Wineries of Patagonia: Dino Vino
A relatively new wine industry is cropping up in Neuquén, Argentina, a province making up the north of Patagonia, known for its dinosaur bones. The three wineries we visited, NQN, Bodega del fin del Mundo, and Familia Schroeder, are all relatively large wineries with decent advertising budgets. Their success has been notable outside of Argentina, perhaps due to the allure of drinking a wine from an area thought to be exotic and uncontaminated. The wines, however, are not just enjoyed abroad: a recent article reported residents of Neuquén consume more wine than milk in their diets.
Quality of wines?
Although there is certainly potential, the wine industry in Neuquén seems relatively young, and its wines are not the quality of the incredible vinos we've been drinking the last three months in well-established wine industry Mendoza. The region does, however, have great terroir for making Pinot Noir, perhaps more so than other wine-making regions of Argentina. All three wineries mentioned in this post make sparkling wines using Pinot Noir grapes.
Familia Schroeder: makers of Saurus
Bodega Familia Schroeder started in 2001, and had their first harvest in 2003. The family is local to Neuquén, and their beautiful winery seems to be a point of pride for many locals. Like several wineries in Mendoza, the winery was built to take advantage of gravity to avoid traumatizing the wine by using too many pumps.
Familia Schroeder produces three lines of wines as well as a sparkling wine produced using the Charmat method. Their most economical line is Saurus, followed by Saurus reserve and the top line produces Saurus Gran Reserve. Besides the whites, the wines spent 4, 12 and 18 months in oak barrels respectively. The wines are named after a large dinosaur, the Aeolosaurus, whose bones were found during the winery's construction. A display of the bones provide an interesting addition to the tour. The Saurus and Reserve Saurus Sauvignon Blanc were both our favorites.
S Selections is the US importer for Saurus wines.
Bodega NQN is another beautiful winery recently built in 2001. The winery focuses on making reds, tintos, which make up 92% of their production. Despite relatively high production, the winery tries to keep their wines high quality through:
- manual harvesting grapes
- limiting yields by green harvesting so that vines focus on quality over quantity
- making sparkling wine using the champagne method, a more time-intensive and artesianal way of making sparkling wines
Bodega del fin del Mundo
One of the bigger wineries in Argentina, Bodega del fin del Mundo, defines itself in quantity. It employs anywhere from 600 to 1,100 employees depending on the time of year; it has 200 stainless steel tanks that hold up to 100,000 liters each; and its annual capacity is 8 million liters. Yikes.
The winery produces five lines in addition to a sparkling wine:
Postales del fin del Mundo and Ventus are both billed as “everday” budget wines. The reds have some exposure to oak through oak staves, which are the strips of oak that make up a barrel. Newen reds spend 6 months in oak while the Del fin del Mundo Reserva spends 12 months in oak and the Del fin del Mundo Gran Reserva enjoys up to 18 months.