Have you ever met a wine hacker? I have. Last week I found myself in a narrow, brightly-lit room in a far-flung corner of the city, rubbing glasses with Argentina’s hippest wine bloggers at the grandiosely-named PinotBonarda Wine Hackaton.
Now let me be clear; there were no geeky, unwashed techies in ironic oversized T-shirts here (ok, so maybe one or two, although they may have been photographers). The idea behind the event is to create a social media buzz around wineries which are invited to submit wines on a certain theme. Any winelover with a Twitter or Instagram obsession is welcome to come along, try the wines, and plaster the net with their opinions. In true hackathon spirit, the evening brings together the city’s wineloving community and gives them the tools to build and shape the online presence of some of Argentina’s most interesting wine producers.
Hosted by Acha Club in Villa Urquiza (don’t panic, it’s on the train line), previous hackathons have covered everything from Cab Sauv, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, and of course that emblematic Argentine classic, Malbec. This time it was the turn of Bonarda and Pinot Noir. Bonarda is a variety that’s little known outside of Argentina despite being the second most grown red wine variety here. For many years it had a bad reputation as the “patito feo” or “ugly duckling” since it used to be made into huge quantities of barely-quaffable table wine (believe me, I’ve tried it). Now all that’s changed; these days everyone from Susana Balbo and the Catena family wine empire to the tiniest garage producer is churning out premium Bonardas. There’s also plenty of Pinot being made in the country, especially down south in Patagonia where the cool climate produces elegant examples fragrant with ripe strawberries and raspberries.
Here are my top picks from the night:
Gran Dante Brut Nature from Bodega Dante Robino
One of only two sparklers on show, I spotted this soon after grabbing my glass and headed straight over to get better acquainted. I’m a real sucker for Methode Champenoise bubbly (that’s the inner diva talking), but this would give any decent Champers a run for its money. Made with 50/50 Pinot and Chardonnay, the wine spends 24 months ageing on the lees before disgorgement which imparts intoxicating aromas of sweet brioche and toasted almonds. The delicate bubbles tease and tickle the tongue, perfectly refreshing my palate and mind after the sweaty train ride.
Colonia Las Liebres Brut Rosé 2014
My second love of the night, this is actually a delicate sparkling rosé made of Bonarda! I know, what a weirdo! The first Bonarda rosé sparkling I’ve had the pleasure of drinking, it sure didn’t disappoint. Refreshing acidity combined with a decent amount of structure and ripe raspberries and strawberries. Would be delicious with prawns or a nice hunk of salmon.
Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir 2011
When I first put my lips to this exquisite beauty I felt a strong urge to sing out ABBA’a “Mamma Mia” loud and proud. Just like this:
“I been cheated by you since you know when
So I made up my mind, it must come to an end
Look at me now, will I ever learn?
I don’t know how but I suddenly lose control
There’s a fire within my soul
Just one look and I can hear a bell ring
One more look and I forget everything…”
I didn’t obviously, as there were other people around, so instead I just stood really still for a couple of minutes as the flavours exploded in my mouth. You see, I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Argentine Pinot since being here. Some are absolutely gorgeous, but a lot lack finesse, elegance, and interest. This was most definitely in the former category. Irresistibly smooth, slightly-spiced and a fantastically long finish.
Paso a Paso Vino de Garage Bonarda 2015
Made by a couple of friends from Mendoza using a pretty rustic set-up, this is everything a Bonarda should be. Fruit-forward, bursting with ripe raspberries and strawberries and a touch of balsamic vinegar and smoke.
And here’s a few B-listers who didn’t make the final cut: