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Cafayate – Argentina’s Other Wine Country


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Jannel Phelan



Welcome to Cafayate, Argentina’s other wine country. While Mendoza may be the first region that comes to mind when thinking about Argentine wine, Cafayate is a hidden gem that offers a unique and captivating wine experience. Located in the northwestern province of Salta, Cafayate is nestled in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, providing the ideal climate and terroir for producing top-quality wines.


Cafayate has a rich history dating back to the colonial era when vineyards were first planted by the Jesuit missionaries. Today, it has established itself as one of the premier wine regions in Argentina, renowned for its high-altitude vineyards, distinct grape varieties, and remarkable winemaking traditions.


What makes Cafayate truly special is its exceptional climate and terroir. The region benefits from long sunny days, cool nights, and minimal rainfall, creating the perfect conditions for grape cultivation. The high altitude, with vineyards sitting at 5,500 feet above sea level, allows for intense sunlight exposure, resulting in grapes with excellent concentration of flavors and vibrant acidity.


Cafayate is predominantly known for its production of Torrontés, an aromatic white grape variety that has become Argentina’s signature wine. The Torrontés grown in Cafayate displays distinctive aromatic notes of floral, citrus, and tropical fruit, making it a refreshing and lively choice for wine enthusiasts.


While Torrontés is the star variety, Cafayate also cultivates other grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat. These grape varieties thrive in the region’s unique climate, producing wines that are bold, well-structured, and full of character.


Winemaking in Cafayate is deeply rooted in tradition, with many wineries employing traditional winemaking techniques alongside modern practices. The hands-on approach and attention to detail in every step of the winemaking process contribute to the exceptional quality and complexity of the wines.


When visiting Cafayate, wine lovers have the opportunity to explore a multitude of wineries, each offering its own distinct style and expression. From boutique family-owned wineries to large commercial estates, there is a winery to suit every taste and preference.


Embarking on a wine tour in Cafayate is an immersive experience that allows visitors to witness the winemaking process firsthand. From vineyard tours to barrel tastings, wine enthusiasts can gain a deeper understanding of the region’s winemaking techniques and the passion behind each bottle.


While wine is undoubtedly the main attraction, Cafayate also offers a vibrant culinary scene. The local gastronomy is influenced by regional and indigenous flavors, with restaurants showcasing the natural bounty of the area through dishes like empanadas, locro, and humitas. Pairing these delectable dishes with the exquisite wines of Cafayate creates a culinary experience like no other.


Aside from wine and gastronomy, Cafayate is also known for its rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural scenery. Visitors can explore the charming colonial architecture of the town, visit museums that showcase the local history, or venture into the surrounding landscapes to witness dramatic rock formations and stunning valleys.


With its stunning landscapes, exceptional wines, and vibrant culture, Cafayate is a destination that should not be missed by wine lovers and adventurers alike. Whether you are a connoisseur seeking to expand your knowledge or a curious traveler looking for a unique experience, Cafayate offers an unforgettable journey through Argentina’s other wine country.


History of Cafayate

Cafayate has a rich and storied history that dates back centuries. Originally inhabited by indigenous populations, the region eventually came under Spanish rule during the colonial era. It was during this time that the first vineyards were planted by Jesuit missionaries, laying the foundation for Cafayate’s winemaking heritage.


The Jesuit missionaries recognized the unique climate and fertile soil of Cafayate as ideal for grape cultivation. They began planting vineyards in the mid-17th century, introducing European grape varieties to the region. The Jesuits not only cultivated the vines but also mastered the art of winemaking, producing wines that were highly regarded throughout the region.


However, the Jesuit presence in Cafayate was short-lived. In the late 18th century, the Jesuit order was expelled from the Spanish territories, leading to the decline of winemaking in the region. Cafayate’s winemaking heritage remained dormant for many years.


It wasn’t until the late 19th century that Cafayate experienced a revival in winemaking. Immigrants from Europe, particularly from Italy and Spain, settled in the region and brought with them their winemaking traditions and expertise. These immigrants recognized the immense potential of Cafayate’s terroir and set out to revive the vineyards.


