For Wine Club this month, we have the distinct pleasure of showcasing one of our absolute favorite regions, southeastern Bolivia. It only has a tiny amount of land capable of growing grapes, but we cannot stress enough how special those grapes are.
Bolivia’s ability to grow world class grapes is a perfect example of the marvels of nature. Due to a combination of factors - super high altitude, optimal latitude, wind patterns from the south, high exposure to sun rays during the growing season, to name a few - Bolivian grapes can range from something akin to Willamette’s bright fruit flavor and high acid, to the richness of Chile’s Central Valley.
Located within a larger climate system that includes Cafayette and La Salta in Argentina, South Eastern Bolivia has a series of grape growing oases. Despite their proximity to the equator, which would normally create a subtropical climate, Bolivia’s winegrowing regions of Tarija, Cinti, and Valles Cruceños (Samaipata) have seasonality. In other words, they have a winter, a key to growing quality grapes.
They have this winter because of a wind patter Bolivians call “Surazo,” or “big winds from the South.” Starting around March, these winds careen off the Patagonian Steepe over the Chaco plains, bringing with them dark clouds and cold fog. The winds come in spurts, with each blast progressively cooling the region until frost forms in June. This frost cues the vines that it’s time to go to sleep. They hibernate until August, when the winds die down and the temperature rises. During this time, grape growers prune as they would during any winter in the rest of the world.
Tarija, Cinti, and Valles Cruceños all sit on the southeastern corner of Bolivia. Above them is Amboró National Park. To illustrate just how unique Bolivia’s southeastern corner is from a climate perspective, above Amboró is Bolivia’s coffee growing region. This marks the only place in the world where the wine-belt and coffee-belt border each other. The reason is, coffee cannot have a frost, but grows well in cooler climates, whereas grapes need a frost. A mere half hour drive separates the two!
Bolivia’s grapes grow at altitudes rarely seen in the grape growing world. But this is just one piece of the puzzle. Plenty of places in the northern part of South America have climates with temperature low enough to support grape growing. And some now do, thanks to advances in technology. It’s southeastern Bolivia’s exact convergence of factors, though, that makes it so special. It truly is one of the best examples out there of the concept of terroir.
1750 Torrontes 2017 - Francisco Roig, owner and winemaker at 1750, is a true friend of Grand Cata. You can thank his wealth of knowledge about not only Bolivia, but the world of wine generally, for this blog piece. This wine highlights the special ability of Samaipata to grow grapes with full ripeness and exceptional acidity. The wine has wonderful notes of melon, white flowers, apricots, and lychee. It’s the perfect wine for spring.
La Concepción Syrah 2018 - Syrah is a grape that Bolivia does exceptionally well. Unlike other parts of the world, where you have to choose between a Syrah with intense fruit and bold texture or herbal notes and acidity, here you get both.
We look forward to Sunday! The release starts at 1pmn and goes until 7. See you there!