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Million-acre Argentinian estate for sale, vine potential in doubt

A one million-acre plot of virgin land is for sale in San Juan in Argentina – although there is some doubt as to its vine-growing potential.

Estate agents Savills are offering the 989,000 acre (400,000ha) Estancia Punta del Agua in San Juan for £6 per acre – £6m in total.

The Estancia is situated in the Valle del Rio Bermejo, a river valley fed by the Rio Bermejo and the Rio Huaco.

Savills says the land would be suitable for agriculture, as the estate has the two rivers running through it and 300 days of sunshine.

It would also be suitable for vines, government agronomists INTA (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria) said.

‘The climate is excellent for growing high-end red wines grapes because it has good temperature alternation between day and night,’ INTA said in a report, adding they thought ‘the slopes of the Sierras de Valle Fertil are promising, particularly with underground water or streams for growing high-end grapes and olives.’

Savills said, ‘With soil reports showing vast areas of silt soils, and the potential of tapping into one of the largest aquifers in Argentina, the Estancia needs an investor who understands agriculture and has the capital to invest after the purchase in a scheme of works to bring the land into line with 21st century farming techniques.’

One expert however suggested that there would not be nearly enough water to irrigate.

Alejandro Sejanovich, former vineyard director for renowned Argentinian producer Catena, and now a consultant winemaker and owner of the Manos Negras winery in San Juan, was sceptical.

‘You would need to do a water analysis as there can be problems with salinity. It is also a very warm area – you would need about 80,000 litres of water per day per hectare to grow grapes – that’s about four times the volume of the San Juan river.’

Sejanovich agreed you could grow grapes, ‘but not of a high quality. You could produce good volume of Tannat or Syrah – or very cheap Malbec.’

Another issue would be setting up the infrastructure. As Savills said, there is no electricity and no buildings – although ‘a new network of 132 kv electricity lines’ is planned. The area was last farmed 25 years ago and was deserted in the rural depopulation during the late 1980s.

A final hurdle for foreigners, Sejanovich said, would be the hugely complicated new laws around foreign ownership of land.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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