Over the years, Cafayate went through periods of growth and challenges. Economic and political factors, such as the phylloxera epidemic and political instability in Argentina, had an impact on the wine industry. Despite these obstacles, Cafayate’s winemakers persevered, adapting to changing circumstances and constantly striving to improve the quality of their wines.


In recent decades, Cafayate has emerged as an important wine region in Argentina. Its wines have gained recognition both domestically and internationally, leading to increased investment and interest in the region. The combination of the high-altitude vineyards, unique terroir, and dedication of winemakers has resulted in wines that showcase the true potential of Cafayate’s viticulture.


Today, visitors to Cafayate can explore its rich winemaking history through vineyard tours and tastings. They can witness the techniques and traditions passed down through generations, and gain a deeper appreciation for the winemaking process.


Cafayate’s winemaking heritage is a testament to the region’s resilience and passion for producing exceptional wines. It is a history that continues to shape the present-day wine industry in Cafayate, making it a destination that wine lovers should not overlook.


Climate and Terroir

Cafayate benefits from a unique climate and terroir that sets it apart as a premier wine region. Located in the northwestern province of Salta, at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Cafayate’s vineyards are situated at high altitudes ranging from 5,500 to 6,500 feet above sea level.


The climate in Cafayate is characterized by hot, sunny days and cool nights, which create ideal conditions for grape cultivation. The region experiences a wide diurnal temperature variation, with daytime temperatures reaching high levels and dropping significantly during the nighttime. This diurnal shift helps the grapes retain their acidity, resulting in wines with vibrant freshness.


One of the defining factors of Cafayate’s terroir is its low annual rainfall. With an average precipitation of only 7-10 inches per year, the vineyards rely heavily on irrigation from the snowmelt of the Andes Mountains. This scarcity of rainfall forces the roots of the vines to search for water deep underground, resulting in grapes with concentrated flavors and a distinct expression of the terroir.


The high altitude of Cafayate’s vineyards also contributes to the unique character of the wines. At these elevations, the grapes receive intense sunlight exposure, which enhances the development of phenolic compounds and contributes to the richness and complexity of the wines. The UV radiation at higher altitudes also stimulates the production of natural antioxidants in the grapes, further enhancing their health benefits.


Cafayate’s terroir is characterized by its rocky and sandy soils, which have excellent drainage properties. The soils are composed of alluvial deposits and volcanic ash, providing a diverse mineral profile that adds complexity to the wines. The combination of altitude, climate, and soil composition creates a perfect synergy for grape cultivation, resulting in wines that are vibrant, expressive, and full of character.


While Cafayate is renowned for its production of Torrontés, the unique climate and terroir also favor the cultivation of other grape varieties. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat thrive in Cafayate’s conditions, producing wines that showcase the region’s distinctiveness.


Understanding the climate and terroir of Cafayate is essential in appreciating the wines that are produced in this region. It is these factors that contribute to the exceptional quality and unique characteristics that can be found in Cafayate’s wines, making it a must-visit destination for wine enthusiasts.


Grape Varieties

Cafayate is renowned for its distinct grape varieties that thrive in the region’s high-altitude vineyards and unique terroir. While Torrontés is the most prominent grape variety, Cafayate also cultivates other traditional Argentine and international grape varieties.


Torrontés, a white grape variety, is the shining star of Cafayate. Known for its aromatic and floral characteristics, Torrontés wines from Cafayate have gained international recognition. The grape thrives in the region’s arid climate and rocky soils, resulting in wines with vibrant acidity and intense aromas of white flowers, citrus, and tropical fruits. The Torrontés wines of Cafayate are often described as refreshing, aromatic, and expressive.


Malbec, another iconic Argentine grape variety, also finds a home in Cafayate. While Malbec is most commonly associated with Mendoza, the high-altitude vineyards of Cafayate allow the grape to develop its unique character. The Malbec wines from Cafayate are known for their deep, bold flavors of black fruits, robust tannins, and elegant structure. These wines often showcase a fine balance between fruit intensity and acidity, making them a delightful choice for red wine enthusiasts.


