Congratulations to our Siete Fuegos sommelier team for achieving an ‘Award of Excellence’ by Wine Spectator for our Siete Fuegos Wine List. We were one of only four restaurants to receive this prestigious award in Argentina, although almost 3,000 restaurants were given the award globally.
I spoke with Mariana Onofri, The Vines Wine Director & Head Sommelier about how this list was created, and the strategy behind it.
1) How did you select the wines included?
The main objective of the Siete Fuegos wine list is to have a full selection of the best wines from all Argentina - from all our wine regions, as we want to display the great array of varietals and wine styles. On the list we feature not only classic Argentine wines, but have also made an exhaustive effort to feature the undiscovered, the rising stars and wines that are difficult to find.
We are striving for a complete selection in each category and to also include grapes rare to Argentina, such as Fiano from Caelum Winery or Nebbiolo from Viña Alicia.
2) How many wines did you consider for inclusion?
Our wine list includes over 450 labels from more than 100 of the country’s most interesting and highest quality wineries, showcasing the best of Argentina. The span of the wines we serve ranges from the northern vineyards in Salta to the wilds of Patagonia, in Argentina’s South. Altitude wise, that’s from as low as 1,300 ft (Patagonia) above sea level to as high as 10,000 ft (Salta).
3) What was the criteria?
In each category we chose wines that we felt best represent the region, including its terroir expression and soul of the producer. We don't include every wine from each winery but we try to select what we think is the best representation of the winery.
4) What makes this list stand out?
Apart from the unique selection of wines we offer special sections, such as Wine by the Glass, Exclusive Flight Collections, plus a Sommelier Selection that features a small list of our favorites. We also we have added a unique section of vertical tastings that allows us to discover the expression of different vintages of the same wine.
5) How is the list organized?
The wine list is very interesting in that it is separated by varietal, but it also provides a style description for each wine. In addition to the personal recommendations of our highly trained and experienced staff, our wine list provides brief descriptors (for example: “big, elegant and complex” or “big, rich and spicy”) in order to help our guests to determine which wines best suit their palate.
For example, one of our Bold, Classic & Elegant wines is Nico by Luca, a 2007 vintage. It is produced in Altamira & La Consulta, within the San Carlos sector of the Uco Valley.
6) What impact does a wine list of this size have on a restaurant?
It requires a constant maintenance to have all labels available and with the latest vintages. Also it requires constant training for the service staff as well as a good cellar organization to have a quick access to wines. This is a big challenge, but we are happy to face it head on.
7) Who tasted all the wines?
Martin Krawzyk, Assistant Head Sommelier, and myself. We have both been tasting wines throughout Argentina for a combined 15 years and have been tracking the progress of thousands over that time. We put our ideas together, and the result is the list.
8) How long did this list take to create ultimately?
We spent about 6 -8 months to get it exactly how we wanted. We are constantly updating it so that we always have the best selections.
9) How do you remember the details of so many wines over the years? There are now Apps like Vivino, etc. but those didn’t always exist for cataloging. What’s your secret?
A passionate memory. I rarely use the applications, although they might be useful. For me, the best way to remember wines is tasting them and if possible knowing all the details about them. Visiting the wineries, the vineyards, and the winemakers, etc. helps this process a great deal. It is easier to remember (and more interesting) when you know the story behind the wine.
Thanks to Fredrika Stjarne at Food & Wine Magazine for allowing us to use this fabulous image of Mariana she took during a recent visit with us.