1. Famous Wines of Argentina: Malbec, Bonarda and Torrontés
Hey wino, you are in luck – Argentina has answered all your wine prayers. Argentina is the 5th largest wine producer in the world, making an impressive amount of quality wines that are also remarkable inexpensive. With so many Argentinean wines on the market, it’s important to know exactly what to drink:
- Malbec: We’ll let you in on a little Buenos Aires secret: when in doubt, order a Malbec. Argentina is most internationally known for its malbec, a wine variety that can vary in flavor, but most known for its dark purple red color, strong fruity flavors, and ample amount of tannins. Pairing Malbec with food is an easy task, as it generally makes the perfect companion to a traditional Argentine steak dinner. The majority of wines produced in Argentina are Malbec from Mendoza. Start out by trying bottles from some of the best wineries in Argentina: Catena Zapata, Norton DOC, Achaval Ferrer, and Luigi Bosca. For the curious, get your wine knowledge on with a wine tasting in Buenos Aires that covers all the main bases and basics.
- Torrontés: Many wine experts say that the torrontés will be the next wine to take the world by storm. Torrontés comes from white grapes mostly from the northern Salta region, La Rioja, San Juan, and Mendoza wine country. Torrontés is known as a quite deceiving white wine since it smells very floral and quite sweet, but when you take a sip, it can be dry and acidic. Pop your Torrontés cherry by trying: Crios by Susana Balbo or Laborum by El Porvenir.
- Bonarda: Bonarda comes in a close second after mablec for being the most produced red wine in Argentina. It is known for its intense ruby and violet color, red and forest fruit flavors, and, when aged in oak, has an aftertaste of tobacco and vanilla. It’s a smooth, drinkable wine, easily paired with steak. Start with trying: Nieto Senetiner Bonarda 2012 or Trapiche Fond de Cave Reserve.
- FERNET: It’s just not humanely acceptable to leave Argentina without trying Fernet. A bitter than comes from Italy, Fernet has made a strong long lasting impression on Argentines where it has become the go-to drink for many years. It’s a distinct strong taste, herbal in flavor with hints of licorice, and very high in alcohol at 45%. Fernet is almost always mixed with Coke, so when you order a “Fernet” at a bar, it will be a Fernet-Coke mix. Don’t be scared by the description, Fernet has an acquired taste that will bring you one sip closer to being a real Argentine.
- GANCIA: In its pure form, Gancia is a bit more alcoholic than wine and has a lemon-based flavor. It is an aperetivo and is typically mixed with Sprite or 7Up and a slice of lemon. Think of a lemony wine cooler and you have Gancia.
- LIMONCELLO: A digestif often served in Italian restaurants following a meal. Homemade limoncello can be found in outdoor markets and in artisan fairs.
- APERITIVOS: Argentina has a long history of aperitivo (aperitif) drinking culture. Many bars and cafés are bringing back the drinks of the olden days: Cinzano, Cynar, Amargo Obrero, and Hesperidina. Many of these drinks are quite bitter, and often served with soda water and citrus fruit (lemon, orange or grapefruit).
3. Local Artisanal Beers in Argentina: The art of making beer does not receive the same attention it does abroad, but nicely crafted beers can be found here. Buller or Antares are both good starting points, as is Bodega Cervecera and Buena Birra Social Club. It is common to purchase the more popular beers in ¾-liter or 1-liter bottles in bars and restaurants around town to be shared amongst friends. Quilmes is considered the national brand of Argentina and often served by the liter. In recent years, the craft beer scene is growing and getting more and more attention. For more micro-brewed beers here in Buenos Aires.
4. YERBA MATE: Pronounced (MAH-tay) is probably the most popular beverage in Argentina. Dried and crushed up leaves of the yerba mate are placed into a hollowed out gourd and drunk through a screened straw called a bombilla (bomb-BEE-sha). Hot water is poured from a thermos over portions of the yerba mate in the gourd and sipped through this metal straw. Mate has a distinct flavor and mostly resembles a raw green tea. The beverage contains caffeine-like stimulus and serves as an appetite suppressant. Read all about what yerba mate is all about here.
During the hot months of summer locals will often switch the hot water for cold water, orange juice, or lemonade. Drinking in the same fashion with a gourd and bombilla, this is called “Tereré“. This is very common in Paraguay, Southern Brazil and Northern Argentina.
4. COFFEE: Drinking coffee is a popular past time in Argentina. It’s completely acceptable to go to a café and sit for hours, just sipping on one small coffee. While some of Buenos Aires’ rich history lies in old school coffeehouses like Café Tortoni, the best coffee is served at more modernized spots like Coffee Town inside the San Telmo Market. In Argentina, coffee is typically served 4 ways in Buenos Aires:
- Café: Espresso
- Cortado: Espresso with a little milk
- Café con leche: Half espresso, half warm milk
- Lágrima: Warm milk with a small amount of espresso (a tear)
Updated March 31, 2014