Thursday, 19 September 2013

Wine, fabulous wine and snow!

Our latest foray took us from Mendoza out into the Uco Valley. The temperature difference was dramatic as we climbed over the sierra frontier onto the Uco plateau; from 42C in Cordoba we saw the temperature gauge plummet to -6C!

The Uco Valley is stunning; it's spine down its west side is the magnificent Andes range and the border to Chile. It is this spine, the altitude (700-1700m), the poor soil (terroir) and the warm day/cold night variations which create such a perfect wine-growing microclimate in the valley. Famous winemakers from Bordeaux have been so impressed by it they have invested here - names such as Lurton, Dassault, Rothschild and Rolland.

The two famous peaks towering over the Uco are Aconcagua (6962m) and Tupungato (6570m) - the latter is considered a death zone for climbers, whilst its taller sister, Aconcagua has a relatively well worn and easy path. Sadly we saw neither because the cloud was so low; but we did drive our tinny hired Chevrolet along some snowy tracks to the Chile border!

We went to visit just one winery out in the Uco - Salentein. It is a stunning, modern Dutch-owned winery and was one of the Uco pioneers. They produce 1.6 million bottles a year, pick by hand - like all other vineyards in Argentina. Salentein also farms (beef), in Entre Rios and Corrientes and grows fruit in Argentina.

Even for wine novices like us, their facilities, practices and premises are state-of-the-art impressive. They have 2,000 hectares in the Uco valley, with vines growing on 800has - which suggests scope for expansion.  

The wines were superb. Their Sauvingnon Blanc was crisp and fresh (more like a French wine), their Portillo Malbec stunning and their Merlot unusually powerful.

We stayed in the most amazing place in the Uco, Tupungato Divino. It's in the middle of nowhere and was started up by friends - Pablo (an economist) and Sergio (an architect) - both of who wanted to leave life in Buenos Aires and start something and somewhere different. What an amazing job they have done - the place is wild and stunning, the restaurant and food dvine, and a wine list that would take you a year to get through. Unbelievable steak too. Christina their front of house and housekeeper was just lovely, waited on us hand and foot. It's almost worth going to Argentina just to stay in this place!

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