Fierro Hotel – a Buenos Aires hideaway filled with tasteful indulgences

After 10 days on the road in Mendoza and Buenos Aires, it’s fair to say our #MalbecsOnly2018 group have have been no strangers to indulgence.

Lavish meals, incredible tastings, inspiring sites, too many memories, a photo cloud that’s bursting at the seams.

After a while, it can all become a bit of a blur. Which is why it takes a truly unusual hotel to stand out – which is what we have found at the Fierro Hotel in the Palermo Hollywood barrio of Buenos Aires.

 

In our experience in Argentina, there are intimate boutique hotels that are warm and welcoming (like Casa Glebinias and Miravida Soho), and there are giant hotels (like the Four Seasons and Park Hyatt) that offer 5-star indulgence and posh amenities.

 

The Fierro brilliantly bridges that gap. From homemade scones, the trip’s best medialunas, and impossibly fresh homemade organic yogurt to the rooftop pool, huge contemporary rooms (4 to a floor) with wet bar, fully-stocked wine refrigerator and Nespresso machine; comfortably huge dual-nozzle showers with enough glorious water pressure to wash a small vehicle, and the on-point front desk team, the Fierro is the kind of place where you would love to just check in for a few months and let the rest of the world take care of itself.

 

The cuisine at Uco, the onsite restaurant, arguably justifies its ranking among BA’s best restaurants. Chef Edward Holloway has developed a menu that respects Argentine tradition without being slavish to it – there are cues from Peru and other South American countries. The trophy dish is Patagonian lamb shoulder slow cooked for 18 hours, and it’s as good as it sounds. The South American paellas are more like dense broth-cooked risottos than the yellow rice dishes we’ve come to identify with Spain. We tried both the rabbit paella and the Peruvian seafood rice dish and both were among the favorite bites of our travels.

 

The wine list, quite simply, rocks. Premium bottles, reasonably priced and thoughtfully curated. No, you’re not going to find as many $4000 bottles here as the Park Hyatt. (But really, unless you were planning to sell an organ, you’ll find more than enough to hold your interest here.)

We attended a free wine tasting at the Vinoteca, the attached wine shop, and despite having just returned from 12 winery visits in Mendoza (this is where we receive the grapes, this is where we fill the tanks, blah, blah, blah), the information offered by Manuel (complete with charts, maps, and photographs) was fresh, relevant and added to our depth of understanding of Argentinean wine.

 

 

This is also the most time we’ve spent in Palermo Hollywood (through the years I’ve always been partial to Palermo Soho) and have discovered that this neighborhood has charms of its own. Fewer designer clothing stores, yes, but a little more chill – and maybe a bit more of a genuine neighborhood feel (think Tribeca as opposed to Soho.)

We invited longtime friends from Buenos Aires over to the hotel for dinner, and al fresco dining at Uco served as the perfect backdrop for our happy reunion.

We’ll be back.

Wines: Cobos Malbec

4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

Cobos Malbec

CobosWaiterHyatt  Cobos

It’s the wine most of us never get to drink. At least until we inherit a bigass fortune or win the Lottery.

I’m talking about Cobos Malbec, the icon wine from Paul Hobbs’ legendary Vina Cobos in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo region. Hobbs has consulted with numerous wineries in Argentina, but this is the vineyard he owns, so obviously it’s the one he’s put his most masterful touch on.

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I flew to Mendoza and visited the winery myself. But after 5000 miles and thousands of miles in of travel, would they give me just a wee taste? Nope. Not unless you bought the stuff. And at the time that just seemed highway robbery.

Should a malbec cost $200? Hell no. But this one does.

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This seems a good moment to back up and describe the entire line of Vina Cobos’ wines. All of these are available in a Malbec and Cabernet version, but as usual I am focusing on the Malbec.

Felino is readily available in the States for about $19. It aspires to take the sweet spot from Catena Malbec in this category. It’s not a bad wine, but with some shopping around I think you can do better for the price. 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Bramare is where Hobbs starts to get serious about wine. This bottle can be found around $43, again coincidentally about the same price as Catena Alta. 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

But for my money, where Vina Cobos starts to become a must-try is at the next level up: the green-label Bramares. These are the wines from specific vineyards. The one from the Marchiori Vineyard, about $75 if you shop carefully, is one of the best wines I have ever tasted. 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

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But my friend Greg and I were sitting in the stunning courtyard of the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt, arguably one of the nicest places to have a drink in the world. And Cobos Malbec was on the wine list. I’d just gotten a mess of pesos at 11/1 exchange via Xoom.com. So everything was a bargain, right? It not now, when?

So when they served the bottle, it was… good. Actually the bottle was a little warm, and I asked them to cool it off. And our first sip was just, nice. But after five minutes, oxygen worked its magic and we started to realize we had one delicious glass of wine in our hands.

It grew in complexity and the legs on the sides of the glass were just huge.

It was truly amazing, but for the price, you could have three bottles of equally amazing wine. So was it worth it? That depends on where you are, and what you are celebrating.

For all the talk of trophy wines that are too big, too New World, and too alcohol-tinged, there is something to be said for a wine that just blows you away on a perfect afternoon in one of the world’s most perfect places. Cobos Malbec 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

 

Has the Parker effect ruined the South American wine industry?

An increasing number of retailers and vineyard owners seem to think so.

My conversation with Claudio Fontana, owner of esteemed wine retailer Terroir Casa de Vino in Buenos Aires, was most revealing.

Fontana understands the double-edged sword that ratings and popularity have brought to certain vineyards. And as someone who has benefitted enormously from the popularity of Malbec, he doesn’t question that Parker ratings are what originally put Argentina on the map.

Claudio

What worries him is customers’ slavish devotion to the numbers. He says:

“Don’t drink points – drink wine.” 

The interesting point that Fontana makes is that popular wines tend to have a life cycle. They come out of nowhere when a Wine Advocate or Wine Enthusiast reviewer assigns them a high numeric rating.

Being the value seekers we are, consumers flock to that particular label of wine. Hooray! For consumers and the winery.

But then the next harvest comes, and consumers want more of that delicious, highly-rated wine. So, what’s the winery to do?

Find. More. Grapes.

Make. More. Wine.

But chances are, the winery was already using all their best grapes in the previous year’s output. So, they have to go find grapes somewhere else. Maybe even on the bulk market, from unknown vineyards in unknown locations.

And the wine you fell in love with, that Robert Parker or Jay Miller or Neal Martin loved, isn’t the same wine anymore.

Really skillful winemakers can mitigate the effects of higher volume, but it’s hard to do, and exceptionally hard to deliver the same wine at the same quality.

So, following Fontana’s theory, it’s even smarter to look for under-the-radar wines from smaller vineyards that haven’t yet suffered from The Parker Effect.

But, as I pointed out, as Americans we don’t have the luxury of Claudio standing beside us in our local grocery store or wine shop. I’ve relied heavily on Parker ratings throughout the years, because otherwise, what are you going to do?

What are you thoughts on this?