The high-altitude wine country around Cafayate ranks among the world’s most beautiful, with vineyards framed by rugged mountains and reliably blue skies. In fact, the climate is dry enough for columnar cacti to grow among the vines! Nevertheless, the wines delight with their fragrant aromas and impressive concentration. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more critical praise for Cafayate wines in the near future.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Piattelli vineyards overlooking the Calchaquí Valleys, dining on sweetbreads with lentils, and local kid with red pepper purée and tiny Andean potatoes. The 2014 Grand Reserve Malbec I tried with the goat had rich dark fruit and a gorgeously supple texture. I was just as pleased by the fresh and well-balanced 2015 Torrontés Reserve. I fell into conversation with the winemaker, Alejandro Nesman, who was lunching at a neighboring table, and I mentioned how much the local Torrontés had improved since my last visit to Salta. He agreed, saying, “In this region, things started to change only 10 years ago, and five years ago, they really changed.” He continued, “Making wine in Europe is much easier, but I think there is a lot of future here in Argentina, and especially in Cafayate.” I certainly wouldn’t disagree.
Because we visited El Porvenir winery in the center of Cafayate in autumn, we were able to try several wines straight from the fermentation tanks. They were clearly not ready for consumption, but it was fascinating to taste these young wines and to recognize many of the components they would later display in the bottle. In the tasting room, we sampled some of El Porvenir’s single-vineyard wines, such as a 2015 Finca El Retiro Vineyard Torrontés redolent of tropical fruit and exotic spice, a 2014 Río Seco Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon shot through with paprika and white pepper, and a hearty 2013 Río Seco Vineyard Syrah. Don’t miss the unusual oak-fermented Torrontés.