In my previous post, I briefly mentioned the greenbelt that once surrounded Buenos Aires; in the interim, I set about making some inquiries about it. I asked my wife whether she could recall any vineyards from her youth and she couldn’t, but Andrew Graham-Yooll wrote me that, in his rather longer experience, “there have been many chacras [smallholdings] on the outskirts of BA over the decades.”
Andrew cites the example of Tigre and the Paraná Delta, which was a major fruit-growing area – in fact, the riverside market there is still known as the “Puerto de Frutos” (pictured above). He also notes that there were vineyards, for both wine and table grapes, in southern Buenos Aires suburbs like Florencio Varela and Monte Grande, and western fruit and vegetable-growing areas like Castelar, Moreno, General Rodríguez and Luján (all within 25 to 70 km from Buenos Aires), “but all of that has been wiped out by the urban sprawl. My photograph below would suggest that, though I’m not sure of the its precise location – it was taken from a flight landing at Ezeiza, on the capital's southern outskirts.
I wrote, in my previous piece, that the nearest wine-growing area to Buenos Aires was in Sierra de la Ventana (550 km away), but I was wrong. To the north, parts of the provinces between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers – sometimes known as Argentine Mesopotamia (a section of which appears below, from the air) - were a flourishing wine-growing area, but political pressure from the Cuyo provinces (Mendoza and San Juan) eliminated the practice until recently.
Now, in the province of Entre Ríos, near the attractive riverside town of Colón (about 330 km north of Buenos Aires), Bodega Vulliez Sermet has begun to produce a variety of reds, including Tannat, under conditions similar to those in Uruguay. On the west bank of the Río Uruguay, Colón is considerably closer to Buenos Aires than Sierra de la Ventana, though still farther away than those in Uruguay itself. The photograph below is Colón's municipal tourism office, now housed in the historic riverside customs house.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to that part of Argentina, but it’s potentially a worthwhile stop for overland travelers en route to the wildlife-rich Iberá marshes or the thunderous cascades of Parque Nacional Iguazú. It’s also a possible detour from Gualeguaychú, the hearth of Argentine Carnaval (due to begin Saturday, January 10th).
There’s another winery, Corrales Vier, in the more westerly city of Victoria (about 340 km northwest of Buenos Aires). When a sommelier friend of mine tried to contact Vuillez and Corrales by email, though, neither one responded – although Vuillez makes a point of advertising its cabaña-style accommodations. He hasn’t seen wines from either one for sale in Buenos Aires, but did have a sample of Vuillez's at a tasting event several years ago.
Maybe these are mystery wines but, the next time I visit Colón or Victoria, I’ll make an effort to stop.