With one of the sunniest climates in the world, it is small wonder that San Juan is one of South America’s largest wine making provinces.
In Argentina, only Mendoza produces more wine than the San Juan vineyards, which are settled on the high foothills of the Andes (between 600 and 1,200 metres above sea level) in the north-western corner of the country.
Like most of the country, San Juan vineyards are at the mercy of a dry continental climate – with viticulture only made possible courtesy of natural irrigation gifted by two rivers, the San Juan and Jachal, and meltwater descending from the snowy peaks of the mountains.
Sweltering day temperatures giving way to cold nights slow the maturity of grapes in this region to produce intense, concentrated wines.
Consequently, San Juan was originally a prolific producer of Argentina’s rather coarse vine specialities, Criolla and Cereza. These pink skinned varieties are generally used for grape concentrate or the sweet white wines sold in cardboard cartons for virtual pennies around the country.
Some producers, however, have been actively developing San Juan vineyards in cooler sites to create high quality yields dominated by Syrah and Argentina’s ubiquitous Malbec – although Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Bonarda for the reds, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier also stand out. As well as these, the region produces sherry-style fortified wines and provides the base for Argentia’s brandy and vermouth.
New plantations of high quality grapes and the implementation of state of the art technology in wineries has allowed for the elaboration of new wines that have started to be noticed on the international stage.
San Juan vineyards cover 46,000 hectares spread over five valleys: Tulum, Ullum, Zonda, Pedernal and Calingasta. Of these, Tullum Valley is the most successful province in uniting the necessary climate conditions to create fruit laden wines with unique personality and style.
Elsewhere, Ullum Valley produces red wines with enviable colour intensity and well defined aromas; Pedrenal is a micro region that only produces wines of the highest quality; Calingasta is arising as region with extraordinary potential for Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon; and the Zonda Valley – named after the warm wind system that heats the area – is home to some impressive Malbec varieties.
Aside from exploring San Juan vineyards, the region also offers incredible views supported by mountain backdrops, plenty of outdoor opportunities including hiking and rock climbing, otherworldly rock formations in the Valle de la Luna (the “Moon Valley”), and many towns rich in cultural history.
As well as discovering San Juan, we feature incredible tours of Argentina’s other renowned wine regions: like northern Salta and Cafayate, where visitors can taste the crisp white wines of Torrontés – Argentina’s only unique white wine grape.
And, no wine tour of Argentina would be complete without a trip to Mendoza where first class red wines share company with breathtaking mountain views and welcoming locals.
Our local experts can arrange exclusive tours of the San Juan vineyards including winery visits, private tastings, luxury accommodation and unique outdoor experiences. Visit our Argentina destination page for more inspiration and start daydreaming of your next South American adventure!
If you're interested in one of our Mendoza Wine Tours, please visit this link.