Tasting Crisp, Fruity White Wines – Cafayate, Argentina

Argentina is well-known for its delicious wines. Everyone knows how fantastic the steaks are here, and to accompany that, the red wines produced in this country are wonderful and famous. But, the Cafayate region in the north specializes in a fruity, crisp white wine made from Torrontes grapes. The grape is originally from Spain, but is now much more popular in Argentina, where the climate and the altitude create the perfect environment for production of Torrentes.

Lucky for us! We spent a few days in Cafayate and had a blast. The 6am bus from Salta took us through spectacular scenery and we got to see the famed Quebrada de Cafayate. The beautiful, colorful rock formations and lush landscapes made for a gorgeous ride.

Vineyards and the mountains surrounding the Cafayate Valley.Vineyards and the mountains surrounding the Cafayate Valley.

Vineyards and the mountains surrounding the Cafayate Valley.14-Jan-2011 15:25


Landing in the main square at 11am, we dropped Erik off with our bags and I set out to find us a hostel. So far in this trip, we have hardly made hostel or tour reservations and book them along the way. However, since entering Argentina, we’ve seen that this will no longer work. It’s summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, and hostels and buses are often booked, making it far more challenging for us spontaneous backpackers.

I tried at least 5 hostels and finally found us a cute room at El Hospedaje with private bath, breakfast, TV, a fan and a nice pool. It’s definitely not cheap here in Argentina, but Erik thought it was a nice place, so we were happy. After our extremely loud hostel in Salta, I was happy to be in a quieter place.

The courtyard at our hostel.The courtyard at our hostel.

The courtyard at our hostel.15-Jan-2011 11:58


The wines in Cafayate did not disappoint. The first afternoon alone, we visited four bodegas. First stop was the organic Nanni bodega where we bought a bottle of their delicious Torrontes for just 22 pesos ($5.50 US). We also sampled the wines at a smaller bodega, Salvador Figueroa, that produces just 5,000 bottles per year.

Erik trying out an organic Malbec during a tasting at Bodega Nanni.Erik trying out an organic Malbec during a tasting at Bodega Nanni.

Erik trying out an organic Malbec during a tasting at Bodega Nanni.14-Jan-2011 14:29


Then we walked along the vineyards out of town a bit to the mansion-like El Esteco winery. This huge commercial operation produces 3 million bottles of wine per year and exports much of their wine to the US, Canada and Holland. This place was massive and on the tour, we saw thousands of wine bottles labelled and packaged up ready to be shipped all over the world. We only tasted two wines here, a Torrontes (which we bought a bottle of) and a Malbec, which is also in abundance in Cafayate. The last stop of the day was one of the oldest in town, Vasija Secreta. Although it was interesting, we didn’t fancy the wines.

Fermentation vats in the large-scale El Esteco bodega.Fermentation vats in the large-scale El Esteco bodega.

Fermentation vats in the large-scale El Esteco bodega.14-Jan-2011 15:44


We also tasted wines at Domingo Hermanos and El Transito, both of which offered free tastings. The wines were ok, but we left without buying any.

An enthusiastic comment in one of the bodega's guestbooks.An enthusiastic comment in one of the bodega’s guestbooks.

An enthusiastic comment in one of the bodega's guestbooks.14-Jan-2011 16:32


The pool was a blessing as the sun is strong in Cafayate, so it was nice to be able to take a dip in the hot weather. We felt bad as we were sitting in the pool in the hot sun while our families back in Northeastern US were digging out from yet another pounding snowstorm!

Enjoying the pool at our hostel.Enjoying the pool at our hostel.

Enjoying the pool at our hostel.14-Jan-2011 13:07


Empanadas are a popular treat throughout Argentina, but Argentinians rave about the quality of empanadas from the North. Cafayate is home to a delicious empanada place – La Casa de las Empanadas. This place has 12 types of gourmet empanadas, including Arabe, choclo (corn), tomato, goat cheese & basil, and my favorite – delicious grilled vegetables marinated in Torrontes wine! If you are ever in town, don’t miss it!

About Heather

Heather and Erik set off on a round-the-world trip in April, 2010, travelling overland through Central and South America before getting engaged in Antarctica. In 2011-2012 they tackled Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

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