Wine Region

Category: Tours
Travel through some of the most spectacular landscape in South America sipping wine along the way: what more could you ask for?

A word on the wine
You probably all know about Malbec, Argentina's classic red: and the perfect accompaniment to a good steak. But the nation’s trademark white is the Torrontes: a grape whose origins are mysterious, but is now a single variety unique to Argentina: and its best expression is in Salta.

What makes an Argentine wine tour extra special is the different varieties which thrive at different altitudes: Salta, the highest altitude wine route in the world, is particularly suited to the production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Torrontes, as well as the heavy red Uruguayan Tannat (which is actually French for tannin).

Going south, Catamarca´s trademark red is Syrah (Shiraz), while La Rioja is known for its tinto varietal of Petit Verdot, and in San Juan, the Bonarda and Syrah reds are especially acclaimed. In Mendoza the range of temperatures and altitudes is such that all varieties thrive: and further south in northern Patagonia the cooler climate provides the perfect conditions for Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.


Classic Wine Route

min 3 days

This is not just about wine: it's also a stunning visual experience, driving through a constantly changing landscape. And it's your opportunity to discover some of the delightful villages of the Valles Calchaquies and meet some of the small producers along the highest altitude wine route in the world.

We head south through the tobacco fields of the Valle de Lerma, and take the winding mountain road of the Cuesta del Obispo, rising to a peak of 3,500m in the Parque Nacional de los Cardones: candelabra cacti pepper the landscape as far as the eye can see. We will visit the picturesque towns of Payogasta and Cachi, and may also make a trip to see rarely-visited Inca ruins at Potrero. In Cachi, as in most small towns of the Andean north west, you'll see typical buildings of adobe and cactus wood, including the beautifully preserved church: this is also our first chance to visit a boutique vineyard.

We continue our trip south to Cafayate via the historic town of Molinos, home of the last ever Spanish Royalist governor, and the picturesque villages of Seclantas and Angastaco: all set in outstanding and constantly-changing scenery. The Quebrada de las Flechas is a breath-taking lunar landscape. We may have time to visit the wine resort of Colomé, which boasts the highest altitude vineyards in the world.

Cafayate is the hub of Salta's wine region, home to some of the best boutique vineyards in South America. And don’t miss the delicious wine ice cream, made with red Cabernet Sauvignon or white Torrontes.

At the pre-Inca ruins of Quilmes you’ll discover the extraordinary story of this Diaguita tribe who lived an independent life for centuries, until the Spanish invaders cruelly broke their resistance. And just south of here at Amaicha del Valle is one of the most impressive museums in Argentina, which is a work of art in itself: Pachamama museum, dedicated to the pre-Hispanic indigenous culture.

After a visit to another vineyard for lunch, we will return to Salta via the stunning ochre landscape of the Quebrada de las Conchas, a former river bed thought to be 60 million years old. It's not hard to imagine dinosaurs stalking this prehistoric looking landscape.


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In Spring and Autumn we can usually combine this trip with the SALT & SEVEN COLOURS tour in a spectacular mountain crossing: Abra el Acay, at nearly 5,000m altitude, is the highest national road pass in the world outside the Himalayas.

Wine harvest time is March and April. We can arrange special trips to take part in the grape picking.


Wine and History: Salta to Mendoza 

min 6 days

From Salta, the highest altitude region in the world, we travel down the wine valleys and historic Inca sites of Catamarca onto La Rioja, famous for its olive production, through scenic, relaxed San Juan to arrive in Argentina’s premier wine region of Mendoza.

We travel south from Salta through the Valles Calchaquies, populated for centuries by aboriginal tribes, and the seat of fierce resistance to the Spanish invaders. In these parts, the only Spaniards welcomed were Jesuit priests bringing vines to produce wine for mass: starting what is now a thriving industry in the highest altitude wine region in the world.

Just south of Cafayate, Salta province’s premier wine town, we’ll visit the 1,000 year old settlement of Quilmes, the final pocket of resistance to the Hispanic invasion, a proud tribe of indigenous warriors only defeated in 1666, more than 100 years after the Spanish arrival.

Nearby is the work of one artistic genius: Hector Cruz, whose Pachamama museum at Amaicha del Valle is inspired by and dedicated to the indigenous culture.

We head south into the sleepy province of Catamarca to visit a vineyard in Santa Maria founded by Augustinian monks, with its rare Barbera and excellent dessert wine (not just for mass!) before heading onto Hualfin, home to the tiny 18th century church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, and the 17th century ruins of rebel chief Juan Chelemin. Happily, there also happens to be a co-operative vineyard here producing excellent Torrontes and Malbec.

Further south, we visit the second oldest city in Argentina: Londres, founded in 1558, and named after the British capital to mark the wedding of the English princess Mary Tudor to Philip II of Spain.

Nearby, hidden away in the forest, are the ruins of the most important Inca settlement in Argentina: Shinkal. This was the southern regional capital of the Inca empire and exhibits well-preserved sun and moon temples and ceremonial platforms.

From here we travel south along the Route of Adobe visiting boutique vineyards in Catamarca and La Rioja, producing some fine Tannat, Petit Verdot and Viognier. We can visit the co-operative winery of Chilecito with its organic and fair trade wines, including the award-winning Tilimuqui Torrontes and Cabernet Sauvignon/Bonarda.

Hugging the Andes, enjoying outstanding views of Famatina mountain, we drive through the impressive landscape of the Cuesta de Miranda before our descent into the heart of Argentina's wine region: San Juan and Mendoza.

We take the slow road through the Calingasta valley, home to some excellent Bonarda and Pinot Gris, before arriving in the mountain town of Uspallata and descending to Mendoza via the stunning mountain road of Villavicencio.


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This trip can be done in reverse: Mendoza to Salta
Both the Classic wine route and the Wine & History tour can be combined with COLOURS OF VALLECITO hike into the mountains, staying with indigenous local families


With an extra day, we can also visit Talampaya national park in La Rioja and San Juan’s Valle de la Luna, where the skeletons of the oldest known dinosaurs were found.

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TESTIMONIALS

We saw the most amazing and beautiful scenery, and lots of places of interest off the beaten track, not to mention all the opportunities to sample local wines at bodegas ranging from the tiny to the grand!

Tony & Mari Davies

from the UK took the Wine & History tour

Poncho Tours provides customized itineraries and amazing customer service. I had initially asked a travel agency to help us plan our trip, but their estimated cost was almost double what we ended up paying by working with local providers directly.

Jenny Ramaswamy

USA

The Altiplano (Puna) of Argentina was amazing, better than the Altiplanico in Chile and not as touristy. If you want a unique trip with an amazing guide this is the company to use. Nick provided lots of information on the culture, history, geology and geography as well as the wine industry.

Jeremy & Liz Meharg

from Canada combined the Altiplano with a trip to Mendoza.

Nick is really helpful in making your tour of the Salta area customized to your needs. Very quick response time to all your questions via email. Costs are very reasonable.

Karen Farnsworth

Cayman Islands