Noemia

The local bus was taking forever. On the map there looked to be about 40 kms between Neuquen and Rio Negro, not far, there in half an hour. However, I forgot that I was traveling in South America and nothing is ever quick or fast on a bus, even if it was the “express” bus, it’s a term used very loosely in this part of the world. I swear we stopped at every other street corner along the way. I was in Patagonia and to get here it takes 15 hours on a bus from Buenos Aires, down a lonely 2-lane highway. It really did feel like the bottom of the world. Isolated, windswept desert vistas as far as the eye can see, with the occasional tiny settlement on the Patagonian steppe. While it may not look like the ideal place to grow grapes and is hundreds of miles away from any “real” civilization, Patagonia has proven to be the place to go for adventurous wines makers. I had been alerted to the vineyards of Rio Negro from the winemakers of Neuquen, which I had been visiting. Go there if you want to try wines from old vines, they said. It was just a short drive away, 40 kms. “That’s nothing”, or so I thought, to the Rio Negro Valley. The Rio Negro Valley is 625 miles south of Buenos Aires but it was one of the first regions to produce wine on a large scale in Argentina. As a matter of fact, 100 years ago, it was the place to go for quality Argentine wines. Over the years, though, farmers found it more profitable and easier to grow apples and pears and most of the vineyards were grubbed up and replaced with fruit orchards. There are still a few wineries in the area and the land is quite suitable for viticulture, being in an irrigated oasis in the Patagonian desert. As the vineyards are in the desert, there are very few, if any,...

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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,...

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