Writer David Jenison revs up for sampling fine wine at Expovinos and tracks Bogota’s best B’s.
With the country reaching its safest levels in modern times, Colombia has become the hot new South American destination. In fact, Paul McCartney just made his live debut in the country’s capital, Bogotá, last April, and major events and festivals are popping up every month. Speaking of which, the annual Expovinos returns June 13–16, and it’s an epic event for vine enthusiasts.
Taking place at the Corferias Convention Center, the four-day Expo will draw about 32,000 attendees sampling hundreds of different wines. There will be 82 stands, primarily for vineyards and bodegas, most of which provide free tastings. This is a perfect occasion to sample lesser-known bodegas and wine regions from Chile and Argentina, the Expo’s two most-represented countries. People generally know Mendoza for Malbec and Santiago for Carmenère, but many are unaware that San Juan produces excellent Syrah and sparkling wines, Torrontés is the white-grape star from Cafayate, and Chile’s Casablanca Valley features quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. Likewise, several bodegas are there that only sell their wines direct, so this is the chance to discover some unknown gems you won’t find in stores. In addition to the wineries, there will be seven restaurants on hand, and the Expo will host 40 conferences, 16 wine contests and give awards to the top bottles. The Corferias box office will sell tickets for 30,000 Colombian pesos, which is about $16 USD.
Last year’s three-day event featured 24,000 attendees tearing through nearly 30,000 bottles of wine, which is an excellent wino-to-wine bottle ratio. Expect even more corks to fly this year.
The Pick of the Crop
While the Expovinos would be a highlight of any Bogotá visit, the capital city has even more to offer in terms of spirit-filled fun. For those who survive their Expo hangover, here are the five killers Bs that will make your Bogotá Boozefest complete:
Best Bar: Since the bar name is not on display, get ready for the horror of asking a local where Le Coq is. Despite the provocative name (Coq is French for “rooster”), this place is anything but a Coq Fest (that’d be the Beer Lounge around the corner). Rather, it’s the trendy hot spot drawing Bogotá’s elite, so arrive early and dress to impress. Calle 84 # 14-02
Best Bash: Andres Carne de Res, with locations in Zona Rosa and Chía, might just be the best party club in South America. It’s so popular that someone blatantly stole the name and concept for an unaffiliated Andres in NYC! The Bogotá bash features four levels of debauchery – heaven, hell, purgatory and earth – though the devil’s tempting hand can be seen in each.
Best Beer: Naming their brews after local barrios and attractions, Bogotá Beer Company offers artisanal classics like Cajicá Honey Ale, Candelaria Clásica and Monserrate Roja, and they’re available in supermarkets, bars and at BBC’s namesake pubs. The only complaint is that their best beer, Policarpa La Fuerte Ale (8% alcohol), is also the hardest to find.
Best Booze: There are several national rums, but since they pale in comparison to their Central American brethren, we’re going street and giving aguardiente the nod. This anise-flavored sugarcane spirit gives you more buzz for the buck, and it’s one of most consumed liquors in Colombia. Typically drunk neat, this inexpensive firewater has a 30% alcohol kick.
Best Bugs: How’s your liquid courage? If it’s strong, head to the La Destilería bar and throw down a martini spiked with fat-bottomed Bucaramanga ants. The Hormiga Culona martini features cognac, brandy, peach liquor, champagne, amaretto and several six-legged amigos. Fat-bottoms up! Calle 85 # 12-91
Story and photos by David Jenison