AN UNBEATEN WINE TRAIL IN SALTA

In the end of 2016, me and my wife decided to go for a non-conventional destination, to scape of the crowds and the high prices of summertime season. We were able to stop in such an amazing place. Now I will tell you some great reasons to visit the Salta Region, in Argentina.

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Cafayate, in the Salta Province of Argentina, is a wine tourism heaven that ticks all the boxes for visiting wine loving travellers. Home of the Torrontés grape, the high altitude, desert vineyards of the region offer accessible cellar doors; good quality wines at incredibly affordable prices; friendly locals and excellent food to top it off. Being a wine growing region, obviously, it is also beautiful. At the foothill of the Andes, the small town of Cafayate is charming, hot all year round and easy-going.

Local restaurants serve classic Argentinian staples such as ancho beef and chorizo but you can also find goat cooked on the brasa (the Argentinian style barbecue that uses the cinders to slow cook the meat), braised lamb dishes, deep fried empanadas (a salteño specialty) and locally made goats cheeses, lovely with fresh, floral Torrontés.

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Though the cellar doors that are open to visitors are spread over a relatively wide area and situated at a variety of altitudes (Bodega Colomé is at 3000m and takes about five hours on a rough dirt road to get there from Cafayate!) there are plenty within the town itself and even more within a short drive. Tasting by bike is a viable option in the morning only, as this is a hot region, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees not unusual.

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The reason Cafayate and the Salta region feels so unspoilt and undiscovered (I was visiting from Brazil, driving 4 days to get there!) is its remoteness. Being 1400km from Buenos Aires and 1600km from Santiago, it makes the drive a little off-putting for some. Salta does have an airport though, with regular flights from Buenos Aires.

The drive from Salta to Cafayate takes you through the Quebrada das Conchas with a chance to see red and pink pastel shaded mountains, every turn offering a different landscape of amphitheaters, cliffs, rock escarpments and towers, carved out by the now dry Rio das Conchas. As you arrive in Cafayate, the landscape opens up into the Cafayate Valley and the first vineyards appear.

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The drive back to Salta from Cafayate is even more spectacular. Take Ruta 40, which runs parallel to the Andes, to see some of the most magnificent scenery the region offers. This is the road that will take you to Bodega Colomé. You also pass the small town of Cachi, a great stop for lunch. The road after Cachi climbs up to 4000m, where the air is thin and cactus are the only plants that grow in this lunar landscape. From the highest point you follow the unpaved road down through a gorgeous, lush green valley to the city of Salta, which boasts an abundance of churches and colonial architecture.

This is a region that provides plenty for the wine adventurer. Remote, challenging, unexplored with friendly hosts, a large indigenous population (this region was the southernmost extension of the Inca empire) and of course great wines.

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Recommended wineries:

1. Bodega Nanni

A selection of simple and easy drinking wines, organically grown, easily accessible.

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2. Bodega Colomé

Remote, high altitude, high quality.

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3. San Pedro de Yacochuya

Beautiful views over the Cafayate Valley. Mineral Torrontés wines.

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4. Bodega El Esteco

Just outside of town — a bike ride away and some of the oldest Torrontés vines, planted in 1945.

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5. El Porvenir

We missed the chance to visit El Porvenir as it closes over the Christmas holidays but their Laborum Oak Aged Torrontés is the best I’ve tried so far.

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