How the hell can they make wine here?
Bodega Tacuil is one of the most remote and extreme locations in the entire world of wine. Located in the department of Molinos at around 200Km north west of Cafayate and 250Km south west of Salta City – a challenging but stunning drive whichever route you take – the geographical marker is the better-known Bodega Colomé. (Colomé was once owned by the Dávalos family along with Tacuil but was sold to Donald Hess more than a decade ago.) Colomé’s location seems extreme enough – it is an oasis in the dessert, on a high rolling plateau at around 2,250 metres above sea level. To reach Tacuil, however, you need to embark on a ride into the mountains, up to 2,600 metres on a road that is not recommended for those with even a passing trepidation of heights. Nothing short of scary! And suddenly, there it is… a magnificent natural goblet of green, high in the Andes, planted with exotic fruits, delicious vegetables and, of course, vines. The property itself is massive, stretching beyond the imagination and beyond human habitation into the mountains. There are ancient ruins and ancient ghosts here, indigenous people who lived thousands of years ago. The remoteness is difficult to describe in words, as is the sheer uncompromising wild beauty of the place; but it grips and envelopes you, as you wonder… “How the hell can they make wine here”?
And it’s not just any old wine. The extreme altitude and thermal amplitudes, permeable sandy soils low in nitrogen, 9 out of 12 months of cold dry weather, the searing rays of the sun; all of these converge to produce fruit of incredible aromatic potential. The wines are truly unique, the logistics are a nightmare!
Tacuil is presided over by one of the giants of the Argentine wine industry, owner Raul Dávalos Snr, whose family have owned lands here since the early 19th century. Mr. Dávalos famously pioneered winemaking with no oak and today that fact still defines the wines, along with a purity of fruit expression that has to be tasted to be believed. In the old days the problem was high alcohol. Even as recently as 10 years ago it wasn’t possible to import the wines (legally) due to this. But now, with a lovely little modern winery in place, temperature control and a better understanding of optimum harvest times, the wines generally check in at a very sensible 14.5% ABV, and they carry it beautifully. These days, the winemaking is done by Raul Dávalos Jnr, a lovely, humble bloke whose talents are well known in Argentina. Raul continues the tradition of making stunning wines with no oak. He once told us, and this is the truth, that if his Dad caught him ageing Tacuil wines in oak barrels, he would shoot him!