A trip around the wine regions of Argentina can be quite an undertaking, but it makes for a memorable experience.
Across 1500 miles, from the major Malbec producers in Mendoza to high altitude Torrontés vineyards in the middle of the Salta desert or boutique wineries making terroir-driven Pinot Noir in Patagonia, the possibilities are endless.
In this article we share a number of useful tips and options to help you plan your journey and ensure that the memories last a lifetime.
Traveling to Argentina Wine Country
Only 25% of Argentina's wines get exported, so you’ll be bound to discover dozens of incredible new wines and wineries on your visit. Let’s start with the basics:
What's the best time to visit Argentina wine country?
In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are a mirror image to those in the north so think about going between October and April. The spring months of October and November ought to guarantee good, pleasant weather while March and April offer fall colors and the grape harvest!
Speaking of the harvest, every year in February and March the city of Mendoza hosts the vibrant “Fiesta de la Vendimia,” a festival to celebrate the grape harvest.
It’s a major celebration of the region’s wine heritage featuring music, dancing and special events as well, and of course, plenty of Malbec. It’s a wonderful time to visit but remember that reservations should be made well in advance.
How long are flights to Argentina wine country?
A non-stop flight from New York to Buenos Aires is about 11 hours. Once you arrive, domestic flights to Argentina's wine regions take about 2 hours. Still, you might try exploring Buenos Aires first because of layovers.
Never fear, your time will be well spent: Buenos Aires is a great city for wine lovers, in fact, globally it is second only to Paris in terms of annual wine consumption, and much of the architecture is also inspired by the French capital.
Wine Regions To Visit
Salta is one of the northernmost provinces of Argentina, straddling the Tropic of Capricorn. In the summer it offers contrasting landscapes: in the lush, jungly lowlands, tobacco and corn are grown while in the high valleys where the vineyards are located the desert landscape features giant cardon cacti and steep ravines redolent with aroma of Torrontés. The contrast and colonial architecture alone make the trip worthwhile.
All the vineyards are located in the Calchaquí Valley where the largest town is Cafayate. You'll find excellent hotels here and a vibrant folk music festival in the last week of February called Serenata a Cafayate.
It is also home to the largest wineries such as El Esteco, Amalaya, and Piattelli all of which welcome visitors, as well as smaller, family operations such as Finca Las Nubes and Yacochuya. The Museum of Wine and Vineyards is also well worth a look.
To the north of the valley we find Cachi, the largest of a string of small villages from where one can set out on a four-hour drive on which vineyards pop up here and amidst a spectacular lunar landscape. Halfway along you come to the Colomé winery whose hundred-year-old vineyards, hotel and Museo de la Luz, an art museum, are a must visit.
An hour to the south of Cafayate we find the ruins of Quilmes, in the Province of Tucumán, a terraced pre-Colombian settlement built on the hillsides.
In terms of cuisine, you won’t want to miss the empanadas and humitas, preferably accompanied by a glass of Torrontés.
At least a hundred wineries sit within striking distance of the city of Mendoza.
Mendoza is the heart of the Argentine wine industry, containing 75% of the country’s vineyards and most of its wineries, at least a hundred of which are well within striking distance of the capital city itself. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Andes and Aconcagua Park, the leafy provincial city in the middle of the desert has many excellent hotels and restaurants, making it ideal for visitors of every kind.
Whether you’re travelling by bike, bus or in a rented car, you can easily get to several of the country’s most famous wineries such as Catena Zapata and Trapiche, as well as many smaller scale outfits such as Alta Vista, the extremely cozy Carmelo Patti, or the picturesque Riccitelli and Durigutti establishments, all of which welcome visitors. Many also boast high quality restaurants: Casa el Enemigo and Lagarde are a couple of excellent options.
An hour south of the city of Mendoza, you get to the Uco Valley, one of the hotspots of the modern wine scene and home to plenty of fascinating contemporary architecture. Here we find large scale establishments such as Salentein, Rutini Wines and Zuccardi Valle de Uco alongside mid-size operations such as Atamisque, Sophenia, and Petrini. The hotels are mostly wine-themed: Casa de Uco and Alpasión are well worth a night or two.
Another of Mendoza’s major attractions is the Andes Mountains which mountaineers are bound to enjoy. Aconcagua and Vallecitos parks will please climbers while nature lovers will love the Villaviciencio Reserve. There are guanacos (a smaller relative of the llama), foxes, and condors all within an arm’s reach.
Grab a few bottles of Pinot Noir on your way to Patagonia's National Parks.
Patagonia is a vast region to the south of Argentina, encompassing huge deserts, mountain ranges, a lake district, forests, glaciers and the Atlantic coast, which is home to sea lions, penguins and whales. The wine producing valleys are mostly to the north in the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro. A good start to your trip to Patagonia might be the city of Neuquén, which has good connections and hotels from where it’s a four hour trip across the desert and up into the Andes.
The vineyards are located in valleys formed by the large rivers that come together in Neuquén. An hour from the city one finds the vineyards of San Patricio del Chañar along with the modern wineries and restaurants of Malma, Fin del Mundo and Familia Schroder. Further on is the Alto Valle de Río Negro, where the century-old winery Humberto Canale will take you back in time, while another, Noemía, offers a glimpse into the future. This is an excellent region to drink Pinot Noir.
Crossing the steppe into the Andes is an adventure in itself, the River Limay canyon leads to the famous city of Bariloche or alternatively you might choose to head up to San Martín de Los Andes, with its wooded slopes and araucaria trees – which look like upside down umbrellas – and the wonderful landscapes of the National Parks of Nahuel Huapi and Lanín.
Tips on Visiting the Wineries of Argentina
To make sure that your trip to Argentine wine country is a success, it’s important to keep a few things in mind: for instance, make sure you bring a hat and plenty of sunblock to stay safe from the sun.
Argentine wineries tend to work on a reservation system and it’s advisable to book at least a month in advance (even earlier in the case of the more exclusive destinations).
Most wineries will have polyglot staff, especially English speakers, trained to see to visitors’ every need – should you require another language it’s best to inquire in advance.
When planning your trip, it’s important to remember that wine regions are very large and you generally need transport to get between the different wineries. You'll need a car but that requires a designated driver. Hiring a driver isn’t that much more expensive than renting a car.
If you’re planning on doing plenty of winery tours and tastings – it's possible to visit four wineries a day. Keep in mind, that's with lunch on the go. If you schedule restaurant visits in between tastings, 3 wineries a day is more realistic.
You could also visit a winery with a restaurant; all are high quality and some offer tasting menus tailored to the wine where you should expect the meal to last for at least a couple of hours.
Of course, all the wineries sell their wines direct so check with your airline on your baggage allowance, as well as any customs duties that might be payable on your return.
A box of six is generally the limit to travel with, but keep in mind, several wineries provide direct shipping, especially to the USA.
–Thank you to the team at vinomanos.com contributing the majority of this helpful guide.