Exploring the Wineries of Cafayate, in the Northwest of Argentina

November is spring in Argentina, and we were there November, 2008. The northwest of Argentina is the most amazing region. This post focuses on Cafayate, one small town in that area with four wineries that offer free tastings.

vinyard the first evening in Cafayate

vinyard our first evening in Cafayate

(from my journal)
Nov 4. Bodega Nanni is a producer of ‘organic’ wines. We did the tour, and afterwards got to taste their wines.

Cafayate, Nanni Winery

Cafayate, Nanni Winery

Cafayate, wine barrels at Nanni

Cafayate, wine barrels at Nanni

I had to write frantically to keep up with both the wines and the torrent of Spanish – here goes:

  • Torrontés – a white, típico del región, ananas, durazno and rosas (pineapple, peach and rose), good with fish;
  • Rosado de Cabernet Sauvignon – only aged 48 hours, drank as an aperitivo;
  • Malbec – sauve y frutado (soft and fruity) – red fruits;
  • Cabernet Sauvignon – más intenso – goes well with comida criolla;
  • Tannant – muy intenso, muy astringente, té y chocolate – good with greasy food such as cerdo (pork)

As soon as I finished writing this, a woman came up and gave me a printed card with almost everything I’d already written on it. All of Nanni’s wine were fabulous, but unfortunately only available in the US and ‘Holandes‘, at least as of 2008.

Bodega Nanni tasting notes

After the tour we went out for a matambre y ensalada at a nearby restaurant.

matambre y ensalada

Refreshed, we managed to locate another ‘casa de vino’. This was El Transito, a ‘nuevo’ winery. I didn’t take a single photo of the building as it was modern with none of the atmosphere of the other wineries. BUT I have to say that they certainly made up for it with the quality of their wines! They had an impressive Malbec (2005) and the best Cabernet Sauvignon (2004) we had tasted. The Cab had been aged for 6 months in oak and then for four years in the botella. It seemed a bit odd at first but rapidly grew on me. Al initially thought it too dry but, by the end of our generous tasting glasses, we were both raving about it .

There was another group of people tasting and they had somehow managed to get extra generous glasses, filled to the brim of the truly magnificent El Transito Malbec. We were soooo jealous, “How come you rate such big glasses?” It turned out that they had liked the wine so much they had bought an entire bottle, and then had a connivial gathering at the winery, rather than trying to carry it away on their already overloaded scooters.

Nov 5
Off to Domingo Hermanos. This winery only had two wines on offer, a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, very full, soft, and a 2005 Malbec, but both rated 5 mmmmms on our wine scale!

Bodega Domingo Hermanos

Bodega Domingo Hermanos

on the bottling line

on the bottling line

 exquisite dark cherry flavours to die for

even the cheap jugs of wine are fantastic, with exquisite dark cherry flavours to die for

Vasija Secreta: this was the oldest winery we toured, but I’m afraid we didn’t find their wine that impressive after the others.

Vasija Secreta winery

Vasija Secreta winery

FOOD TO GO WITH THE WINE
The merienda is the traditional late afternoon ‘tea’ of Argentina, something to fill in those long, hungry hours before the evening meal is served at nine or ten. Some typical meriendas are:

  • a ‘picada’, this usually consists of cold cuts, olives, cheese and hard-boiled eggs, or some variation thereof.

    picada en Salta

    picada en Salta

  • a ‘parillada’. This is the traditional barbeque of meat, meat and meat, slow-cooked and seasoned with lime and salt. In this region ‘cabrito’ (kid goat) is a speciality.

    parrillada con cabrito en Tafi

    parrillada con cabrito en Tafi

  • empanadas’, pastries stuffed with cheese, meat or whatever.

    empanadas

    empanadas

  • matambre’ and salad. The matambre is usually some form of meat ‘enrollado‘, usually beef rolled with vegetables or eggs, and served in colourful slices. The word matambre is a combination of two words: ‘mata‘ (kill) + hambre (hunger).

    matambre, beef 'enrollado', rolled with vegetables or eggs

    matambre, beef ‘enrollado‘, rolled with vegetables or eggs

AND MORE
For a tiny town Cafayate has lots to offer. There are tours of Quilmes, nearby ancient pre-Colombian ruins.

ruinas at Quilmes

ruinas at Quilmes

There are also guided hikes through the Quebrada de Cafayate. The Quebrada contains multi-coloured sandstone formations that continue north into Salta and the region of Humahuaca.
Quebrada de Cafayate

sketch of Quebrada de Cafayate

sketch of Quebrada de Cafayate

For more images of this amazing region, plus a Humahuacan song to drink wine by: 

About ‘La Quebrada de Humahuaca‘ to the north of Cafayate.

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