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Charles Sanders
Charles Sanders

Buy Bolivian Wine

Samaipata, Bolivia has roughly 450 years of winemaking history. As the Spanish pushed the frontier further and further into what is now Bolivia, they fought hard for these mountain valleys where grapevines could be planted. They first planted vines in the tropical lowlands near Santa Cruz, but grapes suitable for winemaking were impossible to grow. In Samaipata, at an elevation of 1,750 meters (5,749 feet), vines could find the right balance of ripeness and acidity. Here, and throughout the mountain valleys near Santa Cruz vineyards provided wine for local consumption and sacramental use for the Catholic Church. In modern times, Samaipata is seeing a small revolution of boutique grape growers and winemakers focused on high quality production. Bodega Uvairenda was founded in the early 2000s to revive the winemaking history of the Santa Cruz Valleys. They focus on local varietals like Torrontés and Pedro Giménez, as well as French varietals like Cabernet, Syrah, and Tannat.

buy bolivian wine


Once the Marselan vines were producing quality fruit Franz set to experimenting. The wines were coming out with rich concentration and plenty of intensity, so the family decided to dedicate this grape to high-quality production.

A limited quantity of wine was made and then set to age in new French oak barrels for 18 months, with a final 9 months in bottle. The resulting wine shows the split between its two parent vines, with notes of blackcurrant, pepper, chocolate, licorice, black cherry, and spices.

When one thinks of the most successful South American red wines a variety of French names come to mind: Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and so on. The beauty of South American wines is not limited to these Noble Varietals; there are other vines with much more history and a longer connection to the land. Vischoqueña (vees-cho-KEYN-ya) is a grape varietal found only in the Cinti Valley.

Very little information exists outside of the stories passed down from generation to generation by local winemakers. It is said that a stagecoach was travelling through the region, bringing with them special vines that were thought to be ideal for the area. The travellers arrived at the Vischoca River and attempted to cross, but the stagecoach flipped and the vines were spread by the river on to the banks. The vines began to produce in great abundance and were prized by the Spanish for their red grapes, which were small, juicy, thin-skinned, and aromatic. The varietal was named Vischoqueña in honour of town and river at which they arrived.

Cuttings of these vines were eventually taken to the Cinti Valley, the primary winemaking region of the time. The Vischoqueña vine can be traced in the valley back to the late 1800s, and there are still vineyards that exist with vines that are at least as old.

The South America Wine Guide was established by award-winning journalist Amanda Barnes in 2013 as the first English-language guide to the wineries of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia & Peru.

A vineyard in Tarija, Bolivia, the center of the country's wine industry. A growing number of wineries here are improving their techniques, ramping up production and starting to export, as global interest in Bolivia's award-winning wines grows. Insights/Universal Images Group/Getty Images hide caption

Bolivia's wine industry is based in the southern city of Tarija, near the southern border with Argentina. This region has long produced small amounts of artisanal wine, as well as the distilled grape-based spirit known as singani, the national drink. But a growing number of wineries here are improving their techniques, ramping up production and starting to export.

While leading a half-dozen wine aficionados through the Aranjuez winery in Tarija, Gerardo Aguirre, export manager for the company, says: "They want Bolivian wine in Chile! Bolivian wine is exotic. We are a high-altitude wine. Here at Aranjuez, we are getting a lot of medals in really serious contests."

Spanish settlers introduced winemaking to South America in the 1600s. The industry took hold in Argentina and Chile, which are home to temperate climates and flatlands well-suited for vineyards. Those two nations are now among the world's top-10 wine-producing countries; Bolivia does not come anywhere close to making the list.

To take advantage of the altitude, Aranjuez and other wineries began planting a red wine grape called tannat. This variety, which originated in France and is now grown in many winemaking regions around the world, has a thicker skin to resist the intense sunlight of high altitudes. The grapes produce bold and intense wines that have often impressed sommeliers.

A breakthrough came at a contest of tannat wines held in Uruguay in 2013. That's when Aranjuez's entry bested wines from other South American countries to win Bolivia's first-ever grand gold medal, the highest accolade bestowed at competitions by the international wine industry.