In addition to Torrontés and Malbec, Cafayate also cultivates other red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat. Each grape variety thrives in the region’s unique climate and soil conditions, producing distinctive wines that reflect the essence of Cafayate.


Cabernet Sauvignon, known for its bold and full-bodied nature, flourishes in Cafayate’s high-altitude vineyards. The cool nights and ample sunlight exposure contribute to the development of ripe and concentrated flavors, with wines that showcase black fruits, herbs, and structured tannins. Syrah, on the other hand, benefits from the region’s hot days and cool nights, resulting in wines with intense aromas, complex flavors, and a peppery spice undertone. Tannat, a grape variety known for its robust tannins and deep flavors, also finds a favorable home in Cafayate, producing wines that are bold, powerful, and age-worthy.


These diverse grape varieties demonstrate the versatility of Cafayate’s terroir and the region’s ability to showcase a range of wine styles. From aromatic and refreshing whites to bold and structured reds, Cafayate’s grape varieties offer a delightful exploration of flavors and expressions.


Exploring the different grape varieties of Cafayate is an exciting journey for wine lovers. Whether you are a fan of white wines with floral aromas or prefer full-bodied reds with rich flavors, Cafayate’s grape varieties will captivate your palate and leave a lasting impression.


Winemaking Techniques

The winemaking techniques employed in Cafayate are a blend of traditional practices and modern innovations. Winemakers in the region pay meticulous attention to every step of the winemaking process, ensuring that the unique characteristics of the grapes and terroir are preserved and enhanced.


Hand-harvesting is a common practice in Cafayate, especially for the aromatic Torrontés grape. By hand-selecting the grapes, winemakers can ensure that only the highest quality fruit is used in the production of their wines. The delicate handling of the grapes during harvesting helps preserve their aromas and flavors.


Once the grapes are harvested, they undergo a gentle pressing to extract the juice. This method ensures that only the purest juice is used for fermentation, minimizing the extraction of any undesirable flavors or tannins from the grape skins.


Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, allowing for precise control over the process. This ensures that the wines maintain their freshness and delicate aromas. Some wineries also use concrete or oak barrels for fermentation and aging, adding additional complexity and texture to the wines.


Throughout the winemaking process, winemakers in Cafayate focus on minimal intervention. They let the grapes and terroir speak for themselves, avoiding excessive manipulation or additives. This approach allows the true expression of the grapes and the unique characteristics of Cafayate’s terroir to shine through in the final wines.


The aging process plays a crucial role in the development of Cafayate’s wines. For white wines, aging often takes place in stainless steel tanks or concrete vats, allowing the wines to retain their freshness and vibrant aromas. Some winemakers also experiment with oak aging, carefully selecting barrels that impart subtle nuances without overpowering the wine’s natural characteristics.


Red wines, on the other hand, often undergo a longer aging process. Aging in oak barrels adds structure, complexity, and layers of flavor to the wines. The choice of oak, whether French or American, and the length of aging are carefully considered to ensure a harmonious integration of flavors and tannins.


After aging, the wines are bottled and may continue to develop and evolve over time. Many of Cafayate’s wines have excellent aging potential, allowing wine enthusiasts to enjoy the evolution of the flavors and aromas over several years.


Overall, the winemaking techniques employed in Cafayate emphasize the preservation of the grapes’ natural attributes and the unique qualities of the terroir. The result is a collection of wines that are vibrant, expressive, and true reflections of the region’s winemaking traditions.


Notable Wineries in Cafayate

Cafayate is home to a variety of exceptional wineries, each showcasing the region’s unique terroir and winemaking prowess. Here are just a few of the notable wineries that wine enthusiasts should explore when visiting Cafayate:


1. Bodega El Esteco: Known for its commitment to quality and tradition, Bodega El Esteco is one of the oldest wineries in the region. With its beautiful colonial architecture and picturesque vineyards, this winery offers a glimpse into Cafayate’s winemaking heritage. Don’t miss their signature Altimus blend, a rich and complex red wine.


2. Piattelli Vineyards: Located at the foot of the Andes, Piattelli Vineyards boasts stunning views and a focus on sustainable winemaking. Their portfolio includes a range of premium wines, including their acclaimed Torrontés and Malbec. Enjoy a guided tour and tasting while taking in the breathtaking scenery.


