Tarija, Bolivia

Photo: Bodega Tierra Roja

Is Bolivia about to become South America’s new “it” destination? With new hotels being built in La Paz, acclaimed restaurants expanding, and the breathtaking landscape (salt flats, red deserts, geysers) finally landing on travelers’ wish lists, it certainly looks that way.

If you’re already traveling in South America, Tarija is an easy spot in which to enter the landlocked country. Don’t worry, you’ll head north to La Paz, the booming capital, later. The southeastern corner of Bolivia borders both Paraguay and Argentina. It was actually part of the latter for much of the 19th century. So the landscape, the people, and the climate will immediately feel familiar. So will the wine. Tarija’s wine production is thriving.

You’ve never tasted Bolivian wine? That’s not at all surprising. Though wine grapes have been grown here for more than 400 years, the industry is still small. There are only 65 wineries, and their vineyards are less than two percent of the size of Argentina’s when combined. Tarija’s conditions are ideal, though. The city’s high altitude gives grapes, including white Muscat of Alexandria and red Tannat, thick skins. They, in turn, create ripe tannins and bold flavors.

So your first stop is Bodega Tierra Roja. The winery is organic. It was founded by a self-taught winemaker, who started producing wine in his bedroom. It embraces, instead of trying to work around, its high altitude. It’s experimenting with Vicchoqueña grapes, which are similar to Pinot Noir. Plus its wines are stellar. The list of reasons to travel to Bolivia right now just keeps growing.

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