One of the strategies often discussed in the wine industry, when it come to wine varietals, is how to make that transition from large production levels of “ good cheap wine” from
Chile/Bolivia/Argentina, to customers being willing to pay more for wines perceived as premium wines. This has been the mission for Malbec from Argentina, or Carménère from Chile. As I have traveled around South America, when I tell people I am down here for the wine, the eyebrows always rise when I include Bolivia among the countries I am visiting. In part, it it is because there is little wine production in the first place, but also because there is no identifiable varietal as there is with Argentinian Malbec, Chilean Carménère, or even the Tannat of Uruguay.
Bolivia has different forces at work in establishing its viticultural identity. On the one hand, wine has been made for hundreds of years, using local varietals that were planted from seeds of European varietals. This locality is important, and yet there is also the feeling that Bolivia needs to establish a varietal identity. Some would argue for Moscato de Alexandria, which represents around three-quarters of the grapes grown in the country. Bodegas Aranjuez planted Tannat in 1999, and has won gold medals alongside some of the premier Tannat wines of Uruguay. They argue that this should be the signature grape for Bolivia, because it suits the region best.
The tour of Aranjuez is impressive – the growth of the bodega in terms of size and production over the years is equally so. They are focused on expanding along three lines, but focused on the quality of wines. They have established as their foothold, the Tannat of Juan Cruz,
which is spoken of with reverence, while at the same time offering blends and single vineyard productions. After being in the Cinti Valley, it was a very different, large scale experience to tour Aranjuez, as they took in their Petit Verdot harvest. More vines are being planted, a new tasting room opened, and tastings being done to cultivate wine tourism.