Surrounded by the gigantic Andes Mountains, the San Juan wine region is the second largest in Argentina. It is placed in the north-western area, at Cuyo, amid La Rioja and Mendoza, in a less than 2-hour flight from the capital city, Buenos Aires. The extraordinary landscape of the San Juan wine region can amaze visitors on wine tours. The San Juan wines have unique characteristics, as the winemakers built knowledge in cultivate grapevines in cooler sites, creating high-quality yields. The first vineyards were made by the Spanish and, even as a New World wine region, the European grapes rule there, with extensive areas of Malbec and the crown jewel, Syrah.
Discover the Unique Wines of San Juan Cold Valleys
The wines of San Juan are something that people can’t forget. In the valleys spread in this region of Argentina, the agricultural land is synonym of viticulture, with more than half of its use for grape crops.
By the 15th century, the first vines were planted by the Spanish in San Juan. The tradition of winemaking remained with Spanish and Italian immigrants on site. San Juan is a historical producer of table wines.
Something that makes the San Juan wine region a special place for exquisite wines is its’ climate. The vines raise in dry continental weather, even though the San Juan and Jachal rivers provide natural irrigation. The mountains create life in the foothills when meltwater nourishes the vineyards in extra irrigation. Most of the vines receive excellent luminosity until the shadows of the Andes overlaps the space. Those conditions combined with warm winds, alluvial soils, and an equilibrated cold temperature create an ideal terroir for quality wines.
The Sub-Regions of San Juan
The snow-capped ridges, rivers, and valleys of San Juan integrate three main sub-regions.
Considering the wine production, the Tulum Valley is the most significant sub-region. The other two are the Padernal Valley, which has high-quality grapes under vine, and the Zonda Valley, named by a dry and hot wind created in the Andes rain shadows.
The sub-regions are further divided into different GIs (Geographical Indications). Slight changes in the terroir transform the layers of flavors of San Juan wines. The GIs in this region are Ullum, Tulum Valey, Pedernal Valley, Zonda Valley, and Calingasta. It is worth to try every one of them!
The main varieties under vine here are the red grapes Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda, and Cabernet Sauvignon. White grapes widely spread are different varieties of Torrontés. Moreover, the pink grape Criolla Chica cultivated at San Juan produces wine of sugary flavor.
White: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Moscatel de Alejandria
Are you Ready to Taste Unique Flavors from Argentina?
Here, we put together wines to try in San Juan:
Argentina is well known for the high-quality Malbec wines, a flagship grape in the San Juan wine region. The mulberry-color wines have a full-body, fruity presence. The aromas of these wines resemble forest berries, as the silky tannins compose a balanced flavor.
The second most produced grape in the province is Bordana, not the Italian one, but also called Douce Noir, which builds aromas in black cherry and aniseed. It has a deep ruby color and high acidity, offering a delightful wine experience.
Traditional grapes as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon also compose the signature of San Juan wines. Those varieties provide wines of intense color. Those varieties can guarantee a great wine tasting.
The white grapes of the region have a particular aspect. The reason is that the Torrontés grapes, the most cultivated, are found only in Argentina. Torrontés Sanjuanino develops fresher and lighter wines, and Torrontés Riojano can be fruity and dry simultaneously. Certainly, unique wines.
Chardonnay vines are spread among white grapes of the region. Its versatility can provide a range of wines, including excellent sparkling ones. Moreover, San Juan produces typical sweet wines with high quality, creating an aroma explosion in the nose and delicate flavors from varieties such as:
Have a look at our selection of Wineries in San Juan with open cellar door and the greatest hospitality!
Places to Visit in San Juan
El Leoncito Astronomical Complex – Exploring the Night Sky
If you are willing to try something from outer space, the Leoncito Astronomical Complex may be the right choice. Located in the department of Calingasta, in the province of San Juan, the area is distinguished by the high quality of the night sky, displaying phenomenal nocturnal observations. The two astronomical observatories are located above 2500 meters of altitude, amid the Sierra del Tontal. Its position strategically provides a natural barrier to the light pollution of the city, guaranteeing magnificent skies.
Casa Natal de Sarmiento – Learn about Argentina’s History
La Casa Natal de Sarmiento is a museum and Argentina’s first national historical monument. Named by the journalist, writer, and former President of Argentina Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, the place is his birthplace house. As a museum and library, it narrates Sarmento’s childhood and memories. Different interactive technologies display the content, making it an engaging tour.
