Published on March 24th, 2014 | by Kellie Bright
Got wine? A guide to South America’s best
Read time: a bit over 2 minutes
Photo courtesy of Francois Lurton | Flickr creative commons
We all know France, Italy and Spain make some kickass wines. But South America’s wine output is formidable too. Winemakers here have been using European stock since the Jesuits arrived in the new world, to produce wines that are uncorked, poured, swirled, tasted, drunk, exported and lauded is smoky bars and street side restaurants the world over. Taking a wine tour – or several – of the wineries is a sure-fire way to get clued up on the local grape juice.
But before all that, here’s the scoop on some of the main wine producing spots in South America. Go here, drink wine, have fun.
If you’re seeking the best wine tasting action, Mendoza is the perfect starting point. This city enjoys an extremely long spring and summer, which contributes to the health of the vines and the quality of the wines produced. Both good things.
If you’re travelling with a group, rent a car and visit the wineries on your own, (with a designated driver, duh) or book yourself onto a small group tour – which means the driving is taken care of. After you arrive, all that’s left for you to do is sit back and become familiar with the rolling hills and the…uh…wine.
In 2007, Argentina produced 2,900,000 metric tons of wine, putting it ahead of Chile in terms of production (although Chile actually exports more wine to other countries)
Argentina’s signature wine is Malbec, a red wine originally from the Bordeaux region of France. Argentina has been growing grapes for Malbec for over 150 years, but it only started to take off in the last 20 years or so. It’s a dark red, and some people describe hints of blackberries and coffee beans. We describe hints of delicious.
Don’t forget to head outside of Mendoza, to regions such as Salta. And take in the full gamut of what’s on offer including: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and also varieties such as Tempranillo, Bonarda, Barbera and Torrontés.
After you’ve navigated the wine trail in Argentina, it’s nice to spend a day or two in Uruguay, sampling what’s on offer. Like Argentina, Uruguay has a long history of wine-production that stretches back to its European ancestors. Because it’s pretty humid in places, it’s well situated to produce good wines. You must try its superstar drop, Tannat. It’s what this small, Atlantic nation is known for.
Most wine production takes place in the Canelones region, near the capital city of Montevideo.
Prepare for a surprise in Colombia, with the presence of Ain Karim, a vineyard that produces wines under the brand name Marqués de Villa de Leyva. It started production in the 1980s, in the foothills near Sutamarchán and boasts a Riesling, a German variety and Pinot Noir, originally from France.
Although Colombia sits outside the prime grape growing zone, producers came up with the idea to grow grapes at an altitude, to fulfill the need for daily temperature fluctuation.
Wet your whistle in Peru, just north of Chile and Argentina, where the Andes Mountains reign supreme. There are several wine-producing areas here. And even though wine tourism in Peru has only just started to grow, it doesn’t mean you can’t get a decent drop. Head out to the principle grape growing regions near Lima, Inca and Arequipa.
And if it turns out that wine isn’t your thing, or you’ve over-indulged on previous trips, make sure you ask for a Pisco Sour. This is the region’s signature drink and no trip here would be complete without one. Trust us.