In my last story, I described what does the high-altitude wine mean and recommended a few places to try it in the city of Tarija. Now, for those wine lovers who want more than just tasting, I have good recommendations to dive deeper into the Bolivian wine culture. From the visits to some of the most well-known cellars of the country to the local tips on how to discover the traditional side of the Bolivian wine. Enotourism in Tarija is much more than just wine.
The Central Valley of Tarija is where the most recognized wine brands of the country elaborate their products, right next to the biggest grape agricultural area of Bolivia. Each wine brand started, a couple of generations ago, with a local or immigrant family, in love with this region. Nowadays, the best brands of the country possess internationally award-winning wines of excellent taste.
While you experience Bolivian wines, your 5 senses will be delighted, not only because of the beverage but also the beautiful nature of the surrounding valleys.
The most important cellars and vineyards of the region are located 20 to 30 minutes away from the city of Tarija, in the surrounding valleys. Campos de Solana, Aranjuez, Kohlberg and La Concepción are the most recognised wine brands of Tarija and Bolivia, you can decide which one you want to visit.
If your head is still fine after all the wine, try singani, the national spirit drink of Bolivia with near 40% of alcohol content. It is a distillate of Muscat of Alexandria grape, produced in some areas of Bolivia at an altitude equal or higher than 1600 meters above the sea level and being subject of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). Bodegas Casa Real is one of the oldest singani cellars of Bolivia, since 1925, and a great place to visit in order to have a deeper insight about this beverage.
Singani is the protagonist of lots of Bolivian cocktails, from different regions of the country, such as "sucumbé" (with boiled milk, beaten eggs, clove and cinnamon), "coctel de tumbo" (with tumbo fruit pulp and sugar), "yungueño" (with orange juice and sugar) and "chuflay" (with Ginger Ale, ice and lemon). Finally, when someone has flu, the most effective Bolivian “grandma recipe” is “té con té” (hot tea with singani, lemon and honey).
In Tarija, making wine the way it was done in older times, which means by grape-stomping, is a common thing. If you want to try it, go to El Valle de la Concepción, best known as "El Valle", a small town surrounded by vineyards. And once there, ask for "patero wine".
In El Valle, the grape harvest is celebrated every April, with the event called "La Vendimia". That day, hundreds of wine producers and local people wear their traditional clothes and get together to thank for the harvest. After the fruits are picked up, the women do the grape-stomping to the beat of joyful local music, and the celebration of the coming wine production starts.
Even if you miss "La Vendimia", you can still go to "Casa Vieja" (Old House) where, besides drinking patero wine from their own vineyards, you can try the regional food and, if you are lucky, enjoy live local music.
In El Valle, wine is so abundant that you might even find some wine pumps in town to drink it straight from a hosepipe. So, how many “meters” of wine can you drink?
Tarija is known for its welcoming, joyful and friendly people… and, of course, with a couple of wine glasses these attributes increase even more!
Wine is part of the DNA of the region. For a weekend to be considered a proper one in Tarija, there are four requirements: friends, a good barbeque, some instruments to improvise local music and, of course, a lot of wine.
Enjoying wine the way locals do it is a fun experience. Just be aware of the “te invito” rule, which I explain in my story about the Chapaco Carnival since the rule applies to any alcoholic beverage, including wines. Further than that, you will be surrounded by joyful and friendly people, playing, singing and dancing to the regional music... so just let yourself go!
If enotourism is your thing and you are looking for much more than just wine, Tarija is the place to visit in Bolivia. The choices will go from internationally award-winning wines to the artisan ones made with joy as their secret ingredient. Further than that, traditions and people will make your visit twice as interesting… and twice as funny!
A good wine requires an adventurer to produce the grape, a poet to elaborate it, and a lover to drink it... that is why wine is adventure, poetry and love. - Local saying from El Valle de la Concepción
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