A huge chunk of what makes wine so appealing to oenophiles is its complexity. Yet it is this complexity that makes it simultaneously daunting to so many. With so many different style, varieties and vintages, how many of us can admit to inner panic upon receiving the wine list at a restaurant?
Similarly, how many choose wine for their evening meal based on having "pairing" in mind, and how many instead opt for what is on special, or something tried and tested? Luckily, for those of us who are unfamiliar with the complex aromas of “fresh cut garden hose” and “newly opened can of tennis balls” (Somm reference), help is at hand.
What is Bienconvino?
Bienconvino, which translates into "good with wine", is the brainchild of Argentinian sommeliers Valeria Mortara and Mariana Achavál. This line of 4 different wines is specifically designed to aid in the process of food and wine pairing, and thus, each wine is named after the food with which it should be paired.
The duo share years of combined experience in gastronomy with Mortara still working as the Sommelier at Buenos Aires’ high-end Faena Hotel. Achavál, on the other hand, teaches wine and food pairing at the reputable CAVE Centre for Argentinian Wine and Spirits.
What makes Bienconvino so Different?
Bienconvino is a great example of modern ingenuity within the wine industry. By focusing on food pairings already on the label, rather than grape variety or wine region, this wine turns its back on Old and New World traditions.
The winemaking process goes against the grain too. Wines are designed to match well with specific foods, rather than making the wine and then discovering what might go well with it. In this way, Achavál and Mortara are able to bring their expertise, and the Sommelier profession in general, into the dining rooms of houses throughout Argentina.
How was Bienconvino Born?
The pair started working on this project a little over two years ago.
“The aim was to provide a more pleasurable experience for the consumer.” says Achavál, “When you successfully match food and wine, both become more interesting. What’s more, it is always the wine and not the food that suffers from a bad pairing.”
The first step to creating their wine was picking which winemaker they wanted to work with. Experts, though they are in tasting wine and pairing it with food, neither had the experience, knowledge nor the equipment to manufacture wine for public sale.
Both agreed that Marcelo Pelleritti, of the Monteviejo Winery, was the man with which they would most like to work. Pelleritti, along with winery owner Henri Parent discussed what the pair had in mind for their project. They needed no convincing and agreed to team up with the pair and help them manufacture the wine at their winery. Production soon started with Pelleritti in charge of the physical winemaking. Achavál and Mortara, meanwhile, decided on the varieties they wanted to use along with the composition of blends.
What Wines does Bienconvino Offer?
Fish & Shellfish - For this pairing they went for a light, aromatic style of wine. “We wanted something fresh with good acidity and ended up with an uncommon blend” explains Achavál. The mixture of Chardonnay and Torrontés "is the first blend on offer using these two particular varieties in Argentina. The end product resembles Torrontés in aroma, and Chardonnay in flavor.”
Chicken & Pork - For their chicken and pork pairing, they chose to focus more on the winemaking process rather than coming up with a distinctive blend. The wine is 100% Chardonnay, with grapes hand picked at the vineyard and the eventual wine aged for 9 months in oak barrels. This aging creates a fuller-bodied white than the first wine, while adding extra vanilla notes. “This wine has more volume, which allows it to stand up to the textures and fats of pork and chicken - it would also go great with some sweetbreads!”
Pasta & Pizza - This wine was created with tomatoes in mind. The acidity and umami of the tomato are normally difficult to pair. For such a task, they opted for a Malbec, Argentina’s emblematic variety. Yet instead of producing a Malbec akin to what one expects from Argentina - full bodied with bold tannins - they produced a wine with more acidity. The result is elegant and refreshing on the palate.
Red Meat - The final wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. “The structure of the two varieties, along with aging in oak barrels, gives a full-bodied red wine with aromas and flavors of black fruit.” Cabernet Franc, one of the parent grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, provides the intense aromas while Cabernet Sauvignon backs it up with a strong and persistent mouthfeel.
Bienconvino does not offer groundbreaking wines. Apart from the Torrontes/Chardonnay blend, everything that they produce was already available on the market. Current production is limited to within Argentina, and regardless, the concept is unlikely to change the way in which wines are labelled worldwide. Instead, the true fruit of this labor comes simply in the form of many (possibly for the first time) appreciating good wine accurately paired with good food - each one simultaneously enhancing the other.
For once, pairing wine with food is not as hard as it once seemed, and this new stye could lead to more educated palates as dinners experience what tastes good with each style of wine.