ago. Currently she is the wine floor manager at Anuva Wines which provides boutique wine tastings, has its own wine club, and also ships wine to America and Australia meaning you can continue enjoying the wines of Argentina once you are back home.
♦ What is the state of Argentinean wines today?
Wines in Argentina are going from strength to strength, certainly with respects to worldwide popularity.
Of course, Malbec is recognized as the national red wine of Argentina and has been named as one of the most popular styles of wine in the US Market. Today it is generating $2500 Million USD and therefore pin-points Mendoza as one of the capitals of Wine in the World. Malbec’s popularity owes to its fresh, fruity character, rounded plump body and especially its great low price to high quality relationship. However, Argentinean wines are so much more than just Malbec and the world’s slowly beginning to see that! We have other exciting varietals such as Bonarda and Torrontes as well as old world favorites like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Viognier.
♦ How do you define the essential elements that make Argentinean wines unique?
Terroir! Within Mendoza the altitude ranges from 100ft to 600ft, producing many different micro climates and a huge variety of wine styles. With well over 320 days of sun and an average rainfall of 200mm a year in Mendoza there is a great development of sugars and fruit concentration. These dry conditions allow for very healthy, excellent quality grapes, therefore producing excellent wines.
Argentina’s wine production is not only confined to Mendoza with our wine route stretching 1491 miles (2,400km) from the north of Argentina down to the south in Rio Negro and Neuquén. Over such a large area we can see a huge variation of climates, day length, soils and some extreme altitudes, all effected by the rain shadows caused by the Andes Mountains. There are actually very few countries that can boast such an extensive wine making region that produces so many different styles of wine.
With experienced winemakers from Argentina, such as Nicolas Catena and Susana Balbo as well as ‘flying winemakers’ Paul Hobbs from the US, Michel Rolland from France and Alberto Antonini from Italy; one can find anything from a fruity forward New World style to robust, austere Old World styles of wine. In Argentina, there is something for every wine drinker.
♦ Why do you think that Argentinean wines have become so popular around the world?
Malbec! Argentinean wines like many wines from ‘New World’ wine countries are also easy for consumers to understand. This is because we label our wines by variety rather than region and as I stated in the previous answer Malbec’s have become known for their fresh, fruity character, rounded plump body and especially it’s great low price to high quality relationship, characters which many millennials search for in a wine. With great marketing plugs by companies such as Wines of Argentina, ‘World Malbec Day’ (17th April) and recognition from wine critics like Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker, Malbec has become approachable for the average wine drinker and wine experts alike.
Argentina is a passionate, tango dancing, red-meat eating country, producing sexy wines to match the red-blooded Argentineans and sex sells!
♦ How has wine evolved in Argentina over the years?
Even though we are classified as a New World wine country, the Argentina wine industry has very old roots dating backing to the 1500 with the Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish would boil the wine down to a tar so they could transport it from Mendoza to Buenos Aires overland without it turning bad over the long journey.
Immigration into Argentina from Europe during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s brought a whole new influx of wine makers from around the world. Families began shaping some of Argentina’s most traditional wineries today like Bodega La Rural’s Rutini and Casa Bianchi. With the Europeans came their tradition of drinking wine with every meal and during the 1970’s wine consumption in Argentina was the third highest in the world at 90 liters per capita. To keep up with these rates, grapes such as Criolla Grande where grown in huge yields, producing very low quality fruit and therefore watery, tinny and tannic wines. These types of wines would commonly be drunk out of 5 liter jugs known as damajuanas (demijohn) while adding soda water to make it more palatable.
Not surprisingly, by the time it got to the 1990’s, Argentina’s wine consumption had dropped to 20 liters per capita and this is when we saw a massive change in the wine production. Another influx of foreign expats and investors saw an opportunity to invest in Argentinean vineyards, as well as the flying winemakers that arrived to explore the possibilities of the land. With modern day equipment, yield control and marketing improvements the quality of Argentinean wines dramatically improved and exploded onto the worldwide market after the economic crash of 2001.
