Cafayate is a wine-producing region in the north-west of Argentina and it is part of the Calchaqui Valley wine region. The Cafayate wine area is one of the highest places in the world that is suitable for viticulture, as the majority of the region’s vineyards are located at 1700m above sea level. The altitude affects both the climate and the terroir, which both make the area suitable for viticulture. Wines from the Cafayate wine is perhaps one of the best produced in Argentina; Torrontes Rioja and Malbec are the most popular and high-quality varieties from Cafayate. Surrounded by the magical Calchaquí Valleys, with its dramatic desert and mountain landscapes, the Cafayate wine region is a great place to enjoy nature and taste amazing wine.
The Argentinean law for the regulation of the denomination of origin was first established in the 1980s and then modified in 1999. As of today, the Cafayate sub-region, as part of the Salta wine region, owns a GI (Geographical Indication) appellation. In this way, it is easier to know where the grapes are from and their origin has to be verified and stated on the bottle.
Climate and Soil of Cafayeate
The Cafayate wine region is located on the Equator but, thanks to the perfect mix and balance of climate and soil, viticulture is a very successful business. Due to the altitude, the variation between daily and night temperatures is very high; for example, during the growing season, the difference is more or less around 15°C. The cold night temperature is powered by the winds from the near Andes. During the day, the climate is mainly desertic with a very low rainfall rate and low humidity.
The soil in the Cafayate wine region primarily consists of free-draining sandy loams. The soils are naturally very dry, due to the extreme climatic conditions; this brings to lower production of grapes with an overall reduced yield. The vineyards grown in this type of terroir produce very concentrated grapes with thicker skins that will then provide stronger wines.
The terroir in the Cafayate wine region is particularly suitable for growing Torrontes grapes, which results in a fruit-forward and crisp white wine. As it concerns red varieties, grapes of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat result in full-bodied red wines with a rich complex structure.
Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tannat
White: Torrontes Riojano
What to Expect from Cafayate Wine
The most planted variety in the Cafayate wine region is the white grape Torrontes. Torrontes is a fragrant, warm yellow wine with distinctive aromas of pineapple, orange blossom, apricot, and lychee. All these fruity aromas make the wine very refreshing and perfect for an aperitif on a hot day. The citrus aftertaste provides a well-balanced acidity in the mouth.
Malbec is the second most planted grape and the main red one in Cafayate. Malbec wine has an intense red colour and a pronounced structure on the palate. The main aromas are those of black fruits and vanilla, and a soft flavour of smoke gives the wine a strong and balanced finish. Malbec Rosé is also produced, and it is an elegant medium-bodied wine that keeps all the main aromas of the red Malbec.
Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyards of the Cafayate wine region has a deep purple color. This variety of Cabernet has a full body, and its aromas of spices and red fruits deliver a strong elegant finish on the palate.
The Bodega El Esteco winery is located right at the heart of the Cafayate wine region, the center of the Calchaqui Valley. Once you arrive, you are welcomed by the magnificent white Colonial building and you find yourself immersed in a stunning landscape. The winery was opened at the end of the 19th century by two French immigrants; the two current owners know very well the potentiality of the terroir in Cafayate and are able to produce magnificent and high-quality wines.
The respect of nature and of ancient winemaking traditions comes first at the Bodega El Esteco. This mindset is what makes their top-class Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Torrontes luscious.
Have a look at our selection of Wineries in Cafayate with open cellar door and the greatest hospitality!
Places to Visit in the Cafayate Wine Region
Municipal Market of Crafts of Cafayate – Support Local Businesses
The Market of Crafts opened for the first time in 1975, as a big ‘showroom’ for the main artisans from Cafayate. After a couple of years, the Mercado Municipal de Artisanías officially became central to the life of the municipality.
The market is open daily from early morning until late in the evening and its main aim today is to preserve and showcase the amazing local manufactures and food.
Catedral Nuestra Senora del Rosario – The Soul of Cafayate
The Cathedral of Our Lady of Rosary is the main landmark of Cafayate, and it actually, is located at the center of the city. The actual cathedral was built at the end of the 19th century, as the old church was in ruins. The cathedral has five navies and built in a Spanish colonial architectural style.
Museum of the Vine and Wine of Cafayate – Learn more about the Tuscany of Argentina
Cafayate wine region is among the most popular and best wine-producing areas of entire Argentina, and it should come as no surprise that there is an entire museum dedicated to viticulture in the city.
The Museum of the Vine and Wine (Museo de la Vid y el Vino) is located in a bright red building and is divided into two main rooms; here, exhibitions and memorabilia related to wine traditions from the Calchaqui Valley wine region are kept.
A new technology is now available in the museum, the ‘virtual guide’, that will accompany you around the exhibitions and will explain all the secrets and stories related to winemaking. La Guía Virtual will appear to you as you move around the museum.
Nature to See in the Cafayate Wine Region
Quebrada de las Conchas – All Red Everything
The Quebrada de las Conchas is a natural reserve located to the west of the town of Cafayate, right in the middle of the Calchaqui Valley. The landscape of the Quebrada is dominated by a series of bright red rock formations.
To better experience, the beauties of the reserve, drive along with the Ruta National 68 that follows the stream of the Las Conchas River. The more you enter the Quebrada, the more you will discover incredible and unique geological formations; these are the ones not to miss: El Anfiteatro, las Ventanas, la Garganta del Diablo, and Los Castillos.
Cascades del Rio Colorado – A Watery Paradise
Only 10km outside the city of Cafayate, you can immerse yourself in the untouched and enchanted environment of Rio Colorado Springs. The trekking path that will take you to the waterfalls is an incredible journey.
Watch out, the more you go further discovering all the waterfalls, the more the trail becomes difficult. If you are not an expert hiker, you can stop by the second or third fall and chill on one of the big rocks and soak in the energy from nature.
Food to Try in the Cafayate Wine Region
Cafayate Goat Cheese – In a Love Story with Wine
We all know how perfect the pairing wine+cheese is, right? In fact, the two main products and excellence of the Cafayate wine region are wine and goat cheese. Outside of the city, many goat farms produce high-quality cheese and only wait for visitors to go learning about and tasting goat cheese.
Some wineries even produce their own goat cheese in order to serve it with their wines during tasting experiences.
Wine Ice-Cream and Sorbet – Wine for a Hot Summer Day
The town of Cafayate, the real center of the wine production of the area, is full of ice-cream shops that serve Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat ice-cream. If you get bored of having wine in a glass, just enter one of the many parlours and ask for some wine on a cone.
The first shop to serve wine ice-cream was Heladería Miranda, the actual first shop in Cafayate.
Share about Cafayate Wine Region:
Soil: Free-draining sandy loams
Climate: Desert climate with low rainfalls and humidity