Despite being relative newcomers to the international wine scene, Argentine wines actually have a long pedigree. The industry began shortly after the arrival of the Spanish way back in the 1500’s and quality wines have been produced in the country ever since. The 19th and 20th century mass immigration period from Europe saw French, Italian, German and other newcomers expand production and now the country has a respected and established international reputation for good quality products – the Malbec varietal probably being its best known. More detail on the history of winemaking in Argentina can be found here.
Guided by the extremely helpful staff at the Mendoza tourism office we chose a few different wineries to visit and set out south to explore. Domaine Bousquet, founded by a Frenchman, was highly recommended so we started there. A wonderful Andean backdrop setting, superb wines and staff who could not be more obliging. Would recommend this one to anyone heading to Mendoza.
The staff there recommended a smaller, more rustic, local, “boutique” winery as our next stop to contrast the Domaine Bousquet experience. Atamisque Winery fit the bill perfectly – in fact their Pinot Noir was Lois’s favorite wine. Got to spend some time with their adorable, but aging, German Shepherd dog, Adolpho. He’s been trained ( it seems ) to approach every seated guest and nuzzle his head on their lap.
Our next day was spent relaxing at and enjoying the delights of Posada Cavieres, a similarly small, winery/lodge run by Hans Devloo from Belgium. Hans has been in the wine business for 15 years and compliments his wine production with a Tuscan style accommodation lodge and restaurant. He has a soft spot for overlanders and invites self contained folks like us to stay on the property while exploring the area. Spent a most enjoyable, relaxing and educational couple of days with him.
One could, literally, spend weeks ( even months ! ) touring the many wineries around Mendoza – there are so many. But we had other sights of interest further north and Route 40 would take us to most of them. First up was the desert sand dunes near Lavalle, supposedly the only true “dunes” in South America. Not quite the Sahara of course but definitely worthy of a stop given we literally passed right by. For the next couple of days it was simply a series of long hauls and getting miles ( or kms ) under our belt as we headed towards Salta, our next major destination. Fortunately the long journey was broken up with a couple of reasonably notable sights, changing scenery and an interesting rest stop.
Ishigualasto Provincial Park is renowned for its panoramic views, colored rock formations and dinosaur fossils ( the on site camping facilities were impressive too ). Sadly, due to rain the day before we could not do the self driving tour. What we could see from the viewpoint and in the museum was impressive but definitely missed the full experience.
Beyond Ischigualasto we took route 76 through Talampaya Provincial Park ( much the same offerings as Ischigualasto), then on through La Union, east to Chilecito via the scenic Cuesta de Miranda before turning north again through to San Blas, Belen and on towards Cafayete, an historic town famous for its colonial architecture and nearby wineries.
Only realized as we were pulling into Cafayete that there is an extensive wine industry in this area as well. Nothing on the scale of Mendoza but some impressive operations nonetheless. Will definitely need to explore this further – but will save that for next week’s blog.