You wouldn't bet on a Bolivian wine? Well you are wrong! If in the past the country was never considered as a great wine producer, today Bolivian wine is in line with its Chilean and Argentinean neighbours. Two main valleys offer the best wines of Bolivia. Let's discover them with the local travel agency Bolivia Excepción :
The Tarija region represents 83% of the national wine production. This is due to its mild climate and fertile soil, reminiscent of Spain's wine-growing regions. As in the whole of Latin America, it was the Jesuits who imported the vine into the country for the needs of the mass. The Cabernet Sauvignon is particularly present in this region. It is a grape variety that adapts very well to all soils and produces recognisable colourful and tannic wines.
Our favourite stopover: Bodega Campos de Solana
The most famous winery in the country, it has been run for more than fifteen years by the Granier family. The vineyards located at an altitude of more than 1,850 metres receive more sunshine than in traditional wineries, which gives the grapes a more intense content of flavours and aromas. In addition to this unbeatable natural resource, the Campos de Solana winery has a team of professionals who are well versed in the most modern technological advances. Here you can taste the Colección de Altura (Altitude Collection): made with the best grapes from the vineyard, this wine is then left to rest for 2 years in French oak barrels and surprises with its woody notes. It is composed of 50% petit verdot, 25% tannat and 25% malbec and goes very well with cheese and red meat.
Further north, in the Chuquisaca region, the wine route continues to the Los Cintis Valley. The wineries there are more rustic and traditional than those in the Tarija region and produce a lot of singani, the national grape-based liqueur. The Cerro Cuchilluni mountain range, which protects the valley from strong winds, and its temperate climate make it a particularly suitable area for the cultivation of vines. In addition, the soil is loaded with iron and gives the fruit a unique flavour that is found in the local wines. Here a lot of Alexandrian Muscat is grown for white wine and Singani, Merlot and Riesling imported by the German Jesuits. We also find torrontés, the emblematic wine of the Argentinean Northwest.
Our favourite stopover: Bodega de la Villa
What we appreciated during our visit to the bodega was its traditional and ecological approach to agriculture. The production of wine on these lands goes back a very long time; one would think one was in a living museum of an almost obsolete production method. This is partly due to the scarcity of arable land in the area: winegrowers are then forced to close their rows of vines, preventing any tractor from passing. The biodynamic agriculture advocated by the Bodega de la Villa is a holistic vision of nature, in relation to astronomy. In fact, the grapes are cultivated, maintained and harvested respecting the lunar cycles.
Singani is to Bolivia what Pisco is to Peru: its flagship alcohol. Elaborated from the muscat grape variety of Alexandria, it is the geographical and meteorological conditions of Bolivia that pushed the winegrowers to create this singular liqueur. On the one hand, the vines produce grapes with a high sugar concentration thanks to the high altitude and strong sun exposure, which are conducive to the production of syrupy alcohols. On the other hand, the violent rains characteristic of the Tarija region sometimes make it impossible to harvest the ripening fruit. Winegrowers cannot therefore keep the wine for long periods and have come up with the idea of using distillation rather than fermentation to overcome this disadvantage. This is how they obtain a grape liqueur at 70°: the singani. Very popular, the singani can be drunk neat or in cocktails: the Chufflay (singani, lemonade), the Poncho Negro (singani, coca) or the Yungueñito (singani, orange juice).
I don't know about you, but we'd love to organize a Bolivian dinner to test some good bottles from the country and sip cocktails with exotic names!
To learn more about the wine route in Bolivia: http://www.bolivia-excepcion.com/guide-voyage/caves-vins-bolivie/route-vin-bolivie
Agathe (Argentina Exception)
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