Imagine this scenario, if you please. It’s 8:37 on a Friday evening in Buenos Aires, and you are alone in your flat. The sun is setting lazily outside, but in the kitchen your pulse is racing. Six new friends will be arriving for dinner at 9 sharp, one of whom you are desperate to impress (perhaps your scary boss, or that beguiling creature you danced with at Niceto last night). You are ambitiously attempting a complex lamb concoction involving much stirring, sautéing and simmering. As you empty the $6 bottle of red you’re cooking with into one of the many gurgling pans on the stove, it hits you like a piano falling from a great height: you’ve got no wine.
After spending a few satisfying moments howling obscenities, banging pots together and cursing the day you were born, you can call 0800-Vino.
The only premium wine delivery service in Buenos Aires, 0800-Vino is the brainchild of ex-investment banker/entrepreneur/sommelier Nigel Tollerman. The concept is very simple: you dial their number, and an English- (and Spanish) speaking connoisseur recommends the perfect wine to compliment your feast in whatever price range you choose.
Within an hour the blessed bottles of vino appear at your door, wrapped in silver tissue with a wax seal. Best of all, you pay the same price you would have paid in a supermarket or vinotecca, and they even deliver ice!
The business, which was formally launched in April of last year, is set apart from the average dial-a-bottle service by the quality of the product and the personal advice that accompanies it. “I know my cellar inside and out. A basic philosophy of mine is that I sell what I drink and drink what I sell. If I don’t like something I don’t sell it,” Nigel tells me.
Thus, he has tasted each of the wines in his cellar from the $12.95 Malbec to the $1,000 vintage burgundy, which sounds like truly gruelling work. “I love my job. I have the best job in the world,” he grins.
The Englishman became passionate about wine while working at Threshers on his gap year and drinking with friends at St. Andrews University, and his interest in collecting was piqued while living in a dank, humid basement flat in central London. “It wasn’t great to live in, but it was a great flat to store my wine in.”
Now, his 0800-Vino cellar is the only correctly acclimatised wine cellar in all of Buenos Aires, keeping the temperature between 12 and 14°C and the humidity level at 70% to ensure that his stock remains in tip-top shape. It is so well acclimatised, in fact, that some of Buenos Aires’ most illustrious residents pay Nigel to house their personal collections. “If you don’t want to put your money in a Finnish bank, invest in wine,” he advises.
The company works mostly in the high-end sector, serving consumers who are looking to fill their personal wine racks and appreciate some of the finest bottles the world has to offer. “The wine market in Buenos Aires is very competitive. There are a lot of bodegas serving a relatively small demand. There is vast over-supply, a dumping of wine on a massive scale. Bewildering amount of choice available to the consumer. You walk into the supermarket, see all these wines and think ‘where am I going to start?’” Dial 0800-Vino, and the problem is solved.
For those interested in wine education, each month approximately eight tastings take place in Nigel’s cellar. Some are available to the public, so give Nigel a call, drop him an email or check out the 0800-Vino facebook group for details. These draw a diverse range of clients, Nigel tells me: one peckish woman even turned up with her own slab of tofu, which she washed down with the various wines on offer. “And we have ponchos to protect you from the cold!”