© Campos de Solana/Patricio Crooker
© Campos de Solana/Patricio Crooker

Bolivian high-altitude wines in Tarija

3 minutes to read

Have you ever heard of Bolivian wines? Today you can learn more and find out why they are considered to be special.

Wine production in Bolivia

Bolivia has five wine production areas, located in five of its nine departments: Central Valley of Tarija, Cintis Valley in Chuquisaca, Samaipata Valley in Santa Cruz, Luribay in La Paz and Vinto in Cochabamba.

Among those areas, the Central Valley of Tarija is the largest wine producer of Bolivia, having nearly 80% of the vineyards of the country, and 93% of the grape production destined for wine.

© Campos de Solana/Patricio Crooker
© Campos de Solana/Patricio Crooker

Anyhow, while Bolivia is not among the largest producers of the world, its wine has certain peculiarities that make it worth trying. For example, the harvesting in Bolivia is a 100% manual process, which gives extra points to the selectivity and final quality of the wine. But further than that, let me tell you about the main distinctive characteristic of the Bolivian wines!

High-altitude wine

According to the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine), a wine is considered a high-altitude one when the grapes, from which it comes from, are cultivated at 1000 meters above the sea level or more.

In Bolivia, all vineyards destined to wine production are located at 1600 meters above the sea level or higher. Do you know what this means?

  100% of Bolivian wines are high altitude ones!
© iStock/ViewApart
© iStock/ViewApart

Why altitude matters

To understand the importance of the vineyard’s altitude, let us talk about polyphenols, which are antioxidants present in wine. Several types of polyphenols are determinant when it comes to the color, taste, body, health effects, and other important characteristics of the final product. Let us take some of the most decisive polyphenols of wine: anthocyanins give it its beautiful characteristic color, tannins contribute to its body and astringency, while resveratrol is responsible for some positive health effects of this beverage.

With that in mind, here is why altitude matters. As the altitude increases, the solar intensity increases too, forcing the grape to develop a thicker skin. Now, here is the key: the polyphenols I have mentioned before are present in the grape skin, therefore, a thicker one, bestows interesting characteristics to the wine.

On the other hand, the temperature difference between day and night is greater in higher and dryer places. Thanks to that night cooling, the (malic) acidity takes longer to decrease, allowing grapes to grow and evolve slowly and smoothly in the vineyard.

© iStock-Erick Dockweiler
© iStock-Erick Dockweiler

Trying Bolivian wines

Bolivia currently exports only 1% of its wine. Therefore, if you want to try it, you will most likely need to do it within the country. The best city for wine tasting is definitely Tarija. Surrounded by vineyards and wineries, Tarija is also a place that locals truly love.

There are many choices in regard to brands, grape varieties, and quality levels, thus, it is a good idea to get advice from a knowledgeable and trustworthy local to make the best choices.

"La Estación Wine House" is a great place to have your first experience with the local wines. It is a specialized cellar in the city, where you will find Bolivian industrial and artisanal wine options, with excellent prices.

La Estación Wine House, Tarija
La Estación Wine House, Tarija

On the other hand, Tarija is also well known for its exquisite barbeques, which must always, of course, be paired with wine. If you want to try this combination, "La Casona del Molino" and "El Fogón del Gringo" are excellent choices. Both serve high-quality meat, and the best local wines are a priority in their menus.

La Casona del Molino, Tarija
La Casona del Molino, Tarija
El Fogón del Gringo, Tarija
El Fogón del Gringo, Tarija

Exploring high-altitude wines in Tarija is not only about the wine itself, but it also includes landscapes, fun, and traditions, which I will tell you about in my next story! Stay tuned!


The author

Vanesa Zegada

Vanesa Zegada

I am Vanesa and I am from Bolivia. I am in love with my homeland. It never stops surprising me, even if I am a local. It is a place full of diversity, traditions, interesting spots that I want to share with you through my stories on itinari.

Stories you might also like