In the World’s Southernmost Wine Region, Tasting Local Pinot Noirs Beside Penguins

(Condé Nast Traveler) Atlantic waves break near the vines, and Southern Argentine winds blow icy gusts across their leaves as I pop a few of the morning’s harvest—round Pinot Noir grapes—into my mouth. These vineyards, running along Patagonia’s moody eastern coast, produce fruit with delicate maritime flavors; a recent storm has left a lick of salinity on the first three rows of vines. It is March in Bahía Bustamante, where Magellanic penguins wobble along the craggy shores and flightless Darwin’s rhea teeter through the area’s Petrified Forest National Park. Described by The New York Times as Argentina’s answer to the Galápagos for its diversity of wildlife, this area is now also gaining a reputation for its Pinot and Sémillon. It is the last stop on my road trip through Chubut Province in southern Patagonia, which also possesses vineyards whose grapes grow high against the backdrop of the jagged Andes, making this one of the most extreme wine regions I have seen in my career as a sommelier.

Stretching from the Andean border with Chile to the Atlantic, Chubut is known for its Welsh heritage and the southern right whales at Valdés Peninsula. A decade or so ago, pioneering vintners recognized the potential of its elevation and minerality and began cultivating its diverse corners, including the shores of Bahía Bustamante. Though Chubut is not unknown to travelers, Maita Barrenechea, the master specialist who runs South America’s luxury Mai10 agency, has begun creating itineraries that stitch the province together in a new way: They follow what she calls the Austral Wine Route, which covers the most southern viticulture region in the world, zigzagging along wide roads past national parks and glacial rivers.

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