Calchaqui Valley: Argentina’s highest vineyards

High in the mountains a perfect storm of unique conditions is brewing to create some of Argentina’s finest wines.

Settled in the foothills of the Andes mountain range in Argentina is the fertile Calchaqui Valley, part of the country’s revered north west wine region and home to the highest vineyards on the planet.

Despite the region’s seemingly inhospitable location, a ‘perfect storm’ of unique conditions here – including high altitude, ever present sunshine, natural irrigation, free draining soils and a disparity in temperature between day and night – combine to create some of the country’s finest wines.

The valley is scattered with bodegas across the provinces of Catamarca, Tucuman and Salta. The latter is the area’s most recognised wine region courtesy of the small town of Cafayate near its southern border where 70% of the valley’s vineyards are found.

Although several grape varieties are produced here – including Chardonnay, Merlot and the increasingly popular Tannat – Calchaqui Valley wine is most associated with Argentina’s ubiquitous red Malbec and as the epicentre of the country’s signature white wine Torrontés.

Torrontés is the only 100% Argentinian white grape variety and, while it is grown elsewhere in the country, no other region has managed to produce the same perfumed perfection as in Cafayette. The Torrontes here boasts floral, crisp whites with surprising depth and flavour that have come to gain global recognition in recent times.

As for the red varietals of Calchaqui Valley wine, the Malbecs are typically excellent in colour with black fruit and berry flavours coupled with medium acid and moderate tannins. Tannat, meanwhile, is a relatively rare grape that has found a home in the region – named after its naturally occurring high tannin levels, the wines here are well balanced as a consequence of their long hang times and concentrated fruits.

The passion of the local bodegas and the expertise of European wine consultants – including Wine Paths’ own advisor and internationally acclaimed winemaker Michel Rolland who has helped promote the potential of Cafayate – have brought a revolution in the quality of Calchaqui Valley wine.

At Wine Paths, our local expert can organise exclusive tours of the Calchaqui Valley wine region, which can be customised to meet your exact needs while ensuring that every last detail is taken care of.

These include a private tour of the Cafayate region allowing visitors to explore the picturesque valley where alpacas roam freely and locals still dress in the traditional colourful clothing of the altiplano (high plain), as well as the wonderfully relaxed setting and welcoming atmosphere of the town itself.

If you're interested in one of our Argentina Wine Tours, please visit this link.

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