3. Finca Quara: Founded by a Swiss family, Finca Quara combines traditional winemaking techniques with innovative practices. Their vineyards are meticulously tended to, resulting in wines that showcase the essence of Cafayate. Be sure to try their Tannat, a bold and powerful red wine.


4. San Pedro de Yacochuya: This boutique winery is known for its small production and handcrafted wines. The vineyards are located at over 6,000 feet above sea level, allowing for exceptional grape development. Their flagship wine, Yacochuya Malbec, is highly regarded for its elegance and finesse.


5. El Porvenir de los Andes: El Porvenir de los Andes is a family-owned winery that combines tradition with modern winemaking techniques. Their wines reflect the distinct characteristics of Cafayate, particularly their Torrontés Reserva, which showcases the varietal’s aromatic charm.


These are just a handful of the many outstanding wineries to be discovered in Cafayate. Each winery offers a unique experience, from guided tours and tastings to immersive vineyard visits. Exploring these wineries allows visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for the winemaking process and the commitment to quality that is characteristic of Cafayate’s wine producers.


Whether you are a wine connoisseur or simply enjoy discovering new flavors, a visit to the notable wineries of Cafayate is a must. Immerse yourself in the world of Argentinian wines, learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in the extraordinary wines that Cafayate has to offer.


Wine Tours and Tastings

Exploring the wineries of Cafayate through wine tours and tastings is an immersive experience that allows visitors to delve into the region’s rich winemaking heritage. From guided tours of vineyards to educational tastings, there are numerous ways to discover the wines of Cafayate.


Many wineries in Cafayate offer guided tours that take visitors through the vineyards, providing insights into the grape cultivation process and the unique terroir of the region. Knowledgeable guides share fascinating stories and information about the winemaking traditions and techniques employed in Cafayate. Walking through the vineyards allows visitors to connect with the land and understand how the elements contribute to the flavors and aromas of the wines.


Tastings are a highlight of any wine tour in Cafayate. Visitors have the opportunity to sample a variety of wines, from the region’s flagship white wine, Torrontés, to robust reds like Malbec and Tannat. Wineries often showcase different vintages and styles, allowing guests to explore the range and complexity of Cafayate’s wines. Experienced sommeliers or winemakers guide visitors through the tasting process, sharing their expertise and providing valuable insights into the characteristics of each wine.


For those seeking a more hands-on experience, some wineries offer blending workshops, where visitors can create their own unique blend by mixing different grape varieties. These workshops provide a deeper understanding of the winemaking process, allowing participants to appreciate the artistry and skill required to craft a well-balanced wine.


In addition to tastings, wine tours often include opportunities to visit the wineries’ aging cellars or barrel rooms. These visits offer a behind-the-scenes look at the aging process and allow visitors to witness the transformation of the wines over time. It is a chance to see the meticulous care and attention given to each wine as it develops its character and complexity.


With the breathtaking backdrop of the Andes, many wineries also offer picturesque settings for visitors to relax and enjoy a glass of wine. Outdoor terraces or picnic areas provide the perfect atmosphere to savor the wines while taking in the stunning views.


Wine tours and tastings in Cafayate are not only educational and enjoyable but also provide an opportunity to support local wineries and engage with the winemaking community. The passion and dedication of the winemakers are evident in every glass, and visitors have the privilege of tasting the fruits of their labor.


Whether you are a wine enthusiast eager to expand your knowledge or simply someone who appreciates a good glass of wine, wine tours and tastings in Cafayate offer a memorable and enriching experience.


Gastronomy in Cafayate

Cafayate not only offers a delightful wine experience but also boasts a vibrant culinary scene that showcases the region’s rich gastronomic heritage. Influenced by regional flavors and indigenous ingredients, the gastronomy of Cafayate is a true reflection of the area’s cultural diversity and traditions.


One of the standout culinary delights in Cafayate is the empanada, a traditional Argentine pastry filled with a variety of ingredients. The empanadas of Cafayate are known for their flaky crusts and flavorful fillings, which can include beef, chicken, cheese, or vegetables. These savory treats are a must-try when exploring the local cuisine.


