After spending 5 days tasting in one of the most laid back places we’ve been to in the last 6 months, we finally hopped on a bus to Tucuman (and then almost immediately to San Juan) with our sense memories overflowing.
Here are some of the highlights and recommendations:
Bodega Jose L. Mounier (also confusingly referred to as Finca Las Nubes) – this small to medium sized producer makes a wide range of entry level wines labelled as Finca Las Nubes, including a great P/Q torrontes and some OK reds. They also produce a higher end blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat labelled as Jose L. Mounier. It is a solid wine, but in this price range the bottles are remarkably good and better wines can be found. Still, it’s a perfect compliment for a big fat bife de chorizo. Price at winery A$80.
Bodega Porvenir – medium sized by Cafayate standards, the winery produces about 20,000 bottles each of their 6 flagship Laborum brand reds. The Tannat has garnered some acclaim in the UK, being touted by the sommelier at Gaucho. But I found the syrah and malbec to be really interesting expressions of the respective grapes. Both can be overwhelmingly jammy and rich at times, almost sticky in the mouth. Yet Porvenir wines are refreshing and balanced, with an unreal purity of fruit. And a ridiculous deal when purchased at the bodega. Price at winery A$60 (everywhere else A$80-100).
Bodega Tacuil – we were unable to visit because the winery is near Molinos, a town inaccessible by public transport. However, we found this bottle in a small shop in Cafayate so gave it a try. Apparently this is yet another place that claims to have the highest vineyard in the world, a very popular tag line around Salta. What I can say about this malbec and cabernet sauvignon blend is that it is probably the biggest, fattest, most complex and tastiest wine I’ve ever had for the price. “RD” is about halfway up their quality scale and it was amazing. We had to let it breathe for about 1.5 hours, but once it opened up and settled down – wow! Tried pairing it with a bife de chorizo, but honestly the food was no match. Price at tiny local shop in town A$55.
Bodega Tukma – we heard about this one at a wine bar on our last night. The winery doesn’t have tastings, so the wine bar offers its wine at a fractional mark up to allow visitors to taste. The torrontes was along the same lines as San Pedro de Yacochuya… so refined and polished that it somehow misses out on the refreshing party in your mouth that makes drinking torrontes so much fun. But it’s a fantastic wine; something along the lines of an unoaked, more refreshing version of a white Bordeaux.
Some of Cafayate's finest
El Almacen Wine Bar – just off the main square in Cafayate, this place is a great choice for sampling some of the area’s finest quaffers. The profit margin is minimal – it’s all about getting people to try the wines. They even have some of the illusive San Pedro de Yacochuya wines by the glass! Patience is a virtue though; officially it opens around 8pm but in reality it depends what mood the owner is in which, in turn, depends on the recent football results.
View from the couch
All things considered, it was a great visit in a really cool little town. While the area is a bit of a pain to get to from the north, it is definitely worth more than the cursory day-trip from Salta many tour operators run. Just hop on an El Indio bus in Salta, enjoy the ridiculously stunning Quebrada de Cafayate along the way, and settle in for some truly chill wine country.