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Mention Argentinean wine, and most minds wander to Mendoza, a western city famous for its malbecs.
But a wine-focused Argentina itinerary should also include a few days in Cafayate, located in the northwest province of Salta.
There are many reasons Cafayate is worth exploring. For one, it’s easy to mix adventure with wine tasting here. The Calchaqui Valley — with its vibrant red rocks and unspoiled desert landscape — is scenic, wide-open and uncrowded, allowing for memorable sips between (or after) hikes and bike rides.
And the wine is unique here, too: At an elevation of 5,522 feet above sea level, Cafayate produces some of the world’s most high-altitude wines (which is something of a bragging right since altitude is believed to help preserve acidity, increase minerality and deepen color and tannins). Several grapes thrive here, but none can outshine torrontes, which produces a smooth, aromatic, fruity and crisp white wine that’s a little too easy to drink during Cafayate’s many days of sunshine.
The region is also home to several boutique wineries that offer intimate wine-tasting experiences in one-of-a-kind desert landscapes. At Domingo Molina winery, my group — led by local tour operator Kallpa — admired the cactus-lined vineyard before enjoying a tasting and tour of the family brand’s new facilities, followed by a leisurely lunch of more wine, local cheese and empanadas.