Museo de la Memoria Urbana – Getting to Know the Origins and Milestones of the City
Another attractive touristic place that worths the visit is the Museo de la Memoria Urbana. This spot exposes the architectural and social history of San Juan, depicting history graphically by chronology. Notably, some critical events that marked the city are highlighted:
The 1994 highly destructive earthquake, which dived the city’s history with a before and after mark;
Testimonies of pre-Hispanic people (with a scale representation of an indigenous house made of clay), and so more.
Hidden Gems – The Ruta Nacional150
The Ruta Nacional 150 is a magnificent 389 km long route for a road trip. Crossing the south of the Province of La Rioja and the north center of the Province of San Juan, this route can guide its travelers to the Parque Provincial de Ischigualasto. The geology around the highway is stunning. The beautiful scenic mountains, hills, and plains create picturesque places. Incredible photographs are guaranteed. The highway is part of a project for a bi-oceanic corridor, connecting the center of Argentina with the ports of the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Traveling through this route is a unique Latin-American experience.
Explore the Natural Beauty in the Valleys
The astonishing surroundings of the Andes mountain are breathtaking. The incredible natural sites of the San Juan wine regions will bowl over the bold tourists.
Parque Provincial Ischigualasto – Valle de la Luna
Carved rocks in a desert stone scenery
A World Heritage Site is a place unparalleled and with fundamental importance to humanity. That is why the Ischigualasto Provincial Park, UNESCO certified in 2000, gather tourists from over the globe, willing to see the preserved beauties of its landscape. The site is located in San Juan and resembles a moon, being also called Moon Valley. In this stone desert, wind-eroded rock formations as The Submarine makes incredible pictures and unforgettable scenery.
El Leoncito National Park – Preserved wilderness of San Juan
In the region of Calingasta, the Leoncito National Park is ringed by paradisiacal places. Protected natural areas can assure a superb sky vision, as the Leoncito Astronomical Complex guarantees. The strict reserve is being preserved for years, holding a diverse environment. Some of the animals the tourists may find walking around the park are small guinea pigs and rabbits. In the rocky slopes, the lizards run to catch the sun. If you got lucky, you might get a glimpse of red foxes or, rarely, pumas.
Parque de Mayo – Relaxing Time under the Shadow of a Green Space
The Parque de Mayo, created in 1910, is a park with ten full arborized hectares in the city of San Juan. The green space has a diverse set of trees and plants, providing a graceful space to practice physical activities and relaxing moments. A beautiful picnic can take part under the large branches of carob trees, enjoying the tasteful wines of San Juan. An artificial lake embellishes the landscape, with fish, ducks, and other aquatic species. At the center of it, an island receives the visit of birds. If you are thinking about the kids, the park also has a carousel for children, a children’s play area, and a bicycle circuit.
Sopaipillas – Delicious Fried Dough
If you are visiting the San Juan wine region, you might want to try the Sopaipillas. This dish is a kind of characteristic fried dough that gives a mouth-watering wish of eating. It can be a great side dish with mate, traditional South American infused drink.
The sopaipillas dough has flour, eggs, baking powder, fat, and, occasionally, milk. After resting and growing, the dough is stretched and fried. Can be eaten with salty or sugary top.
Parrillada – A Classic from Argentina
Argentina is one of the best places to find excellent steakhouses. Delicious grilled meat roasted in ember is a perfect match for red wines. Different cuts, preparations, and seasonings make Argentine meat juicy and full of flavour. Steaks, sausages, chorizo, and a range of plates can be delighted for meat lovers.
Empanadas Sanjuaninas – A Centenary Delicacy
Old tales from San Juan says that this dish dates back to the Crusades. In that time, the wives would cook Empanadas for soldiers to have food along with great distances. The idea was to open a loaf of bread in half, fill it with a stew, and roll it back. So the term Empanadas came up, meaning to fill in something into the bread.
This dough is made by adding two yolks, one tablespoon of fat, one cup of brine in a recipient. Additionally, the flour is added kindly to form the dough that must be well kneaded. The stew is a mix of grind meat and sliced onion, prepared in a saucepan and seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili.
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Soil: Essentially alluvial soil with some colluvial deposits, predominant sand and clay