A charming family runs Rincon de Quesos, a wine, cheese and specialty shop in San Telmo where you can stock up on Argentina’s best vino and artisan goodies for your next soirée or pack them up and take them home.
Aside from a wide variety of Argentina’s finest nectar, this boutique stocks country-style cold cuts and hard-to-find cheeses such as brie and camembert. Specialty products from the provinces include top of the line dulce de leche — Argentina’s ubiquitous sweet milk spread and alfajores — a uniquely Argentine shortbread cookie. They also carry Argentine microbrew and rare imported beers and hard-to-find items that expats yearn for such as nachos, hot sauces and naturally cured salmon.
If you hang out long enough, the ‘cheese corner’ appears more like a neighborhood hang out than a business — weathered old men come in for whiskey, Mexican expats stop by to give in to their jalapeño cravings, and little old ladies come in search of a little sherry to go with their goat cheese. Here you can saddle up to the wine bar and chat, taste meats and cheeses and — when El Rincon’s English-speaking sommelier is on site — receive a crash course on Argentine wine, including the Syrah of San Juan, Cabernet and Malbec from Mendoza and Pinot from the south.
Husband and wife Alberto Baiz and Victoria Garcia opened the shop in 2005 after they both decided to cash in their chips and unhinge themselves from the corporate world. Having lived in San Telmo for over two decades they saw a gap in the marketplace for a fine wine and specialty shop and to this day dominate the niche in Buenos Aires’ most historic neighborhood.
“San Telmo is a neighborhood that has people from all over so we try to have something for everyone. When Obama won the U.S. presidency we had Americans coming in to buy champagne for a toast. We have Polish customers who come into buy Pradva vodka and the last few months we’ve been selling a lot of Scotch whiskey, particularly Jura and Johnnie Walker.”
In Argentina, where the quality of products varies widely by brand name, Rincon de Quesos focuses on stocking the best national products, which aren’t necessarily the cheapest. They only carry one brand of smoked salmon and trout for example. That’s because 98% of the smoked meat products on the market are chemically produced with liquid smoke, which has been linked to cancer. Rincon de Quesos buys from Patagonia’s Weiss family, the only Argentine company that smokes their fish and meat naturally with the wood of fruit and cypress trees.
“There is other salmon that is cheaper but it’s all frozen during processing so a lot of that weight is in water. After trying Weiss family salmon, which isn’t frozen or chemically processed, I’d be embarrassed to send any other salmon out on our platters,” says Baiz. “The difference in the quality is pronounced.”
The carefully prepared picadas (meat and cheese platters) sold here are hot sellers for business events or super classy picnics. Elaborate and varied gift baskets with a range of specialty products can make for extraordinary and easy gifts to help alleviate holiday headaches.
This is an ideal stop to purchase Argentine specialty food before heading home. Rincon de Quesos will carefully package your wine for the flight or ship it for you instead.
Rincon de Quesos
Ave. San Juan 600 (corner of Peru)
• Hours: Mon-Sat: 9am-2pm & 4pm-9pm
• Free delivery for San Telmo, Microcentro & Puerto Madero, and for large purchases to other neighborhoods.
Check out this video interview with Garcia. Please note that due to steep inflation, the prices noted here have changed considerably since this video was made: