The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Page 64 of 116

SOUTH AMERICA Ends of the The landscape below was like the surface of the moon—fl at, gray and lifeless. We were an hour and a half southwest of Buenos Aires, fl ying over central Patagonia. The arid landscape stretched as far as one could see, but then, a wide, rich green stripe appeared—a huge area of verdant life. We were fl ying over the Río Negro and Neuquén River valleys, both areas irrigated by deep, powerful rivers carry- ing the snow melt from the Andes, on the Chilean border four hours to the west, to the Atlantic Ocean 300 miles to the east. There are two wine regions that straddle the nondescript frontier town of Neuquén. To the east is Río Negro, where wine grapes have been planted for more than a century; to the southwest is the Neuquén region, planted within the past decade because of the energy of one visionary. It is important to note that because of Patagonia’s isolation and the absence of any phylloxera , all the grape vines are planted on their own root stock. The immediate result of this is wines that are pure, unadulterated expressions of their varietal character. Here’s a look at the two regions, their most impor- tant wineries and a few selected wines from each. Guillermo Barzi Canale shows what the land looks like without irrigation. RÍO NEGRO Río Negro is not primarily a wine region; the tens of thousands of arable acres are mainly devoted to fruit- growing. More than 300,000 acres of orchards supply a huge percentage of the world’s pear, apple and apple juice requirements, but 6,000 acres of wine grapes are sprinkled among the orchards. The winds can be strong throughout this region, so plantings are protected by rows of stately poplars. Earth PATAGONIA IS ARGENTINA’S NEW FRONTIER by Anthony Dias Blue The haunting Patagonian landscape at Universo Austral. PHOTO: ANTHONY DIAS BLUE

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