Next week sees the return of Wines of Argentina’s Barullo consumer and trade event and the chance to see first hand the huge changes and developments that continue to take place in the Argentine winemaking scene. But in keeping with Wines of Argentina’s reputation for groundbreaking tastings it will also include a pop-up shop, a virtual vineyard to walk through and some of the best street foot straight from Buenos Aires.
Competition with the UK wine trade tasting scene is fierce enough, never mind convincing consumers to part with close to £50 to come to a wine event. Wines of Argentina’s Andrew Maidment explains why by only pushing the barriers to traditional tastings can you best show the exciting wines and talent in the country.
It would not be too far an exaggeration to assess the UK wine trade tasting scene as pre and post Wines of Argentina’s Cambalache event in 2013. Even if you did not make it along to what has become such a landmark event you can see its influence on most of the more imaginative and breakthrough wine tastings ever since.
What made it so different? It took the traditional wine tasting completely out of its comfort zone. It showed you did not have to host big generic tastings in sterile halls and hotel rooms in central London.
It also brought the whole of Argentina alive, and not just its wines. It also took the UK wine trade out to London’s Shoreditch for the first time, and it seems we have not been allowed back ever since.
It’s mix of using traditional music, food, art, culture and just about anything else you can think of to shake the normal wine tasting up was fresh and exciting. What’s more the wine lived up to the billing and proved a showcase for what was going on up and down Mendoza, San Juan, Salta, Patagonia and all.
We can thank Andrew Maidment, Wines of Argentina’s UK and European head for Cambalache. It was a brave call to take Argentine producers out to Shoreditch never mind recruit graffiti artists, gauchos, tango dancers, and bands and chefs from Buenos Aires to go along with them.
He says the motivation for the first Cambalache, which also ran in 2014, was to “try and bring the culture of Argentina to life”. Looking back, he concedes, the initial event played heavily on the cliches of what Argentina was famous for, but bringing real tango dancers and street graffiti artists did so in an authentic and hopefully “more funky” way.
In 2015 Maidment looked to offer something similar but different with the Barullo concept. This time combining a two day trade event tasting with Michelin star Argentine cuisine which attracted London diners willing to pay £100 a head four nights running in the heart of London’s equally hip and happening Hoxton.
“With Barullo we want to evolve the event and pick up on the vibe there now is Argentina and bring that to life here in London. There really is a very fast changing new movement of young winemakers in Argentina who are looking to do things differently, break the rules, take risks and that is what we want to do with Barullo,” he explains.
“Even the food scene you now get at Argentine producers has changed dramatically where you are not getting top quality, Michelin standard food. We want to bring all that dynamism to our event.”
Next week sees the return of Barullo to what on paper is a more traditional central London setting, but typically it is in large converted basement under the streets of London, the Victoria House Basement on Southampton Row, which has recently hosted pop-up fashion shows and literally underground music acts.
It will again offer both consumer and trade events. The trade tasting takes place on October 19 and will feature some of the stars of the exciting new Argentine wine scene which arguably don’t need much fanfare to bring attention to their wines.
Ever demanding audience
To appeal to an ever more demanding consumer, Barullo 2017 will become more like a party than a wine tasting to include top Argentine street food and music, but it is how they are going to be presented that is the stand out feature of this year’s event.
Maidment has been working with multimedia artists to take videos and photographs of Argentina wineries and scenery and to re-create them using huge projections at the venue. In total it has created a 90 minute video package that will make guests feel like they are working around vineyards in the foothills of the Andes complete with relevant music and sounds.
“We are looking to create a digital vineyard that will show the landscape of Argentina,” says Maidment.
All of which will be played out to dance music featuring DJs from Shoreditch House (they had to get Shoreditch in there somewhere). “It is going to be more like a party than a wine tasting. The producers are invited but they won’t have to serve their own wine. Instead all the wine are being presented at different bars, separated by regions. We want to turn the heat up on a traditional tasting that people may have been to.”
Each bar and region will have specially created food from those regions and be looked after by sommeliers. “We want the producers to come and enjoy it and talk to the guests,” say Maidment.
Interestingly the two-day event will also include a pop up shop at the entrance to Victoria House where anyone can come in and buy the wines on show anytime during the day from 9am to midnight. The producers have been allowed to sell two wines each, making up 80 wines in the shop. Guests to the evening events will get two glasses of wine for their £48 and then be allowed to pay for extra wines by the glass or the bottle.
Offering live DJs and a party might be a step too far, too soon for the main trade tasting. Whilst there will be elements of the evening the day’s event will be about putting the spotlight very much on the producers, winemakers, their wines and importers.
Maidment said it is why he was keen to find a more central London venue as hosting events in east London might be good on the cool factor, they can be hard for busy sommeliers and restaurants buyers to attend.
“The focus at the trade tasting is very much about showing off these new styles of wine, the young winemakers, the different wines being produced. But we still want to say ahead of the curve of what is having with other events.”
He says the wine scene in Argentina really does need exploring and keeping on top of such are the huge changes and experimenting taking place. “There is a lot of work being done with concrete eggs and and tanks and making wines with whole bunches.”
Maidment says there will be wines there that might be too soon for some UK buyers to list, but urges buyers to come to see what is being made. Particularly around the white wines and white blends and the use of older, native varieties.”
- You can find out more about the Barullo event and register to attend here.