Another traditional dish that highlights the flavors of the region is locro, a hearty stew typically made with meat, corn, beans, and various vegetables. Locro is a filling and flavorsome dish that is often enjoyed during festivals and gatherings, representing a true taste of Argentine home-cooking.


Humitas, a steamed corn dish, is another culinary gem of Cafayate. Made with fresh corn kernels, onions, and herbs, humitas are wrapped in corn husks and cooked to perfection. The result is a delicious combination of sweet and savory flavors that highlight the natural bounty of the region.


When it comes to wine pairing, the gastronomy in Cafayate truly shines. As you savor the exquisite wines of the region, you can complement them with a variety of local cheeses. Cafayate is known for its artisanal cheese production, offering a range of flavors and textures to pair with the wines. Whether it’s a tangy goat cheese or a creamy blue cheese, the combination of wine and cheese is a match made in heaven.


The local gastronomy in Cafayate also embraces international influences, offering a diverse range of dining options. Visitors can find restaurants that serve Mediterranean-inspired dishes, fusion cuisines, and international flavors. This culinary diversity allows visitors to experience the best of traditional and contemporary gastronomy.


For dessert, indulge in some traditional Argentine sweets. Alfajores, delicate cookies filled with dulce de leche, are a beloved treat that can be found in many cafés and shops. These sweet delights are the perfect way to end a meal in Cafayate.


When dining in Cafayate, it’s not only about the flavors but also the warm hospitality of the people. Local restaurants and cafes offer a welcoming atmosphere, where you can enjoy the culinary delights while engaging with the friendly locals.


The gastronomy in Cafayate is an integral part of the overall experience, creating a sensory journey that combines the flavors of the region with the outstanding wines for which Cafayate is renowned.


Whether you are exploring traditional dishes or trying innovative creations, the gastronomy of Cafayate is sure to delight your taste buds and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the cultural richness of the region.


Cultural Attractions in Cafayate

Cafayate is not only known for its exceptional wines but also for its rich cultural heritage and captivating attractions. From colonial architecture to ancient ruins, there are numerous cultural experiences to explore in this charming wine region.


One of the must-visit attractions in Cafayate is the historic center of the town. The colonial architecture, with its colorful buildings and charming cobblestone streets, offers a glimpse into the region’s past. Visitors can stroll through the main plaza, Plaza Principal, and admire the beautiful neoclassical cathedral, Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Rosario. The nearby Museum of the Vine and Wine provides further insights into the cultural significance of winemaking in Cafayate.


A short distance from Cafayate, visitors can explore the ancient ruins of Quilmes. The Quilmes Ruins are remnants of a pre-Columbian settlement that was inhabited by the indigenous Quilmes people. The site offers a fascinating glimpse into the lives and culture of this ancient civilization, with well-preserved structures and stunning views of the surrounding landscape.


Music also plays a significant role in the cultural fabric of Cafayate. The region is renowned for its folk music, with traditional instruments such as the charango and the quena creating an enchanting sound. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local music scene by attending live performances or participating in music festivals, such as the famous Serenata a Cafayate.


Artisans and craftsmen also thrive in Cafayate, showcasing their traditional skills and creating unique handmade crafts. Visitors can explore local artisan markets, where they can find items such as intricately woven textiles, pottery, and silver jewelry. These crafts not only serve as souvenirs but also provide insights into the cultural heritage and artistic expression of the region.


For those seeking natural beauty and outdoor adventures, Cafayate offers breathtaking landscapes just waiting to be explored. The Calchaquí Valleys, with their rugged mountains and stunning rock formations, provide a picturesque backdrop for hiking, horseback riding, or simply admiring the natural wonders.


Throughout the year, Cafayate also hosts a variety of cultural events and festivals that showcase the local traditions and celebrate the region’s identity. These events offer a glimpse into the vibrant spirit of Cafayate, with music, dance, and gastronomy taking center stage.


Immersing yourself in the cultural attractions of Cafayate allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the region’s history, traditions, and artistic expressions. It is an opportunity to connect with the local community, appreciate their cultural heritage, and create lasting memories of your visit to this enchanting wine region.


