Kissing cousins. Alternative beverage approaches to wine to get through lockdown

The weather in Buenos Aires was unbelievably balmy at the start of lockdown, shorts and flip flops the norm, and as I immediately turned my hand to quarantine baking (I’ve grown out of that phase now, by which I mean outwards) I even took on the oven in a boob tube, it was that warm. 

The next stage, after lockdown baking-a-thons, was controlling my alcohol consumption because, mid-March, lockdown made itself out to be a dalliance and in my mind, would soon be over. I would open ‘the bar’ at 6pm, just the five days a week. Very controlled… And while it was still light outside, I’d enjoy a cheeky chilled craft beer on the terrace, straight out of the can. Minimal effort, no need to wash up a glass – and that meant at least three before supper.

Two months on, we’re still locked down in Argentina but I still haven’t quite found my wine mojo yet. The dilemma – store or waddyawaitingfor? – is still playing on my mind and while I’ve opened a few crackers – a red Burgundy, Zuccardi’s Emma Bonarda 2015, a Mosel Riesling from Timo Dienhart – wine hasn’t been my go-to beverage – yet. As I ease into autumn and come to terms with winter, no doubt I’ll be turning to some Argentine fruit bombs to go with beef-and-rosemary stew and other hearty dishes (but two days a week instead of five, as I’ve changed opening hours) so in the meantime I wanted to share some cross-over beverages I’ve been enjoying, some winning cousins of wine. 

Clerico in a can

Tato can do it…

For a taste of the Florería Atlántico bar experience from the comfort of your living room/kitchen/sofa/bed, check out bartender Tato Giovannoni’s cocktail classics – in a can. While the timing of April’s launch is seemingly impeccable, the Enlatados Atlántico project has actually been in the pipeline for 18 months, Tato taking house favourites such as the Balestrini Negroni and Apóstoles gin and tonic to a level of accessibility that will be appreciated both during and after lockdown. And, never has a can been so stylish…

Original recipes from Retiro-based Florería, ranked three in the World’s Best Bars list in 2019, also include Clerico Atlántico whose pedigree is enhanced by the fact the base wine is made by star winemaker Matías Michelini of Passionate Wines. Apparently I committed a faux pas by swigging straight from the aluminium vessel and Tato told me off; avoid a scolding and show these cool canisters some love and serve over ice in your finest glassware while tuning into DJ Oliverio’s Florería Spotify playlist

Available from Florería Atlántico (Whatsapp +54 9 11 5753-2905) as well as Farinelli, Winemakers, Narda Comedor and Diario, and Paru among others. 

Let Inés de los Santos take you to an island far, far away…

Isla life 

In spring 2018, top Argentine mixologist Inés de los Santos released a line of ready-to-drink Sangría and Clericó known as Isla. Easy breezy, mess-free peasy, pour these refreshing drinks straight into the glass, without the need to faff around chop chop chopping up fruit. Torrontés forms the base for her Clericó, teamed with lemon verbena and passion fruit, while Pinot Noir rosé with grapefruit and Inés’ own bitter compound are the heart of her ready-to-drink Sangría. Serve in a big glass with plenty of ice as a pre-dinner warm-up, and when freedom beckons, call Inés and her pop-up Julep bar for liberty liquor.

Available from the Cheers app. Box of six, 1,380 pesos. 

Oranges aren’t the only fruit

Chandon Apéritif.

My first Zoom tasting was hosted by Chandon Argentina and it was a pretty fun and dynamic (if slightly odd) experience to try three sparklers with colleagues and friends on a screen (toasting alone was the odd part, sniff). Still, it’s absolutely better than nothing, and it did give me the chance to sample Chandon Apéritif for the first time. I’ll be honest, the sound of it isn’t something I’d usually go for but I was pleasantly surprised. I expected high sugar levels but there’s plenty of bitter orange notes on this Chardonnay, Semillón, Pinot Noir base wine that obliterate that notion. Some 50 botanicals go into the dosage, according to Chandon winemaker Ana Paula Bartolucci, such as orange, herbs, roots, bark, fruit and flora, and while it took me to a Campariesque place, the bubbly bangs for your buck ensure it’s a very different drink experience. Serve at between 6º-8ºC, on ice (if you like, it’s ‘allowed’). 

Parent company Moët Hennessey recently opened its Mercado Libre e-store for direct bodega purchases (minimum buy six bottles), which includes sister wineries Terrazas de los Andes, Veuve Clicquot and Baron B – a good time to start thinking about the day-slash-night we’re released, right? Box of six, 2,820 pesos. 

May the fourth be with you

May the vermouth force be with you.

So I’m two days out with this gag but La Fuerza (force, fourth, Star Wars…) is one of my favourite Argentine vermouths, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than starting a night out at this bar, which, for their profits, has the good fortune to be located two blocks from home. 

With vintner Seba Zuccardi guiding vermú production, it was always bound to be a hit and La Fuerza currently makes three vermouths: Blanco with a Torrontés base, Rojo with Malbec and Primavera en los Andes. All use four key local herbs Mendoza artemisia (mugwort), Mendoza thyme, carqueja (Baccharis trimera) and jarilla (Larrea divaricada, creosote bush), gathered in the Andean foothills, although Primavera stands out for using spring blooms.  

Named one of Time’s paces to visit in 2019, it’s a must on the Buenos Aires drinking circuit and a founding father in now-it’s-cool Chacarita – so how has the team risen to the challenge of working in lockdown? Co-owner Martín Auzmendi says: “We’re preparing some of our classic dishes for delivery and have also been sharing recipes such as buñuelos and flan on Instagram. But we’ve started operating as a store, selling our conserves, such as artichoke hearts and beans, as well as olive oil and La Fuerza vermouth every day.”

Daily: Whatsapp orders, daily 12pm-8pm +54 911 3066 8978

Check out last week’s Winesday quarantine help article, on wine store delivery in Buenos Aires.

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