Cafayate (Argentina)

Most people know about the best French and Italian wines, but a small northwest region of Argentina is producing some amazing wines without the world noticing. Cafayate, Argentina is located in the central zone of the Valles Calchaquies in the province of Salta. The wines of Cafayate benefit from mild weather and low humidity throughout the year, and with an average rainfall of just 250mm the vines are forced to stretch deep into the mineral rich soil to find the water they need.  What lacks in rain is made up by melting runoff from the surrounding mountains.

The Cafayates were a tribe of the Diaguita-Calchaqui group which inhabited the Valles Calchaiquies prior to the arrival of Spanish Conquistadores.  Like many Diaguita tribe they fell under the rule and influence of the powerful Inca.

Known primarily for producing Torrontés, the perfumed, fruity white, there is also great richness in the Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat wines produced here.  The region is often reffered to as the second center for wines in Argentina and is quickly becoming a tourist destination but still maintains a small-town feel.

The region is only 189 km (117 mi) from the city of Salta, but the high altitude (1683 meters) so great for producing wines makes it feel like another world all together.  Spectacular views, warm days, and cold nights make Cafayate the perfect location for a day-trip from busy Salta.

Travel Tips

  • Buy some wine to take home with you.   Most of the vineyards offer free tours and sell their wines on-site.  The Malbecs are sturdy enough to survive in a backpack for a few weeks and will remind you of the beautiful landscape.  They are also hard to find in much of the rest of the world.
  • Tip your host.  Most vineyards that offer tasting and tours do so free of charge so it is customary to leave a little cash for the bartender.  This is a nice thing to do at any vineyard around the world.
  • There are plenty of places to stay at a variety of costs but there is little nightlife.
  • There are plenty of tours with large groups but the cost is just a little more to take a private tour from Salta.  Private tours will often pick you up at your hotel and deliver you back when the day is finished.
  • Buy some wine to take home with you.  The only problem with the wines from Cafayate is that they are hard to find outside of the region