I have to be honest and say that I didn’t take that many photographs of Cafayate. It is indeed a very pleasant place to visit and only staying one night really wasn’t long enough for us, but we only had the car for a few days. We arrived in the late afternoon and once we were settled in our B&B we set out to explore the town before the sun went down. The town is mainly residential with shops and restaurants centered around the main square and the main road. The architecture is very smart and many houses wouldn’t look out-of-place in some suburbs of California, Miami and the like. There are many trees which help keep the area cool as the climate is very sunny and quite dry. Perfect for growing grapes that ultimately get turned into wine! More about that later!
The town felt very safe and we wandered around looking into the shops and noting where some of the Bodegas were so we could come back and do some wine tasting the next day. Considering the amount of wine grown in the area, we would have thought that there would be more shops devoted to wine and wine paraphernalia, but they mostly seemed to sell tacky souvenirs. We eventually found a restaurant in the square and had some very good steak washed down with a very good Malbec. We sat outdoors and people watched as we had our dinner.
The next morning we visited el Museo de la Vid y El Vino, the museum of vines and wine. I have to admit that we were a bit underwhelmed by the museum at first. If you can get through reading sentimental poems about vines, you will eventually get to some interesting information. The vines grown in the Cafayate region are at some of the highest altitude in the world. The vines are grown at an average altitude of 3,000 to 4,000 meters high. The temperature in the daytime is very high and the sun and heat help create the much-needed sugars in wine production. At night, the temperature can get quite cold and this stops the sugars from overdevelopment in the fruit. Because the area is arid, man controls the amount of water that the vines receive, so that they will never get too much. This water control, combined with hot days and cool evenings, makes for consistently good wine in Argentina. You can go into any supermarket in Argentina and pull off a drinkable bottle of wine off of the shelf. Granted that some wines are certainly better than others, however, Argentina produces consistently decent wine. Although we learned a lot about wine production at the wineries in Mendoza, the museum teaches you about the process of growing the grapes before it gets to production stage. The museum was very interesting and indeed well worth a visit.
The Cafayate area is best known for their Torrontés wine and soon became a fast favorite of mine. (Note: We have had some since we have been back in the UK and believe that the Argentines save the best for themselves. You can also buy French Torrontés also, but it tastes very different.) Bob quite enjoyed it as well though he tends to favor red wine. Torrontés is mainly white with a very fruity nose consisting of soft fruits and ripe peaches and orange blossoms. It ranges from being sweet to semi-dry. We ended up buying 6 bottles of it from different Bodegas. :)
There are quite a few Bodegas in the town and unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit all of them. There is a wine route for the area and it would be great to have a few days to visit some more. Because we had to drive back to Salta to hand in the car, we had wine tastings at two Bodegas down the road from where we were staying and then we had an amazing lunch at Bodega Nanni afterwards.
There was a set lunch menu and we both had the Lomo with a Tannat wine sauce that came with 1/2 bottle of Tannat wine each. The Lomo was succulent and tender and the wine was full-bodied and fruity. The meal was followed by frozen Torrontés grapes served with a scoop of Torrontés ice cream and fresh grapes to nibble on. This was definitely one of the best meals we had in Argentina. After lunch we had a quick wine tasting and readied ourselves to head back to Salta.