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 Filed as : Regional SpotlightArgentina

Planet Patagonia

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  • Publish Date: Jan 12, 2010

Most of us think of Mendoza when it comes to Argentine wine. But a two-hour flight to the south will land you near the 39th parallel, in an emerging wine producing area set in an extraordinary landscape.

As you may have noticed while watching Planet Earth, if you approach from the north, the snowy, cloud-misted peaks of the Andes loom over a vast, fissured, bronze moonscape devoid of vegetation. As the Neuquén River plain comes into view, a carpet of vibrant green slices across the desert, announcing the presence of water. Once on the ground, the air is pure, clean and dry, with a brilliant clarity that shows the horizon in sharp detail. Make you want to go?

This is essentially the southernmost limit of viticultural viability, roughly equivalent to Germany in the north. But unlike the northern viticultural zone, only South Africa and New Zealand’s south island share this far reach of the southern zone with Patagonia. The environment is pristine, and the arid soil, which requires irrigation, stops plant diseases in their tracks. Vines can be planted without grafting and cultivated organically. In concert with the cold Andean nights, this makes for remarkably healthy fruit and some remarkable wines.

These wines are striking in their vivid fruit purity, with beautifully defined varietal character and fresh natural balance. Excellent values are the rule rather than the exception. Look for Bodega del Fin del Mundo, Humberto Canale, and for a relative splurge, Bodega Chacra and Bodega Noemia.

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