Restaurateur, sommelier and consultant Aldo Graziani of Aldo’s Vinoteca fame talks to Andrew Catchpole about a life immersed in Argentinian wine.
Q: What sparked your love of wine?
Aldo Graziani: In Argentina the wine culture is very old, you grow up with wine in your house every day. So it was natural to understand wine from a young age.
Q: When and how did you start out in the business?
AG: I started working in the hospitality industry, in gastronomy, when I was 16, and now I am 41. When you are working with wine every day, with different labels, you constantly learn. In 1998 I started work in Gran Bar Danzon, a famous place, the first wine bar in Argentina, where I started my sommelier career. The school of sommeliers opened at that time and I was among the first fifteen sommeliers in Argentina.
Q: Has wine drinking in Argentina become more international since then?
AG: Here in Argentina everyone drinks Argentine wines. It is more difficult to find wines from elsewhere in the world, because we are a producer, though wines are available from Spain, Chile, France… After I became a sommelier I travelled a lot, in France, Italy, Chile and other parts of the world, and fortunately I have tried a lot of wines, but it is not easy for Argentine sommeliers.
Q: Has Argentine wine evolved since you became a sommelier?
AG: There has been continuous change here. In the ‘90s the wines were very concentrated and oaky, but during the noughties our leading producers began to focus on the different soils, on regions, on Argentine styles of wine, and now we are at a good moment because we are looking inside and not outside for our styles of wine. In a few years we can talk about our different terroirs, which we are still discovering, but before we show the rest of the world, we need more time, because not everyone knows about Argentine wines, or where Mendoza is.
Q: What inspired you to open Aldo’s Vinoteca and Restaurant?
AG: We saw the opportunity to open a place that mixes being a wine store and a restaurant, where the restaurant wines are the same price as in the store or in a supermarket. Because of this, in only a year and a half, we have become very well known. We have six or seven sommeliers at any time and, with this concept, we sell five times as much wine as a typical restaurant with the same covers.
Q: Beyond Malbec what styles of wine show the best of Argentina?
AG: The next big challenge is to show the world that we have great Cabernet Sauvignons, which compete with the best in the world. Cabernet Franc is also an amazing variety. And Malbec blends so well – with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. Historically the best wines in Argentina have always been blends. Bonarda is also great for quality and value, and we have as much Bonarda planted as Malbec. With whites we make very good Chardonnays and, of course, Torrontés is a very exciting style. But I think our most exceptional wines will always be red.
Q: Do you consider Argentina’s wines to be New World or Old World?
AG: People think of Argentina as New World but we have an Old World culture, with thousands of small producers, many old vineyards, a love of viticulture and wine, and so we are a good mixture of New and Old World.
Q: Do you have a favourite style of wine and perhaps a dish to match?
AG: I have been vegetarian for five years and I love fresh Italian pasta dishes with Malbec. Years ago it would have been meat! From elsewhere in the world, I love good Burgundy.
Latest posts by Andrew Catchpole (see all)
- Taste the Diversity: A Guide to Argentina’s Wine Regions - October 22, 2014
- The Global March of Malbec - October 1, 2014
- ‘Take 5’ Global Sommeliers: Argentine Food & Wine Pairings - April 16, 2014