Twenty hours after setting off from Iguazu I arrived in Salta which an unassuming town with a nice main square in Northwest Argentina. I was due to rendezvous with Tim and Eugene again to head down to the Cafayate wine region about 2 hours south.
Our car journey brought us through barren multi-coloured barren landscapes called the Quebrada de Cafayate which have various named rock formation like ‘The Frog’ which provide a bit of distraction along the way.
Some intrepid souls were cycling in the baking heat of the middle of the day with no shade – we were happy with aircon and some tunes in the rental car watching the multicoloured scenery go by.
I was staying in a nice little hostel with a vine coloured courtyard where somewhat strangely all the guests spoke German – even the two new ones who arrived from Canada. I’ve met more Germans on this trip than any other country I would say. Who knows, perhaps they are the only young Europeans who are secure enough financially to head off travelling for a while.
Cafayate is a pretty laid back town – so laid back in fact it’s the kind of place which has donkeys in the main square to tend the grass.
This time our wine tour was self-organised and we decided to hit some of the local wineries whose local speciality is the Torrentes wine variety.
Our first visit in the morning was to a winery which looked straight out of Dynasty or Dallas and one of the oldest in the– Patio Winery.
Like much of those areas in the rain-shadow of the Andes this would be semi-desert were it not for irrigation and some of the vineyard owners have cleverly worked native plants into the area.
Our second stop was Domingo Molina high up the valley and our tasting was out on the terrace.
A short roll down the hill was the Bodega Piatelli estate for lunch in beautiful surroundings on their terrace and with a wine tasting menu. I didn’t notice too many backpackers but you have to have a treat now and then. In all honesty I don’t remember much of the wines except that the entire lunch was executed perfectly!
What was frustrating about visiting Argentinian vineyards is that, apart from karting around bottles in my backpack, there aren’t many good options for buying. It’s not possible to post liquids through the Argentinian mail and the complex tariff restrictions and currency control add another layer of complication to the whole process. It must be maddening for a producer looking to grow based on exports.
In any case we still had an afternoon booking down in the town for our last tasting along with an Australian couple who were downing the glasses in double quick time which put us all to shame!