Accommodation Options

When visiting Cafayate, there are numerous accommodation options available to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. From luxurious hotels to cozy guesthouses, the region offers a variety of lodging choices that ensure a comfortable and memorable stay.


For those seeking luxury and pampering, Cafayate is home to several high-end hotels and resorts. These establishments boast spacious rooms, elegant décor, and top-notch amenities such as swimming pools, spa facilities, and gourmet restaurants. They offer a luxurious retreat for travelers looking to indulge in the finer things while enjoying the beauty of the surrounding vineyards and mountains.


If you prefer a more intimate and authentic experience, there are charming boutique hotels and guesthouses in Cafayate that offer personalized service and a cozy atmosphere. These accommodations often feature traditional architecture, reflecting the region’s colonial heritage. Staying in one of these quaint establishments allows visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture and connect with the hospitable residents of Cafayate.


For those looking for a more immersive experience, staying in a wine lodge or vineyard hotel is an excellent choice. These accommodations are often located within or near vineyards, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Guests can enjoy wine tastings, vineyard tours, and even participate in the winemaking process. The vineyard hotels and lodges provide a unique blend of relaxation and wine education, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the world of Cafayate’s wines.


For budget-conscious travelers, there are also affordable options such as hostels and guesthouses that provide clean and comfortable accommodations. These establishments offer a cozy and friendly atmosphere, allowing travelers to connect with fellow explorers and make new friends.


Regardless of your preferred style of accommodation, one thing is for certain – Cafayate offers a range of options that cater to all budgets and preferences. Whichever type of lodging you choose, you will be surrounded by the natural beauty of the region, with vineyards, mountains, and cultural attractions just a stone’s throw away.


Booking your accommodation in advance is advisable, especially during peak seasons or during local events and festivals. This ensures that you secure your preferred choice and have a seamless experience during your stay in Cafayate.


Whether you prefer luxury, boutique charm, or a budget-friendly option, the accommodation choices in Cafayate ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and magic of this captivating wine region.



Cafayate, Argentina’s other wine country, offers a truly enchanting experience for wine lovers and adventurers alike. From its rich winemaking history to its exceptional wines and captivating cultural attractions, Cafayate has something to offer every visitor.


The region’s unique climate and terroir, with its high-altitude vineyards and arid conditions, contribute to the production of exceptional wines. The signature Torrontés grape reigns supreme, with its aromatic charm and refreshing flavors. However, Cafayate also cultivates other grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tannat, each displaying the region’s distinctiveness.


Exploring the notable wineries of Cafayate allows visitors to witness the dedication and passion behind each bottle. From guided tours to informative tastings, visitors can deepen their understanding and appreciation for the winemaking process. Cafayate’s winemakers combine traditional techniques with modern innovations, resulting in wines that are vibrant, expressive, and true reflections of the region’s terroir.


While wine takes center stage in Cafayate, the gastronomy of the region is equally captivating. Indulge in delectable empanadas, savory locro, and steamed humitas, showcasing the flavors of the region. Cheese pairings and traditional Argentine sweets further enhance the gastronomic experience, allowing visitors to discover the perfect harmony between food and wine.


The cultural attractions of Cafayate, from colonial architecture to ancient ruins, provide a glimpse into the region’s vibrant history. Exploring the charming town center, visiting the Quilmes Ruins, or immersing oneself in the local music and artisan scene reveals the deep cultural roots that shape the identity of Cafayate.


Accommodation options in Cafayate cater to a variety of preferences, ensuring a comfortable and memorable stay. Whether you prefer luxury hotels, cozy guesthouses, rustic vineyard lodges, or budget-friendly hostels, Cafayate offers a range of options to suit every traveler’s needs.


In conclusion, Cafayate is a destination that seamlessly blends exquisite wines, captivating cultural experiences, and breathtaking landscapes. The region’s dedication to winemaking, its rich history, and the warmth of its people create a truly unique and memorable experience for all who visit. Whether you are a wine enthusiast, an adventurer, or simply someone seeking a delightful getaway, Cafayate is sure to leave a lasting impression.