The city of Neuquén is in north Patagonia, and if you look at the map below, one of the southernmost regions for growing wine grapes in Argentina. Because of the temperate weather, you can also find some of the southernmost Pinot noir grown in South America. While I can’t speak for the grapes, the 70-80 degrees F was a welcome respite from the upper 90s of Buenos Aires. Although people usually hire a driver, I rented a car to drive the 50 kilometers or so to the north of Neuquén to some of the bodegas in the area – Bodega Del Fin del Mundo (From the End of the World), Bodega Familia Schroeder, and NQN. Getting there was more of a production than expected (more on that tomorrow), but the trip along the Neuquén River was worth it.
They are currently harvesting some of their Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Chardonnay for their Spumante, and as you wind through endless blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes they have planted, you get a sense of the scale of Del Fin del Mundo’s production. If you look them up online, you realize that it’s hard to keep up with the increases over the past decade – currently they have about 900 hectares (about 2,225 acres), and produce about 1M cases of wine. The scale runs from machine picked and trucked to the winery, to hand-picked and delivered in baskets by hand. Pretty amazing to see all of this in one setting, and then taste the wines.
The tasting at Bodega Del Fin del Mundo was a nice cross-section of their wines. I particularly loved the Cab Franc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, and found the 2016 Reserva Blend (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) to be pretty amazing. The Pinot noir was pretty good as well, but just very different from Oregon or Burgundian versions of it! I think I have been most surprised by the Cab Franc (I also loved the Familia Schroeder Cabernet Franc) of this area, despite the fact that it is better known for its Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was definitely worth going to the end of the world for these wines!