Buenos Aires for Visitors
Where can apprentice oenologists sample great glasses? Dan Perlman goes in search of great bars.
Although getting a decent glass of wine in a bar or restaurant is far easier here than getting a decent cocktail, but then ‘decent’is a relative term. Most places offer up no more than a couple of regular wines by the glass, and if you’re lucky the bartender may even know the name of what they’re pouring into your glass. So if you’re more into quaffing the grape than you are downing a martini, where should you go for a large selection with knowledgeable and friendly service?
The ‘gran-daddy’of the local wine bar scene is Gran Bar Danzón. Low tables, lots of gleaming chrome, and the constant beat of house music give you a sense of the style of the place. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is some spot for brightly colored cocktails (although they offer a good number of those), they also offer constantly changing wine lists of over 200 selections, many available by the glass. Not surprising given that the owners also stand behind top restaurants Sucre and Bar Uriarte, both known for their wines. Danzón also has a well-staffed kitchen that churns out creative sushi and twists on local fare. Expect to shell out a fair amount for a visit, but the quality makes it all worthwhile.
A true newcomer on the scene, Portezuelo (Vicente López 2160, 4806 9462, www. portezeueloweb.com.ar) is the hotspot for wine in the trendy, if a bit touristy, Village Recoleta. Still, after stopping to lay flowers at Evita’s tomb or wandering the Recoleta artisan fair, you may find yourself in need of refreshment. Here you can pop yourself down in a faux old-time pub, livened by pumping hip hop and electonica. They may be into partying, but they’re also deadly serious about their beverage offerings with a regularly changing list of 15-20 wines by the cuartino (quarter liter carafe). While the wines tend to come from the major players, the variety is good, and it’s a great intro to Argentinian wines. The food is mainly of the steak and chips bent, but a perfectly reasonable proposition.
If you’re into the modern art scene, you’ll no doubt find yourself at some point visiting the MALBA. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself across the street at Renault’s Museum of Art, Science and Technology, catering to your inner nerd. Either way, Club Museo (Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3399, 4802 9626, www.museorenault.com.ar) is a must. Offering up creative international cuisine and sushi, it is a nice way to attract museum clientele, but the real draw here is the wide ranging wine choice that doesn’t stick to the usual suspects. Top that off with more than two dozen selections by the glass (AR$9-23) from a changing selection from lesser known lines as well as the major producers, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Quite possibly the most serious of wine bars is the nearly hidden Epicureos (Soldado de la Independencia 851, 4772 8108, www.epicureos.com). This casual restaurant – deck furniture and directors’chairs, and a beautiful little garden in the rear – also doubles up as a wine shop. It has two major things going for it: a truly great kitchen turning out creative, interesting and delicious food, and access to a well-stocked and well-thought out winery. [Note: I swear, my original copy said ‘wine cellar’.] A regularly changing roster of more than 20 wines by the glass, truly covering the range of varietals and regions of the country, mostly from real, boutique level producers not the commercial biggies. With prices starting at AR$5, it’s a better bargain than any other wine bar in the city.
And finally, for a touch of true elegance, it would be impossible to pass up the stunning Park Hyatt Hotel. Home of several restaurants and bars, wine aficionados ust hund down the wine and cheese bar. It stocks a major collection of international wines, with a good selection offered by the glass. Thankfully a sommelier is always in attendance to guide your tastes. They also offer regular tastings where you can work your way through a particular winery, or style, with the expert assistance of the hotel’s wine director. The bar also has its own cheese ageing room, and is one of the few spots in town where you can sample the best of Argentina’s and other countries’ cheeses along with a glass of the grape. Can you imagine anything better?
In mid-2006, I started writing for Time Out Buenos Aires. With changes in their way of conducting business, I decided to part company with them after my last article and set of reviews in mid-2009.