Amanda Barnes is an award-winning wine writer and expert in South American wines and regions. She is also Star Wine List’s South America Ambassador and the one who’s curated our insider’s guide to Buenos Aires.
”The wine bar scene in Buenos Aires has radically changed in the last decade. Wine was always on the table in Argentina, this is a country of wine drinkers, but it has suddenly gained a new appeal as a more aspirational and exploratory experience,” she says.
Amanda Barnes is born and raised in Great Britain, but moved to Argentina and Buenos Aires in 2009 to learn more about wine in a wine-producing country; ”England had a limited winemaking scene when I left”, she explains. Here she’s working as a regular South America correspondent, critic and writer for Decanter magazine, as well as some other international publications and competitions.
”I actually moved to Mendoza, where I currently live, in 2010 in order to be closer to the producers because I feel you learn most about wine by spending time in the vineyards.”
She says that what inspired her to move to Argentina rather than any other wine country was the combination of its eager and open spirit as a New World producer, but also its rich heritage and wine culture as a country that has been producing wine for some 500 years.
”What has kept me in Argentina is the dynamic wine scene but also the passion, generosity and personality of locals. And life in Argentina is never boring; this is a country that keeps you on your toes,” Amanda says.
You can taste Argentina’s many different terroirs through Malbec now - the altitude, the soil, the temperature during the day and night, and the hand of the winemaker
When it comes to the wine bar scene in Buenos Aires, Amanda describes it as an energetic city with a constant ebb and flow of people, ideas and trends. She also says that the wine scene, and bar scene in general, has radically changed in the last decade:
”Wine was always on the table in Argentina, this is a country of wine drinkers, but it has suddenly gained a new appeal as a more aspirational and exploratory experience. People go to wine bars to have a good time with their friends, but also to discover and taste something new.”
According to Amanda, the average Buenos Aires consumer, even in your run-of-the-mill typical ”parilla” (grill restaurant, Editor's note), is quite knowledgable and knows the difference between drinking a Malbec and Bonarda, for example.
”Buenos Aires is one of the great wine-drinking capitals of South America. People drink a lot of wine, and as most Argentines have grown up drinking wine with their family or friends, they have a pretty good knowledge of the local wine production, compared to other countries in Latin America at least”.
Which are the biggest wine trends in Argentina right now?
”Argentina is always going to be Malbec country, but what’s been really exciting in the last couple of years is the big shift from rich, concentrated Malbecs with lots of oak ageing, to making fresher and brighter styles of Malbec which don’t hide behind concentration or extraction. You can taste Argentina’s many different terroirs through Malbec now - the altitude, the soil, the temperature during the day and night, and the hand of the winemaker.”
”There’s also a big trend towards racier red wines, including Cabernet Franc in particular. And I’m a big fan of the renaissance in making fresh, light red wines with Criolla varieties - it is a more limited trend for now, but I believe Criolla grapes have the potential to radicalise the everyday wine on the table in Argentina.”
How do you think the wine scene in Buenos Aires will develop in the upcoming years?
”Unfortunately, the wine scene is always linked with the political scene. If we continue being allowed to import wine from other countries, then I think we’ll continue to see more wine bars and restaurants pouring international wines, which helps feed people’s curiosity and knowledge in the wine world. International wines will always be the sideshow though, the main focus will remain on Argentine wines, and certainly looking more into the diversity of wine regions and varieties today.”
”Also, I think we still haven’t quite seen ‘wine tribes’ emerging on the scene in Buenos Aires, and I would predict that in the next few years we’ll begin to see more wine bars and restaurants that only focus on natural or organic wines, for example.”
Amanda Barnes is the author of the South America Wine Guide. She has received a fellowship from the Wine Writers Symposium, a scholarship for the Wine Bloggers Conference, and the Geoffrey Roberts Award. She was also awarded the Peter Hampson Memorial Prize and the Derouet Jameson Prize for her outstanding results in the WSET Diploma. She is currently studying to become a Master of Wine.