A cute little wine store recently opened up about a block from our apartment in Polanco. It’s called Bacus, and this is their 3rd site so far in Mexico City (other two in Del Valle and Satelite). Knowing that having a wine source so close could cause problems for both our budget + my level of alcohol intake, I was initially resistant to visit. My resolve to avoid Bacus lasted all of about 5 days, and then John & I stopped in last week to check it out.
From the outside, the decor looked promising:
We entered the store, and were promptly greeted by a cheery woman behind the counter. I think she may be the sommelier of the Polanco store. She was very friendly & quickly offered us an overview of Bacus’s offerings– shelves of wine with descriptions & food pairing recommendations, a membership program that gives you discounts on wine + access to tastings held at the store (almost always free to members + a guest), a wine-tasting dispenser area that members can use, and a few sneaky bottles of mezcal lurking around. She offered us a taste of the options in the dispenser (a contraption like this), chatted with us a bit about the two wines we sampled, and left us to assess our options.
John & I have been slightly challenged on the wine front here in Mexico, given that we had a fairly strict “Nothing Over $10″ policy when shopping for wine back in the US. I wouldn’t call either of us wine “experts’, but we are fans. Over time we determined that there are a lot of great wine options out there for <$10 USD for those of us in the “fan” category, which also enables you to pop open a bottle with greater regularity (vs. saving expensive wines for a special occasion).
Our experience in Mexico, however, has been that it’s a lot harder to find something good in the <$120-$130 peso range. My impression is that taxes/import duties/distribution system challenges/bribes keep prices on the higher side. While there are plenty of Mexican wines available (and many quite nice!), my experience has been that cheap wines from Mexico are…well, cheap. And crappy. (I welcome evidence to the contrary.)
So back to Bacus– I was pleased to see that despite having a store about the size of my bedroom, they stock a variety of price points. We saw at least a handful priced at around $100 pesos, plenty in the $200-300 ballpark, and then on up from there (but nothing too over the top). John & I departed the store with 3 whites in the $100-something peso range + my very own Club Bacus card. I think the Club membership cost around $200 pesos (need to double-check), which we felt was worth it to support an amusing new local business, if nothing else.
To solidify my Club Bacus bonds, I began e-stalking them on Facebook & Twitter; this alerted me to our first tasting opportunity last nite. Although I should have been studying for finals, the midwesterner in me felt that we should work on getting some ROI from our membership investment. Also, I was curious where they were going to put 16 people for a wine tasting inside this wee store.
Upon arrival, we discovered that Bacus has a secret courtyard behind the store, where they had folding chairs set up on a bed of small white rocks, accented by a makeshift fountain (read as: PVC pipe pouring into a shallow pool of water) and mood lighting. It was cute. The tasting leader was a guy who imports Italian wines, & he talked us through the 3 wines we tried. You always run the risk with wine people that they will be overly snobby/condescending when you are unable to taste the grass/persimmon/soybean/elephant-breath flavors that they claim are in the wine you’re drinking. But this Wine Dude was actually normal, friendly, and used words that I had at least a chance of identifying (i.e. durazno- peach). Our favorite turned out to be a type called Vernaccia, which I’d never heard of. It was nice & sharp/acidic. Between each wine, we were offered a different type of homemade bread to cleanse our palates. You know how this girl likes bread, so that further endeared Bacus to me.
I was also amused by the Wine Dude’s discussion about how no one in Mexico drinks white wine– almost everything is vino tinto (red wine) here. It’s true– you’ll see restaurant menus that have 60 bottles of red wine and 3 whites; it is rather odd. Anyway, he made a valiant effort to sex up the idea of drinking cold white wines during the hot summer, and talked about how Mexicans need to try a variety of white wines to get used to the acidity that should be inherent in a white wine. He made the analogy that drinking a white wine without any acidity is like eating a chile without any spice (“Es como un chile sin pica”). I think Mexico is the only place you will hear that parallel drawn during wine education.
We ended up purchasing a couple bottles of this mysterious Vernaccia wine, despite it slightly exceeding our $10 USD target price. The same woman was behind the counter, and she remembered my name & inquired as to how we liked the wine we purchased last week. While her actions may seem minor, let me assure you that normal customer service here in Mexico is usually so awkward/anonymous/stalking-esque that both John & I walked away from Bacus discussing how nice she was, pleasant to interact with, and does her job well.
So long story long, I am excited to see a new local shop that seems to have its sh*t together & is successful enough to open its 3rd location. If you live in Polanco/Satelite/Del Valle, it’s worth stopping by Bacus to suss it out & consider joining the club. Support your local winos, people, and help Mexico discover a world beyond Corona/Sol/Pacifico!