The country's wines also have been lauded in publications ranging from Wine Enthusiast to The Washington Post. Globalization has led to complaints of wine tasting similar around the world, as new producers often attempt to mimic old world wines. But Post wine critic David McIntyre wrote that Bolivia's best tannats stand out as "vibrant, polished and with impressive complexity."

Gustavo Pinedo, who is growing 62 acres of tannat grapes on his farm on the outskirts of Tarija, says: "I think wine drinkers are looking for new things. And the difference here is the high altitude."

The growing prominence of Bolivia's wine industry brings thousands of visitors to Tarija every year. Carla Lema, a tour guide at Campos de Solana, another big winery in the city, says that the company hosted 12,000 visitors last year.

Many board tour buses that ferry them from one winery to the next during a five-hour stretch. On one bus, Bolivian folk music blared from the sound system as passengers clapped and sang along. They were a jolly bunch, in part because rather than using spit buckets at the tastings, they simply swallowed the wine.

But it remains difficult to find Bolivian wine overseas, and it is available in only a handful of shops in the U.S. Nearly all of it is sold in Bolivia, where over the past decade, the economy and wine consumption have both been expanding.

Bolivian winemakers are scrambling to produce more for export but are limited by the lack of suitable land. While Chile and Argentina together grow about 1 million acres of grapes, Bolivia's vineyards cover just 11,000 acres. In addition, more than half of the harvest is used for white wine, singani and table grapes. World wine production in 2018 was 29.3 billion litres, with Bolivia contributing just a tiny fraction of the total: about 15 million litres, according to Ortuño.

The scale of the wine industry in Bolivia is small compared to well-known producers such as Chile and Argentina, but Bolivian winery is starting to receive the recognition it deserves, at home and abroad.

The Bolivian wine strategy is to produce extremely high-quality wines. The wine industry of other South American countries is larger and already famous but Bolivia is producing wines that taste like no others nearby. What makes them so special is the altitude.

The wine production in Bolivia is not new, it is an over 4 centuries-old tradition, where wines are crafted in small-scale but with love. It all started with the Moscatel de Alejandria (Muscat of Alexandria) grapes, the first ones that came to Bolivia. They were brought by Spanish Jesuit missionaries who started the wine production in the 16th century.

The main Bolivian wineries (together they account for around 70% of the total production) are Aranjuez and Kuhlmann (well known for its singani and sparkling wines) followed by Campos de Solana (one of the most modern wineries in South America), Kohlberg, La Concepción, Casa Real, Casa Grande and many other smaller but top producers.

The old Cinti Valley with several artisan boutique production winemakers mostly for local consumption. Some of them maintain the traditional use of damajuanas (demijohns, pronounced as daw-ma-hua-nuhs) instead of using stainless steel. The acids that the Spaniards brought to South America, to be used in the gold and silvers mines of Potosí, were transported in big glass vessels. These empty vessels, called damajuanas were eventually re-used to ferment wines and age singani. These are sky-high artisanal vintage wines.

Travelers can visit one of these vineyards during a tour to Samaipata and taste some wine. As an added bonus: at the end of the trip on the way to Santa Cruz de la Sierra they will be able to swim at a waterfall, in a tropical rainforest. Where else in any other winemaking country in the world can you do that?

Bolivian wines cover less than 5000 hectares and are widely scattered in the Andean valleys around Cochabamba, Potosí, and in the far south in Tarija. The vine plants range from 1600 meters to 2850 meters in height. In addition to the traditional distillation grapes, Grenache, Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, and Pinot Noir are grown.

The first vineyards in Bolivia were planted by Spanish colonisers who successfully managed to grow grapes in a tropical environment. The first varieties that were planted by the pioneers of Bolivian wine were Mission, País and Muscat of Alexandria. The art of winemaking has undergone a lot of changes and adapted to the modern technologies and processes.

There are three Bolivian wine regions: Central Valley of Tarija, Valley of Cinti and Valleys of Santa Cruz. All the Bolivian wine regions have a semiarid and temperate climate, and due to the elevation, grapes are much exposed to sunlight. This results in strong aromatic wines, both red and white (Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

Bolivia has an extreme high-altitude wine industry, in which around 75 percent of production is devoted to red wine, with 20 percent white wine and a small amount of dessert wine, sparkling wine and fortified bottlings. Many vineyards are, however, devoted to the production of singani, the national drink. 041b061a72


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