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An Adventurous Guide to Argentine Wine and Wineries
Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, or an adventure traveler, you must experience the sprawling landscapes, lush flora, and exotic wines of Argentina. And if you’re a bit of both, visiting the wine regions of Argentina and discovering the unique culture should be part of your bucket list.
So if an adventurous visit to Argentina is in the cards for you, you can use this guide to better understand the country’s wine and wineries. The goal is to help you plan the perfect adventure enjoying new flavors and new experiences.
Argentina Wine Regions: Best Time to Visit
While indulging in the best wines of Argentina, there are natural attractions to enjoy all year around. Ideally, you should choose to visit certain regions during certain seasons so you can make the most of your visit, and see things beyond the wineries and vineyards.
Some regions only offer tourist attractions during certain periods, so you need to choose your timing carefully.
If you’re visiting during spring and/or summer, the Patagonia region is your best bet for enjoying a perfect Argentina adventure. The vineyards of this region take up 3,600 hectares of land. You can choose from a wide selection of vineyards to explore in different provinces such as La Pampa, Chubut, Río Negro, and Neuquén.
Between your visits to vineyards and wineries, you can indulge in skiing and snowboarding activities at the various ski centers of the regions. The Vila la Angostura, La Hoya, and Bariloche are famous for their ski facilities.
If you’re more interested in exploring the flora, and discovering the fauna of the region, you could plan a visit to the National Parks of Nahuel Huapi and Los Alerces.
Patagonia’s natural attractions also include the Arrayanes and Coihues forests as well as the Lanín Volcano, where you could go on hikes.
You could go fly fishing in the rivers of Correntoso and Limay River or lounge by the mirror-like lakes of Puelo, Guitiérrez, and Traful.
The best time to go on winery and vineyard tours in this region are between the months of September and March, when there’s no risk of weather issues.
If you’re planning to visit during the autumn and winter months, Northwest Argentina is the place to go. This region sees a lot of sunlight, and rarely experiences cold winters. In fact, there are more than 300 sunny days a year in this region.
For your visit, however, the best months are between autumn and spring when there’s no risk of rainfall, and the average daytime temperature remains at 20 degrees.
The most notable attractions in this region are the high-altitude vineyards, located between 1,700 and 3,000 meters. You could take the opportunity to visit the world’s highest vineyard, Finca Altura Máxima, which is located at approximately 3,111 meters (10,207 feet) above sea level .
During this season, you could easily access wineries in remote locations such as Tacuil and Colomé. You could take some time to explore the wine regions of La Rioja and San Juan, which are both located in Cuyo.
Or you could even participate in other outdoor activities like horseback riding and adventure tourism excursions.
The Mendoza Wine Region
The Mendoza wine region is among the most well-known wine regions in Argentina. This is mainly because it offers tourist attractions throughout the year, so you can’t go wrong regardless of which month you visit.
The spring and summer seasons in Mendoza are ideal for visitors to go trekking and mountain biking, as well as indulge in extreme sports if you’re up for it. And you can take the opportunity to explore the Huayquerías desert and the San Carlos canyons. Or you can even cool off in the Laguna Del Diamante and the River Atuel.
You can even go mountain climbing at the snow-capped peaks of Mount Aconcagua, South America’s tallest peak and one of the most popular spots for experienced climbers.
If you’re visiting solely for winery and vineyard tours, the harvesting months of January till April can be extremely hot during the days. So you can start your tours during the early morning hours, or after lunch when the sun isn’t too hot.
During your visit, you could explore various wineries like Bodega Salentein, Familia Zuccardi, and Bodega Séptima; which all offer delectable local dishes along with mouth-watering wines.
A Taste of Argentine Malbecs
If Argentina is known for anything, it’s known for its superior yet inexpensive Malbecs, which originated from Southwest France.
In addition to popular opinion, experts agree that Argentine Malbecs win hands down when compared to any other region’s Malbecs. In fact, a panel of six expert jurors at the 2016 Malbec Master Series awarded 70% of the event’s awards to Argentine Malbecs .
Argentina is the world’s top producer of this grape variety. Currently it produces 39,500 hectares worth of Malbecs annually, and the quantity continues to grow every year. Its closest competitor, Chile produces about 6,000 hectares while the origin country, France, has about 5,300 hectares of Malbecs. Other regions that grow this grape variety are South Africa, New Zealand, and California.
For the ultimate wine experience in Argentina, you could try the Malbecs of Pascual Toso, Dona Paula, and Trapiche; which have all received commendation for their Malbec production.
Pascual Toso and Trapiche are both historic wineries founded in the late 19th century. Each of these not only boast of superior-quality wines but also of picturesque landscapes you can enjoy during your visit.
The Unique Torrontés
Aside from being famous for its Malbecs, Argentina boasts of another unique grape variety – the Torrontés. This aromatic white grape is grown only in Argentina and has a distinctive and incomparable flavor. You can find this variety grown across various wine regions in the country.
You can find three main varieties of Torrontés – the Mendoza variety (Mendocino), the San Juan variety (Sanjuanino), and the Riojano variety; the last of which has received numerous international accolades.
