Cafayate is the north of Argentina’s answer to much more well-known big sister Mendoza: And it very much deserves the reputation it’s garnering.
Being where torrontés grapes are typically grown, Cafayate is a white wine lover’s paradise while malbec Mendoza is the mecca of red.
Remembering how last time we’d drunk anything together, it had been our body weight in tea; Victoria, Steve and I took off excitedly to explore what the village’s vineyards have to offer.
From winery to winery by foot
While in Mendoza, you need to hop on a bike and hope for the best to visit the vineyards, Cafayate’s smaller size means that several splendid bodegas are more than comfortably reachable by foot.
We began around lunch time, hungry for goat’s cheese. Nursing three enormous cravings, off we trotted to Cabras de Cafayate accompanied by three little dogs who took it upon themselves to escort us the 1km from Cafayate’s main plaza.
When we got there, there was still half an hour until it was supposed to open. An excellent amount of time for a nap; an option which Steve took to wholeheartedly. I personally, choofed off to enjoy the chickens clucking away nearby, look at the mountains and wish I lived on a farm.
When I came back, almost an hour had passed, the place was still tightly shut and our goat’s cheese cravings (now vicious) seemed to be destined to go unsatisfied that day.
But it wasn’t an entire waste. We communed with puppies and chickens, and this absolutely fantastic banana-pancake coloured horse came up to say hi.
The day’s vineyards
So, the vineyards were now calling. Salvador Figueroa was the first on the list; a family run bodega which produces only 5000 bottles of wine a year, unavailable in supermarkets. Malbec was the wine of choice, two samples setting us back 10 pesos.
Three samples were free (yippee!!)…but its cold service lost it points.
But not to worry, as what turned out to be my favourite bodega was yet to come: Nanni. The atmosphere was rustic and the staff professional but friendly…decked out like visions from a Salma Hayek movie set in colourful Mexico, rather than northern Argentina. For 10 pesos, four wines were provided ranging from torrontés to malbec and sweet to dry – and a mini lesson on wine tasting given.
One more bodega was on the cards, Hermanos Domingo, where our goat’s cheese graving was finally dealt with: They provided cheese from the same farm we’d waited at so dutifully that morning (serious props here!). Two wines were provided along with cheese samples, again for 10 pesos…and a sweet little mountain view to boot.
That was it for the wine wander…but do hold on, as there are some other wonderful, must mention and must eat things about Cafayate. Empanadas and wine ice cream (yes, you read that correctly! Best picks for each are an easy wander from the main plaza and will have you hooked during your stay.
We ate kilos of veggie empanadas: not the boring cheese ones usually available, but lovely little packages filled with such delectable goodies as (again!) goat’s cheese as well as pesto, corn, roast tomatoes…the list goes on. We spent many an hour at La Casa de la Empanada…
…as did a lot of other people, it seems.
When you’ve finished up (though, you’ll certainly be back) head to Heladería Miranda for a torrontés or malbec ice cream.
I can’t comment on the malbec – as it DID seem a little odd to me – but I will say that the inventor of the torrontés should be knighted.
Cafayate is a gorgeous little town, a stone’s throw from Salta and a laid-back, friendly place to spend a day, week, probably even a month steadily working your way through its wine list.
- Cafayate is a four hour bus ride from both Salta and Tucumán in northern Argentina.
- It’s known for its bodegas and principally, the torrontés grape. Vineyards can be reached by bike or on foot, depending on how many you want to be able to see in a day/how energetic you’re feeling.
- Gorgeous, recommendable sights on the way from Tucumán include Tafí del Valle, the ruins at Quilmes and La Quebrada de Cafayate.
- On the way to Salta, you’ll pass La Quebrada de las Conchas.