One of the highlights of our recent trip to Argentina was the day spent driving between Salta and Cafayate. We had a private driver/car so we could relax and soak in the vast landscapes of the region. Having our bilingual driver makes for a leisurely and very informative excursion, with photo stops on a whim.
To set the scene, forty million years ago, a tectonic thrust by the Pacific Plate pushed the Andes up out of the ocean and with it dragged the ocean floor up to a minimum of 1600 metres above sea level in northern Argentina.
So there is now is a desert of gigantic proportions, as everything in Argentina seems to be, in an extremely dry climate with a combination of desert rock and sand and highly alluvial plains.
Despite receiving zero rainfall for 345 days per annum, the farmers here grow the most amazing variety of food crops, tobacco and, of course, grapes for some of the best wines in the world. The amazing landscapes that this geographic phenomenon and farming diversity produces was a major feature of our trip to Northern Argentina.
The Andes provide shelter from the west and at 1600 metres above sea level, areas of remarkable soil and temperatures of 38c and clean air at 21degrees latitude, you might say they have the perfect formula. Water is the key and because the Andes catch the rain, this regions taps into an endless supply of old aquifers.
We were intrigued to learn that wineries control their water application through trickle irrigation. With 100% control of the water intake for the grapes, and without nature’s interference, means that in this region they can produce the perfect grape and perfect wines.
Cafayate is at the hub of the wine growing district in northwest Argentina. It lies in the Calchaquíes Valleys, an area known for its reddish rock formations. Some 60 vineyards surround Cafayate and in town the Museo de la Vid y el Vino (Museum) explains the process of winemaking. The museum is well worth a visit and sums up the wealth of the region and its unique conditions.
Being from a grape growing country ourselves, it was fascinating to learn how its done elsewhere. And, of course, tasting the wines was all part of the day!