Patagonian Palate Pleasers
Top wineries in Neuquén to visit and explore.
Bodega Familia Schroeder
Amateur palaeontologists will love stepping into this family-run bodega to fuse high-end wines with dinosaur fossils. Patagonia means “land of the big feet”, and some of the largest used to run riot in the region millions of years ago. The stony soils, which today nurture Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec among others, also nurtured dinosaur fossils that were unearthed when the Schroeder family constructed their bodega in 2002. The discovery of a Titanosaur, whose remains are exhibited on site, led to the winery naming two lines after it – Saurus and Saurus Patagonia Select. Following a tour of the wine and dinosaur caves, kick back with a vineyard view over lunch prepared by Swiss chef Boris Walker – note that the landscape has changed little since Jurassic times.
San Patricio del Chañar in Neuquén province is quite the production hub and home to various wineries, including Secreto Patagónico, which planted vines in 2000. Concentrating on six varietals – Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc – Secreto Patagónico adheres to the single vineyard, manual grape-picking method. The area’s cold winters and sunny summers, and daily temperature range, mean grapes develop a thick skin – leading to more intense colours in wine. Perched on top of a hill, the secret to this winery’s success becomes clear after a cellar tour and tasting with the in-house oenologist.
Bodega Del Fin Del Mundo
With around 2,000 hectares of terroir to its name, this well-established winery “at the end of the world” is one of the region’s larger players, is consulted by French oenologist Michel Rolland, and has won prestigious awards across seven of its eleven lines. The region is renowned for its omnipresent breeze, and the bodega named the Ventus lines, whose emblem depicts a wind-swept tree, in its honour. Besides a tour of the estate, visitors can also get involved with other activities such as winter pruning and harvest.
NQN (an abbreviation of Neuquén province) is owned by the Viola and Eurnekián families, and its seven varietals replicate those of Secret Patagónico with the added bonus of Petit Verdot. Although its vineyards occupy 127 hectares to date, the winery owns a further 1,000 for future planting. For a complete vineyard experience, stay at the Posada NQN guesthouse, which lodges five people. Those on a tighter schedule can lunch at Malma Restaurant – we recommend the trout, another local delicacy.
Departures, November 2013