Wine harvest 2024 in the Quebrada de Humahuaca

Maimara

One of my favourite times of year for an Argentina wine tour is the Vendimia, or harvest, when you’re rewarded with the sights and sounds of wine production, not to mention the great smells and tastes.

 

You can also pitch in and join the grape picking in parts of Argentina’s immense wine region, which runs 3,000km from Chubut in Patagonia, through Mendoza and San Juan to the Andean northwest. 

 

We spent last year’s Vendimia picking grapes at Cielo Verde in Chicoana, our closest winery just half an hour from our home.

 

For 2024 Alicia and I decided to take it easy and went to the second ever wine harvest at El Bayeh winery in the ever growing region of the Quebrada de Humahuaca.

 

This involved nothing more strenuous than listening to a string quartet, eating food prepared by some of the finest chefs in the country, and, oh yes, sampling some wines we hadn’t tried before. (To clarify, Alicia doesn’t actually drink, but she enjoyed the food and is prepared  occasionally to smell the wine if not taste it.)    

 

When I first started doing private guided wine tours in 2008, while we concentrated mainly on the Salta wine region of the Valles Calchaquies, there were two producers to visit in the Quebrada de Humahuaca, Fernando Dupont and Viñas del Perchel.

 

Fernando is an agronomist who arrived from Buenos Aires, bought a plot of land on the east side of the Rio Grande at Maimara, and planted Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon (later adding Cabernet Franc).   

 

Perchel, which first planted vines in 2005,  is now producing Tannat and Syrah single varieties as well as their trademark Runa, a blend which changes year by year, and is a powerful assualt on the olfactory glands and tastebuds with 15.8% alcohol.

 

When Perchel first opened to the public in 2014, it was producing just 2,000 bottles per year: so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that they, like Dupont, decided to stop doing free tastings.

 

According to our excellent host at El Bayeh havest, Daniel Manzur, there are now 16 different wine producers, in addition to small producers selling their grapes to bigger operations.

 

One of the distinctive features of El Bayeh winery (named, incidentally, after the original family name) is its production of criollo varieties.

 

As avid readers of my blog will know (!), the most famous criollo variety is Torrontes, the emblematic white variety which has found its best expression in Cafayate.

 

El Bayeh offers criollo varities in small parcels from Purmamarca, Maimara and Tilcara, as well as its own superb Malbec, from grapes first planted in 2019 at Finca Ollantay, nestling in the valley at Maimara, with a stunning backdrop of the Painter’s Palette.

 

Daniel told us how his grandfather arrived from Lebanon in the 1960s, and was a trader buying fruit and vegetables from small producers around the Quebrada de Humahuaca, to sell in the city of San Salvador de Jujuy.

 

In 1971, he bought a few hectares of land and planted hos own crops in an area where decades later his sons and grandchildren began to investigate the prospect of starting a vineyard.  

 

Their enologist Matias Michelini, from Mendoza, noticed there were already some criollo grapes there, so they started with those, planting Malbec in 2019: in the pipeline is Syrah, Chardonnay and Semillon, all recently laid.

 

Construction of a spectacular looking hotel is underway (hopefully we will be taking guests on our tailor-made tours there in 2025),.

 

In the meantime we can taste El Bayeh wine, and those of other small producers at their companion venue, Casa Mocha en Huacalera, where you can also sample their excellent goat cheese.  

 

Among the other wineries whose products we sampled at El Bayeh, my favourites were the Cielo Arriba blend of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Syrah: also approved by my tasting partner from Buenos Aires, Rodrigo, who has had more bottles of wine than I’ve had hot dinners.

 

With very limited production, it’s best to stay at their own hotel Villa del Cielo in Tilcara and try it in the excellent restaurant. (We recommend staying for two nights if you’d also like to visit the vineyards with sommelier Luz Morcillo).

 

Also recommended are both Malbec and Cabernet Franc single varieties from Viñedos de Yacoraite, which offers a four course tasting menu with the stunning backdrop of theYacoraite hills of the Pollera de la Coya further north near Uquia.

 

Their enologist Lucas Niven also works with Amanecer Andino, which is already becoming our favourite spot for quick picada lunches and tastings after a short hike to see the Seven Coloured hill at nearby Purmamarca.

 

I loved the Malbec and Cabernet Franc from Bodega Kindgard, while Don Milagro (both at Purmamarca) is producer of a rare (for Jujuy) Torrontes.

 

Extended wine tours of Jujuy coming soon…

 

Duration
6 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Wine and History: Salta to Mendoza

Take the long and winding road from Salta to Mendoza, visiting lesser-known boutique wineries in Catamarca, La Rioja, and San Juan along the way.

This deep immersion into the wine and culture of Argentina is perfect for those who want to combine an exploration of the rich history of the region with some of its best off-the-beaten-track wineries, through some breathtaking scenery close to the Andes. Apart from Argentina’s classic red Malbec, we’ll be sampling lesser-known varieties like Tannat, and discovering the Argentine take on classics like Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinot Grigio.

Our journey begins in the highest altitude wine region in the world, the Valles Calchaquies in Salta, famous for its production of Torrontes, a white grape variety that is unique to Argentina. From Salta’s principal wine town of Cafayate, we take the iconic Route 40 south, through the emerging wine regions of Tucuman, Catamarca, and La Rioja, before arriving in the provinces of San Juan and Mendoza, producers of 93% of the nation’s wine.

Click here to view map route.

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$750
Duration
3 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Bolivia’s high altitude wine

Allow us to introduce you to one of the world’s lesser known wine regions: Tarija in Bolivia. With vineyards at 1,850m, this is one of the highest altitude wine regions in the world.

The quality of wine, particularly its trademark Tannat red variety, has developed hugely over the last 15 years, while its traditional singani spirit distilled from white Muscat of Alexandria grapes is also excellent.

Join us for a unique and personalised experience in one of the emerging wine regions in the world.

This trip can be combined with hiking in Calilegua or a longer tour also incorporating the new wine region of Jujuy province, Fourteen Colours and Cloud Forest.

Duration
5 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Wine and History: Mendoza to Cafayate

Take the long and winding road from Mendoza to Cafayate, visiting lesser known boutique wineries in San Juan, La Rioja, and Catamarca along the way.

This deep immersion into the wine and culture of Argentina is perfect for those who want to combine an exploration of the rich history of the region with some of its best off the beaten track wineries, while driving through some breathtaking scenery close to the Andes.

Our journey begins in the hub of Argentine wine production, Mendoza, taking the iconic Route 40 north through the emerging wine regions of La Rioja, Catamarca, and Tucuman.

Apart from some out of the way family wineries which can only be discovered with local knowledge, we also explore some of the most impressive pre-Hispanic historic sites in Argentina.

Click here to view map route.

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$625
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Duration
3 days
Group Size
1 to 4

Classic Wine Route

Explore the varied landscape of the Valles Calchaquies and its excellent boutique wineries in this Argentine wine tour par excellence.

Our Classic wine route combines Salta's superb boutique wineries in the highest altitude wine region in the world with the breathtaking landscape of north west Argentina.

Apart from the ubiquitous Malbec, this area is known for its fine Torrontes and Tannat, not to mention its wine ice cream!

We can often combine this trip with our Salt & 7 Colours tour by taking the mountain pass of Abra el Acay, the highest road crossing in the world outside the Himalayas, at just under 5,000m altitude.

Click here to view map route.

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$375