Snapshot on wine consumption in South America
The Argentinian is a wine connoisseur and a daily consumer. Nearly 75% of the country’s wine production is consumed locally. Uruguayan also like wine, consuming 90% of their own production. Only Chileans are lagging behind, drinking twice less than the Argentineans.
In Argentina, red wines represents 80% of the consumption but whites progress and rosé is also making its way. Argentina and Chile are big wine exporters, especially to the United States, Brazil (where Chile has 50 % of the overall import market) but also England or Germany. Brazilians still prefer by far beer to wine with only 2 liters of wine per inhabitant and per year (where France is close to 50 liters…) but the consumption is progressing.
One of the advantages for those who live in the region is that Argentina, Chile or Uruguay mostly export entry or mid-range wines to Europe or the United States. High-end wines are sold in the domestic markets given their uncompetitive international price level. Therefore we can say that living in the region is a privilege in a sense!
Specialised wine merchants: certainly still the best way to by good wine in Latin America
Where should I buy my wine in Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay?
In Argentina, there are multiple distribution channels. Small neighborhood supermarkets, Hypermarkets and wine merchants (vinotecas). Because of the strong nationwide thermal amplitudes, storage conditions are sometimes disastrous (often through ignorance), therefore it is crucial to carefully choose the place where one buys his wine.
It is not uncommon to observe pallets of wine on car parks of hypermarkets in full heat or overexposed to light. It is rather advisable to go to Vinotecas where, normally, handling and storage conditions should be better, even if the price is sometimes a bit higher. If you can avoid for few additional pesos or reals the disaster of arriving at a dinner with a bottle oxidized or corked…
In Argentina, the five major specialized retailers are Winery, Ligier, Grandcru, Tonelprivado and Frappé. In Montevideo, Los Dominguez or Las Croabas are some of the well-knowns. As in Europe, there are numerous small district retailers as well. In Brazil, there are of course the hypermarkets such as Pão de Açúcar, Carrefour or Big but many small specialized merchants as well.
São Paulo for example has numerous Vinotecas which are also for some of them large importers. Mistral, Grandcru (largest offering of Argentinean and Chilean wines), Worldwine or Zahil are well known. Other smaller would be Bacco, Enoteca Fasano (also in Rio), Total Wine or Winepro.
In Rio some reputed vinotecas include Bergut Vinho & Bistro, merchant Vinoteca & Resto, Enosfera or l’Orangerie. Otherwise, online wine merchants are also mushrooming, Wine.com.br in Brazil with more than 2000 references or Lawebgourmet.com.ar in Argentina. At last you can buy wine in duty free shops, however both manipulation of wine as well as storage conditions are poor and I would not recommend it generally.