The Andean Shire: Wines from the South 

The Andean Shire: Wines from the South 

The Andean Shire stretches from Bariloche in Río Negro down to Trevelin in Chubut. This new oenotourism route is establishing itself especially in the latter province where it features the most southerly vineyards in the world. With a little more than 130 hectares under vine, the province has 21 different producers. Some are quite large, such as Otronia, whose vineyards span 50 hectares, and Patagonian Wines who account for 15, but the majority are small projects of between 2 and 6 hectares who have added grape vines to their soft fruit and apple plantations, excited by the potential of a terroir that is turning heads on the wine scene in Argentina and all around the world.

Andean Shire

Also known as the Andean Corridor, the Andean Shire  connects twelve wine producing locations: three in Río Negro and nine in Chubut, where one finds the 42° parallel. The pioneering winery was Patagonian Wines, which began in the town of El Hoyo in 1998, a product of the vision of Bernardo Weinert, the founder of Bodega y Cavas de Weinert and the oenologist Darío González Maldonado.

The early years were not easy. The locals were incredulous; no one had ever planted vines in these latitudes. No one thought it would be possible. Today, 25 years on, the terroirs of Chubut still have plenty of surprises in store.   

In the Patagonian province, which only accounts for 1% of the surface area under vine in the country, the queens are the cold climate and short cycle grapes such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay. 

Andean Shire

“You can feel the terroir in the wine. In our case, it fell to me to restore the vineyards after a fire and today I am proud that we are able to produce a high quality product that reflects the character of this unusual region. This is a forested area, rainfall is 1000 mm a year, it’s a different kind of environment and that comes out in what we produce,” says Oscar Ayestarán, the owner of Bodega Ayestarán Allard in El Hoyo. The winery is 200 m2 and the labels are decorated with an arrow in honor of the indigenous Tehuelche people who were the first inhabitants of the region.

The Andean Shire and its vineyards 

Andean Shire

The vineyards in this region are small due to the local geography, which makes larger estates impossible: most are garage-style, craft operations. 

Here, one generally finds urban vineyards, meaning small plantations in gardens and lots, bringing the community together through wine. 

The biggest challenge in the Andean Shire are the frosts, both those in late spring and early autumn. The former cause the greatest damage because if the first buds freeze, the vines must expend a lot of energy budding again and the quality is affected. It is thus imperative around here to stay vigilant against the frosts. Protection is provided by spraying water over the leaves to form a sheltering layer of ice, a practical technique thanks to the abundance of water.   

The wines of Chubut have a natural acidity and complex aromas due to the great thermal range, which can be as much as 25°C between day and night. Such qualities are to be found in the wines produced by Fincas del Pirque, a project run by Ulises Neculman, the former principal of the Technical School in El Hoyo, which was founded in 2018. The same conditions allow for organic vegetable gardens that, in the case of Aluminé Honik in Cabañas al Sur, sit side by side with rows of vines at a height of 1300 feet, offering a view of the entire valley.  

It was here that the “First 42° Parallel Provincial Harvest Festival” was held during which participating wineries opened their doors to welcome tourists and locals. “This year, we opened the winery to the community and visitors. We held harvesting competitions and the traditional grape pressing ceremony, among other activities,” says Estanislao Bougain, the co-owner of Patagonian Wines, in El Hoyo, who adds, “it was a great experience sharing our wines, which embody the terroir, the climate, the environment and the vineyards, which are now a little more than 20 years old.” 

Viviana Kohler, the owner of Vinos Kohler, had a similar experience. “This year, for the first time, we were brave enough to welcome visitors for the harvest celebration, inviting people into our vineyard and doing it well. This year was also the first during which we made wines in our garage winery. We love sharing the project, which began with my father, because we make easy to drink wines for ordinary people.”   

“Our wines maintain their essence for a long time, they’re fresh and easy to drink. This is a unique place, due to the distances and associated difficulties,” adds Emanuel Rodriguez, Head of Oenology at Viñas del Nant y Fall in Trevelin.

If you found this article about the Andean Shire interesting, you can read more here


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