Making wine at the end of the world…Bodega del Fin del Mundo
As I ventured further south into the Pampas and beyond of Argentina, it really did begin to feel like the end of the world. The Argentines have a phrase, “el culo del mundo” which roughly translates as the “ass of the world” . Once you’ve gone 15 hrs on a bus on a 2 lane highway that never wavers, never swerves, just one long, lone straight line that disappears into the distance, either side of the highway, not a hillock in sight, flat as a pancake, just the land and the sky. It is a lonely feeling.
Eventually, you do come upon a major settlement and that would be the capital city of Neuquen, deep in Patagonia. A dusty, low slung city, once you leave the city limits you are back into the desert and then, trees, a (man made) lake, signs of life. This is where Bodega del Fin Del Mundo is, 50 kms outside of Neuquen at a road that ends in vines.
The Bodega del Fin del Mundo winery, like most of the wineries in Neuquen is fairly new, having been built within the last 10 years. Lots of stainless steel tanks, state of the art technology and a good size cave, which houses more than 2000 oak barrels, both French and American, give it an up-to-the-minute feel despite it’s lonely location. The winery is technically in the designated grape producing region of San Particio del Chañar, within the Patagonian province of Neuquen. San Patricio del Chañar is very dry (less then 180 ml rainfall annually) and the winery relies on irrigation to water it’s 800 hectares of grapes. Another definitive factor in the grape production is the strong Patagonian winds that blow constantly, causing the grapes to have thick skins which contributes mightly to the colour without the need for much extraction.
BFDM grow a variety of red and white varietals, malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc amongst others. I tasted through their various ranges, from their entry-level Newen to Postales del fin del Mundo through to their premium Special Blend and was quite impressed by the subtle use of oak and the fine balance of fruit and acidity of the wines. My tour guide for the bodega, Juan, told me that the region naturally produces acidic wines, something that was also repeated to me at other wineries in the area.
As evidenced by the thousands of oak barrels in the cave, BFDM like to use oak in their winemaking, it stands to reason, seeing as they use the services of Michel Rolland as a wine consultant. Their wines do have a certain consistency to them but still manage to retain Patagonian characteristics. One wine that stood out for me was their 2008 Pinot Noir Reserva del Fin del Mundo. A 100% pinot noir, it was surprisingly light in colour, not Burgundian pale but not anywhere near as dark as other Patagonian pinots I had tried. I found it to have great acidic structure, medium bodied, floral on the nose with excellent red berries, raspberries and a touch of smoke on the palate. A very smooth pinot.
I also really liked their sparkling wine, the Extra Brut del Fin del Mundo, a chardonnay/pinot noir blend, they still practice remuage as I witnessed while I was touring the winery. I love the fact that they still adhere to those old traditions. Probably helps also that they have a small production of sparkling at the moment. A lovely soft-hued salmon in colour with loads of bubbly personality, the wine was chock full of tropical aromas while still remaining pleasingly dry with bready, toasty notes on the nose and a lively mouthfeel, the attack of the bubbles was persistent, just enough to tickle your nose. I found a raspberry-ish note on the finish, a very elegant sparkler.
Nice to know that they are producing such fantastic wine at the “end of the world”. If you can’t quite make it to San Patricio del Chañar, the Bodega has recently opened a wine bar/restaurant in the heart of the barrio of Palermo in Buenos Aires, Experiencia del Fin del Mundo, (my review here on Haidu.net) which saves you the trek of getting to Patagonian wind swept plateaus, unless of course, you WANT to go there….