♦ Aside from Malbec, which other types of Argentinean wines would you recommend and why?
Torrontes as it is the flagship white wine of Argentina; grown in some of the most extreme wine territories in the world. The Torrontes grape produces very exciting styles of white wines, which is know in Argentina as ‘la uva mentirosa’ (the lying grape). I’ll let you figure out why it’s a liar when you try this beautiful variety of wine!
Bonarda is known as the secret grape of Argentina as nearly no-one has heard of it but it is actually the second most grown red grape in Argentina. It produces really unique styles of red wines ranging from medium to full bodied wines, supple rounded style and typically showing red fresh berries and delightful savory touches. The Bonarda wines are high in acidity and have medium levels of tannin that makes it outstanding with food!
My personal favorite at the moment is Cabernet Franc with this traditional French grape producing some really bold, beautiful and big styles of wine in Argentina that need to be sampled by all!
♦ For you personally, what makes the perfect bottle of Argentinean wine and why?
For me, the perfect bottle of Argentinean wine will always come from a family owned winery with limited bottle productions. With small production comes the quality as the makers can select every single grape that goes into the production of their wine, leading to balanced, complex and concentrated wine with exciting layers of aromas and flavors.
Personally I like wines that have unusual aromas and flavors that I find hard to place, it excites me! I find that areas like Cafayate in Salta and the Uco Valley produces very aromatic wines that are my perfect Argentinean wines, be it white or red.
♦ Which is the best wine producing region in Argentina and which would you predict to be the next best region?
Well the best region has to be Mendoza! Approximately 70% of all our production happens there so obviously there is a lot of great wine coming from Mendoza especially, in my personal opinion, from the Uco Valley in Mendoza.
For me, I would say the next best region would be Salta, more specifically Cafayate.
♦ Where did the idea for Anuva Wines come from?
The owners Dan and Lourdes discovered a selection of boutique wineries while visiting Mendoza 8 years ago. They loved the wines but realized they couldn’t even get hold of them here in Buenos Aires let alone in the US, where Dan is originally from. Knowing that not every traveler has the opportunity or the time to fit Mendoza into their Argentina travel itinerary they realized that a huge amount of people were missing out on these exquisite wines, tasting only mass produced goods from household names like Trapiche. They took it upon themselves to be the spokespeople for all these small wineries, offering them at wine tasting and giving them the opportunity to have them delivered in the States.
♦ What is the key for your approach to wine tasting in Buenos Aires?
Smiles! Wine tasting is supposed to be fun. People come for different reasons; some to learn what is out there, some to get to know more styles of wines outside of their comfort zone and let’s face it, some come for the buzz. Wine tasting in Buenos Aires needs to be flexible to answer everyone’s queries while not boring others to tears. Plenty of refills, jokes, just a touch of education and plenty of passion will normally make it successful.
♦ What is your favorite bottle of Argentinean wine and why?
Right now I love wine blends as they are so rounded, multifaceted and complex. They really showcase the quality of the grapes as well as the skill behind Argentinean winemakers and the grapes. My three favorite bottles of wine at the moment are Prestige 2008 by Carinae Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Mairena Blend 2009 by Familia Blanco Malbec and Bonarda and El Porvenir Amauta Corte IV 2012 Malbec and Cabernet Franc.
♦ If somebody had never tried Argentinean wine before and came to Anuva Wines what would be the one wine you would serve them so that they had an idea about Argentinean wines?
The Mairena Blend; its complex, supple and full bodied, with perfectly balanced fruit character and hints of oak making is a classic wine of Argentina with elegance. Plus it’s made from the top two red grapes in Argentina so you can’t get more quintessentially Argentinean than that!
Anuva Wines – CLOSED!
Make sure to ask your Encounter Latin America specialist to add the Anuva Wines tasting experience to your Argentina and South America travel itinerary!