Making wine at the end of the world

Tue May 17, 2011 11:38am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Patagonia, the huge swath of land at the southern tip of South America, is known for its rugged mountains and glaciers but an innovative group of winemakers are hoping to add wine to the list.

Santiago Bernasconi, a 38-year-old winemaker at Bodega NQN in Neuquen, Argentina, and his colleagues are making wine on the edge of the earth.

"It makes you feel like you are the last boundary in the winemaking world," Bernasconi, said during a visit to the U.S. to introduce the wines from the newest area in Patagonia to host wineries.

"There are only like eight wineries in Patagonia and we all share our experience and work to improve the wines of the whole region."

NQN owns 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres) on a wind-swept plateau. Two hundred hectares are planted with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. With cutting-edge irrigation and fertilization equipment NQN produces wines that are fruit driven and light in style from 11-year-old vines.

A couple of valleys to the east in Rio Negro, Augusto Ripoll, the 40-year-old owner of Patagonia Valley Bodegas, planted vines 12 years ago on 10 hectares (25 acres).

"I try not to be aggressive with the soil," he said of his organic vineyard. "It will last forever. Those plants that I planted have to last at least 100, 120 years. That's for my kids. How can I be destroying my soil by using some chemicals that will give me more of what I'm not looking for?"

Making wine in Patagonia poses particular problems. Ripoll described the poor soil of a dried riverbed created by glaciers where dinosaur bones are found. But one plus is the water from the Andes.   Continued...

<p>A general view of the leading edge of Perito Moreno glacier in the southern Patagonia region near El Calafate, January 3, 2009.REUTERS/Ernesto Fernandez</p>