“Vinos de Altura”

Healed, we took the direction of the central valley of Tarija to the south, where 2,400 hectares of vineyards, cultivated at between 1,600 and 2,150 meters, were awaiting us. A unique wine topography named Vinos de Altura by Wines of Bolivia for their promotional campaigns of communication – because all the vineyards in the country are cultivated at between 1,600 and 3,000 meters above sea level!

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Therefore – and even if the vines are located between the 17º and the 22º parallels, south to the equator – the climate is temperate, semi-arid and allows for the production of quality wines. Also a boon for the development of wine tourism in the region, through hikes and excursions coupled with visits to wineries.

We were invited for a walk in the vineyard of Casa Real – one of the six major players in the country – by José Luis Aguirre, Managing Director of the family estate. Facing us, ancient lakes from the Jurassic period, extending to the horizon, gave way to lunar areas of a rare beauty.

From sacramental wine to modernity

The wine history of Bolivia goes back to 1548 with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors and is reminiscent of its South American neighbors (4). Far away from the sacramental wines of the old days, the country is now producing fine wines which sometimes age very well. As at La Concepción estate, where Claudia Morales, the owner, arranged a wine tasting of the 2006 vintage for us in the vineyard. Her Cepas de Altura Syrah 2006 is remarkable. « Here, the terroir is wonderful and it has all the ingredients to make great wines.

Altosama NV, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Xarello, that we had the pleasure of tasting at lunch.

Some other nice Bolivian wines that we tasted: Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Kohlberg, the delicious Juan Cruz Tannat 2012 from Aranjuez; Colección de Altura 2010 (blend of Petit Verdot, Tannat and Malbec) from Campos de Solana and the very elegant Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from Sausini.

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Chuflay or Singani Sour?

If there is a vineyard where we you would love to settle down for the weekend, it is at Sausini, a boutique estate owned by Mario Hinojosa Antezana, an hour far away from Tarija. Like a conqueror, Panama on, neatly trimmed beard, in an impeccable white linen shirt, cigar in one hand and cane in the other, Mario was waiting on the porch of the family house, adjacent to the winery. «The place is rustic and we are farmers», he said smiling.

Just a few steps to go from the vineyard to the garden, where we met with two beautiful parrots, both talkative and curious. After the visit, we were invited to enjoy an aperitif. A sacred word that rhymes here with Singani, a traditional spirit made from the distillation of Muscat of Alexandria wine, featuring flavors of orange peel.

Served in several cocktails at lunchtime, in Chuflay (with ice and ginger ale or Canada Dry) and in Singani Sour (with lemon juice and bitters), take care not to abuse of this delicious drink that is better than whey. Or you will have to enjoy another local custom: a short but saving nap…

(extracted from an article posted by Jean-Baptiste Ancelot in the blog of Wine Explorers: http://blog.wine-explorers.net).