|Fascinating Patagonia||6 days||from $1,750|
Discover one of Patagonia's most amazing wonders; Perito Moreno Glacier, Ushuaia - the southernmost city in the world and Tierra del Fuego National Park.>> more details
|Patagonia Adventure||8 days||from $2,390|
Enjoy Argentina's incredible variety of flora, fauna and marine life. Explore Ushuaia's followed by an encounter with one of the most famous glacier: Perito Moreno. >> more details
Mendoza Province is one of the driest places on earth. The mammoth Andes mountain range catches any cloud blowing in from the pacific, meaning there is very little rain.
Yet Mendoza produces 70% of Argentine wine and Argentina is the fifth biggest producer in the world. Mendozas capital is a garden city of tree-lined streets and sculpted parks. Every leafy town in the province is surrounded by hundreds of vineyards and farms producing everything from olives to peaches.
How? Those same mountains that stop the rainfall catch the snow. The snow melts on the peaks (including Mt. Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas) and is carried through a complex system of rivers, dykes and dams. This miracle of water supports people and industry. Mendoza city has grown into a green oasis of calm amidst a hot and sweltering desert.
Fiery, red Malbec and fresh, golden Torrontes, to mention just a few. Argentine wine is fast becoming the new sensation. Yet that doesnt mean to say it has just arrived. Argentines have been drinking their own wine for years, and plenty of it.
Wineries (known as bodegas) have existed here since colonial times and many are rich in history and heritage. Straddling the snow-capped Andes, Mendozas wineries are set in some of the most spectacular scenery in South America, indeed the world. Argentine wine exports are increasing exponentially. Prestigious companies such as Salentein and the Lurton Brothers have invested heavily and there is a zealous drive to improve and perfect the wines. Already winning international prizes, Argentina is hot on the heels of nearby Chile when it comes to worldwide recognition. Mendoza is being compared to how Californias Napa valley was in the 80s unknown but very promising. The future looks bright indeed. Now is the time to visit this pristine and unexplored wine region.
Cultural events such as the annual Wine Harvest Fesitval have been celebrated in some way since the mid 18th century. Now it is a national event that attracts thousands of people onto the streets of Mendoza. It is a week of carnival, parades, spectacular live shows, fireworks and of course wine.
Many things are needed to make a good wine and Mendoza seems to have all of them. The soil and lie of the land are perfect. The altitude and favorable night and daytime temperatures guarantee a healthy fruit. Constant sunlight and little wind are other important factors, as well as mineral rich water from the mountains.
The vineyards of the northwestern provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy and Salta include some of the highest elevated vineyards in the world with many vineyards planted more than 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level. The soils and climate of the regions are very similar to Mendoza but the unique climate and high elevation of the vineyards typically produces grapes with higher levels of total acidity which contribute to the wines balance and depth. Of the three regions, Catamarca is the most widely planted with more than 5,800 acres (2,300 hectares) under vine as of 2003. In recent years the Salta region, and particularly its sub-region of Cafayate, have been gaining the most worldwide attention the quality of its full bodied whites made from Torrontés Riojano as well as its fruity reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat.
Most of Cafayate region in Salta is located in the river delta between the Rio Calchaqui and the Rio Santa Maria. The climate of the area experiences a foehn effect which traps rain producing cloud cover in the mountains and leaves the area dry and sunny. Despite its high altitude daytime temperatures in the summertime can reach 100°F (38°C) but at night the area experiences a wide diurnal temperature variation with night time temperatures dropping as low as 54°F (12°C). There is some threat of frost during the winter when temperatures can drop as low as 21°F (-6°C). Despite producing less than 2% of Argentina's yearly wine production, the Cafayate region is increasing gaining in prestige and appearance on wine labels, as well as foreign investment from worldwide wine producers such as enologist Michel Rolland and California wine producer Donald Hess.
The southern Patagonia region includes the fruit producing regions of Río Negro and Neuquén which has a considerably cooler climate than the major regions to the north which provides a long, drawn outgrowing season in the chalky soils of the area. In the early 20th century, Humberto Canale imported vine cuttings from Bordeaux and established the first commercial winery in the region. While 9,300 acres were planted as of 2003, the region is growing as more producers plant cool climate varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot noir as well as Malbec, Semillon and Torrontés Riojano. Many of the grapes for the Argentine sparkling wine industry are sourced from this area. Located more than 990 miles south of Mendoza, the vineyards of Bodega Weinert are noted as the southernmost planted vineyards in the Americas.
After Mendoza, the San Juan region is the second largest producer of wine with over 116,000 acres planted as of 2003. The climate of this region is considerably hotter and drier than Mendoza with rainfall averaging 6 inches a year and summer time temperatures regularly over 100°F. Premium wine production is centered around the Calingasta, Ullum and Zonda departments as well as the Tulum Valley. In addition to producing premium red varietals made from Syrah and Charbono (known locally as Bonarda), the San Juan region has a long history of producing sherry-style wines, brandies and vermouth. The high yielding Cereza vine is also prominent here where it is used for blending and grape concentrate as well as for raisin and table grape consumption.