Argentines are big wine drinkers. They do, after all, contribute the best Malbec in the world to wine lovers everywhere. Dinner is always served with wine, usually red, and usually Malbec. All stores, mercados, and even delis will have wine for sale. The best prices per bottle are typically found in the mercados, and a few popular and inexpensive labels are Norton, Trapiche, and San Julien (each in the range of $16-40 per bottle). All are locally produced in Argentina, and all are found at most restaurants as well, although the price per bottle increases about another $10 or so. Another item to note is that many local labels come in half bottles, which is a perfect option for the single diner.
Good hard liquor or spirits are more difficult to come by in Argentina. The brands that expats might be used to typically cost twice as much as the local brands, so the temptation to buy local rum or vodka is strong — until you take a sip and discover they’re nothing like what you expected. A recognizable brand of vodka might cost upwards of $60, whereas its Argentine counterpart will cost $25. Don’t be fooled, though. Spend the extra money — you won’t regret it. The mercados also sell liquor, and there are no liquor-specific stores because there are no regulations that apply to liquor that don’t apply to wine and beer.
In Argentina, the legal drinking age is 18. Sometimes this is strictly enforced, other times it isn’t. It all depends on who is serving. As there are no laws against public drinking or public intoxication, you will frequently see people drinking liter bottles of beer in the street at all hours of the day and night. Accidents caused by drunk drivers is also a recurring theme here, so as a pedestrian be very cautious of drivers, especially at night.
While Argentines are drinkers, it is rather unusual to see a drunk Argentine, even in a bar or club late at night. The tradition in this country is to start drinking wine with dinner (which usually begins around 10pm) and continue drinking slowly and steadily throughout the night. Most parties, clubs, or events go until dawn the next day, and the Argentines know how to pace themselves. But even with the late nights and long hours, it’s very, very rare to see a sloppy Argentine. So, if you’re a drinker, be careful when hanging out with the locals!
Wine and Spirit Stores
A popular and specialized wine and spirits chain is Ligier (Av. Santa Fe 800, 4515-0126). If you want a truly unique experience wine shopping, go into one of the many shops sprinkled across the city and ask one of their knowledgeable salespeople to make a recommendation. While the prices aren’t even comparable to those in the mercados and smaller general stores, the labels you’ll fine in these establishments are world-renowned at prices that can be surprisingly affordable. Prices range from $50 to upwards of $600 for a bottle.
Another wine retailer that also serves as a restaurant and bar is Winery, with locations all over the city, many of which are open on Sundays (a rarity in Buenos Aires). Offers in the different locations vary, but all sell wine, and many will deliver orders to nearby locations. The locations that include a bar and/or restaurant will have wine tastings for prospective customers. Be sure to ask when you go in, as they’ll sometimes give you free samples of wines they’re showcasing.
Tony’s, a small mercado in Belgrano, in the 2000 block of Mendoza, has a wall of wines from all over Argentina. You will be hard pressed to find anything from France, Spain, or California, but if you’re looking for a good bottle of Mablec, Tony’s is the place to go in the Belgrano area. Most bottles range from $15-35.
A great little deli/wine store in Palermo, just a few blocks off of the Bulnes stop on the D line, is Franco Parma. It’s located in the 1700 block of Colonel Diaz, and has a great selection of Argentine Malbecs, and every once in a while, a French bottle or two. The prices are a little bit more expensive, with bottles starting around $25, but the staff will be able to pick out cheese and other accoutrements that pair well with whatever bottle you pick out. Be sure to ask to try anything that looks appetizing behind the glass display!