Cafayate Valley in Salta is building a reputation for its Torrontés production because of the special microclimate it enjoys. Many of the vineyards are located at around 3,000 meters above sea level, and the region experiences very little rainfall, which results in the perfect conditions for vine growth. Due to these conditions, the Cafayate wines often have a strong, and lingering fruity taste.
The Flavors of Argentina
While Argentina boasts of its quality wines, any visitor should make it a point to enjoy the variety of flavors the country has to offer. Along with a glass of sparkling wine, you could enjoy some of the following treats during your visit:
The Pampa Húmeda region in Argentina boasts of lush pastures and healthy cattle, due to which it produces quality goat and cow milk cheeses that are worth a try. There are three provinces in the region, each with their unique specialties – the hard cheeses of Buenos Aires, the cream cheese of Córdoba, and the Swiss-style cheeses of Santa Fe.
During your wine and winery tour of Argentina, make it a point to try the renowned Argentine cheeses such as Pategrás and Reggianito as well as cream cheese. It won’t be a challenge to try these out as Argentines use these cheeses on everything - from pastas and pizzas to sandwiches and snacks.
During an Argentine tour, make sure you share a cup of Mate with your fellow travelers. Mate is a preparation of dry squash cup with barley herb and some hot water. Traditionally, people share a metal straw to drink this concoction, which may seem unhygienic and distasteful to some. But to truly experience the culture of Argentina, it’s a must to join in on the act of sharing some Mate.
In addition to the exquisite cheeses, the Pampa Húmeda region also produces delectable salamis, which are a must-try for visitors. Try going on a gourmet adventure to Tandil, where the Basque community began their settlement in the early 20th century and have now converted the place into a city renowned for its sausages.
The salami of Tandil has a distinguishing flavor because of the handmade preparation process. Some of the unique elements of these salamis are the natural spacing and the thick bacon pieces. Enjoy a slice of these next to traditionally-prepared vegetables or on a simple piece of bread along with your wine.
If you’re in Argentina, don’t miss out on the local sweet treat known as Alfajores. These are made up of two dry biscuits normally with a dulce de leche spread holding them together and then topped with chocolate or sometimes a meringue-like topping. You can find kiosks with a wide variety of these treats with various fillings and toppings.
Top Wineries to Visit in Argentina
Though briefly mentioned earlier, there are a few top wineries that you should explore during your Argentine wine tour. Let’s take a closer look at what makes these top wineries unique and why you should visit them:
The Bodega Salentein is just an hour away from Mendoza, and is located in the Uco Valley. The winery is made up of a modern building with a sandy setting and stainless steel interiors. Not only will you be able to enjoy the luxurious Grand Uco Malbec, the winery also offers interesting blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Portillo Chardonnay.
The Pascual Toso was founded in the 1880s by its namesake, Pascual Toso, a Piedmontese immigrant. It continues to embrace the traditional methods of winemaking, and is now one of the oldest Argentine wineries, making it a must-visit historic winery. Although the winery produces quality Malbecs, the Torrontés such as the 2010 Pascual Toso Torrentés are also widely acclaimed.
The Familia Zuccardi winery was founded in 1963 by Engineer Alberto Zuccardi while experimenting with various irrigation techniques. One of its more renowned estates is located in Mapiú, which is just outside Mendoza, and is comprised of a classy restaurant with exquisite glass walls. The Zuccardi Zeta range is a must-try full-bodied Malbec and Tempranillo blend.
Founded in 1831, the Bodega Colomé is a reputable winery in Northwest Argentina and is one of Argentina’s oldest wineries. The winery is located in Salta in the Upper Calchaqui Valleys, where many of the country’s highest vineyards are located. In fact, this winery harvests from Finca Altura Máxima, the world’s highest vineyard. You could try their range of exclusive wines such as the Colomé Reserve and the Colomé Torrontés.
Located in the San Juan province of Argentina, the Bodegas Callia produces some of the country’s best Shiraz. The owners of this winery are the same Dutch investors as that of Bodega Salentein, who will most likely help the winery reach its full potential. Make sure you try the fruity and subtle Callia Alta Shiraz, the winery’s signature blend.
One of the most notable wineries of Patagonia, the Familia Schroeder is unlike its Mendozan counterparts. It was founded by German immigrants and its Germanic roots result in a unique blend. Not only is it famed for its Malbecs, the winery also specializes in a number of full-bodied reds and sparkling whites such as the Deseado Torrontés.
Bodega Catena Zapata
The Bodega Catena Zapata consists of a unique pyramidal structure, which is the winery itself and somewhat resembles a historic Mayan temple. The winery is run by Nicólas Catena, a former economics professor at the University of California, along with his daughter. The pair continuously experiments on various altitudes and micro-climates in wine production. Don’t forget to have a taste of their full-bodied and fruity red wine called the 2013 Catena Malbec.
You now know more about the wines, wineries, and attractions of Argentina. You may be visiting there to indulge in the best Malbecs and Torrontés; but make sure you try out the delectable dishes for which the country has built its name.
And take the time to explore the various natural attractions and discover Argentine culture during your visit. Planning a wine tour to Argentina soon? Which wineries would you most like to visit? Share your thoughts in the comments below.