Argentine Wine Route : A Taste of the Good Life

On the horizon, the Andes mountains. A shorter distance away, an arid valley seared with furrows where grapevines grow. On a roadside, the minimalist building of an ultra-modern winery or the colonial mansion of a traditional winemaker. This is a postcard of Argentina , a country whose reputation as a world-class wine producer continues to grow. And if one looks closely at the balcony of that modern winery or at the patio of that mansion, a group of visitors can be seen wrapping up their day of sightseeing: the Wine Route attracts thousands of tourists every year.

And indeed the range of experiences and the quality of wines to be enjoyed on this route "“ which covers 2,000 kilometers and traverses 9 Argentine provinces "“ is unique in the world. Even as the visitor follows the process involved in producing some of the greatest wines of our time, he or she can also enjoy the beauty of the land where the grapes are grown and the cultures that have inhabited this region for centuries.

Tourists on the Wine Route travel to the Calchaquies Valleys, an area of reddish landscapes where the pre-Columbian influence still is stamped on the faces of the inhabitants; it is there that the world's highest vineyards can be found. The route will also take them to Salta , where the exceptional Torrontes wine is produced, and to Neuquén, a new wine frontier driven by the Patagonian winds whose productive power is being unlocked thanks to the latest technology. And, of course, the route will make a stop in the classic winegrowing region of Mendoza , cradle of some of the best examples of the famous Argentine Malbec.

"In 2007, we've seen an increase in the number of passengers who are going to Argentina not only from November to March, the biggest months, but throughout the entire year, attracted by the possibility of trying some of the world's best wines," Domenico Matinata, American Airlines' regional director for South America, said.

Among those exploring the Wine Route , the presence of U.S. tourists is particularly noteworthy, a phenomenon that goes hand in hand with the rise in wine consumption in that country. At present, the United States is the world's second-leading wine consumer, according to figures from the International Wine and Spirits Record. And, of course, the interest of American consumers in the product, their sophistication and the demands of their palates has increased in tandem with that growth in consumption.

In addition to having numerous experiences that train them in the art of wine tasting, the tourists who thus far have covered this route have had the chance to harvest and prune the grapevines with their own hands, take Argentine cooking classes and tour the vineyards on foot, on horseback, by sulky or bicycle. Future visitors also will be able to ride through Mendoza province on the Wine Train.

Throughout the trip, two words will resound and resonate: Malbec and Torrontes. Ruby red with violet hues and the scent of ripe fruit, the Malbec is the emblematic grape par excellence of Argentina . And from the country's far north, the unique Torrontes runs second among Argentine varieties when it comes to pleasing international palates. With an aroma of jasmine and roses, combined with other fruit flavors in which touches of passion fruit, pineapple, peach, mango and even lichy fruit are most prominent, the Torrontes offers freshness as well as the characteristics of a dry and bitter finish. A special attraction for the U.S. market, which likes white varieties with good fruit and structure.

"From north to south, the Argentine Wine Route offers a unique experience amid a backdrop of varied geography and spectacular scenery, further enhanced by the extraordinary warmth and efficiency of the people who attend to the travelers," said Carina Valicati, the Argentine Tourism Secretariat's wine tourism coordinator.

The tour offers visitors not only great wines but an integral South American experience: the route features magical cycles of classical music in the dark corridors of the wine cellars: plastic arts exhibitions and, within easy reach, the possibility of making a quick getaway for a day of fishing, gold or rafting. Tourists can get a taste of a bygone era at the "Winery Rally," which features classic automobiles, or test their skill at the "Winery Polo Tournament."

Those who prefer peace and quiet will find amazing "wine spas," with wine therapy treatments that include cleansing and hydration of the skin with creams derived from grapes, immersion baths (in tanks of wine!) and massage sessions with products that capitalize on the anti-oxidant properties of grapes. Art, varied landscapes, vibrant nature, ancient cultures and internationally renowned cuisine. The Argentine Wine Route truly offers a taste of the good life.