Córdoba often plays third fiddle to Argentina’s glamorous capital Buenos Aires and the country’s key wine city Mendoza, but this picturesque province is a surprisingly diverse destination.
A rich 16th-century history, tracts of rolling countryside and hospitable Fernandito-sipping cordobeses have long ensured its reputation as a favourite with domestic travellers. Fernandito is the local favourite mixed drink of Fernet-Branca amaro with cola.
And now Córdoba is making its mark as a wine destination. While the 1573-founded eponymous provincial capital is a fascinating cultural introduction, with its UNESCO-heritage Jesuit Block and buoyant nightlife, Córdoba’s winemaking regions make for an exciting road trip.
Sierras and mountains paint a dramatic landscape, replete with rivers, cattle ranches, and opportunities for outdoor adventures such as parasailing, horse riding and hiking.
Like Mendoza, Córdoba province is elevated – about 350m-550m above sea level, compared to Mendoza at 750m and up.
But, at about 470km to the northeast of Mendoza, Córdoba is under a less intense Andean gaze.
Great wineries to visit near Córdoba
Jesuit and Spanish colonial history weave a colourful architectural tapestry, the perfect backdrop to the region’s 400-year-old story of winemaking that began with sacramental wine.
In its heyday, the Sierras Chicas hills were home to 1,500 hectares (ha) of vineyards, and while only 277ha are cultivated by 20 bodegas in three key regions today, it represents a shift to quality over abundance.
A prevalent Germanic culture means Córdoba province also hosts Latin America’s largest Oktoberfest, backed by a dynamic craft beer scene to perk up tannin-saturated palates.
Córdoba at a glance
Vineyards planted: 277ha
Wineries: 20 bodegas across five regions
Regions: Sierras Chicas, Valle de Calamuchita, Traslasierra, Punilla, Norte Córdobes
White – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier
Red – Isabella, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Ancellotta, Tannat
Car hire: Sixt (+54 351 569 4310)
More info: cordobaturismo.gov.ar (click ‘Qué hacer’, then ‘Caminos del Vino’)
Córdoba wine tour: day one
Sierras Chicas & Colonia Caroya
Córdoba’s wine story begins a 40-minute drive north of the provincial capital in Colonia Caroya. It’s an ideal day trip, but better extended with an overnight estancia stay. Take the scenic, slightly longer route through quaint villages that open up to peach and fig orchards, and onto vineyards.
The Jesuits constructed estancias here and in nearby Jesús María in 1616 and 1618 respectively, beacons on the viceroyalty’s Camino Real (Royal Route) to Buenos Aires and the Río de la Plata – where the first sacramental wine, produced in Colonia Caroya, set sail to cross the Atlantic for Felipe V’s sipping pleasure.
When Italian immigrants from Veneto and Friuli settled here from around 1878, given land in return for work, their agricultural (and charcuterie) know-how and their introduction of Vitis labrusca Isabella helped write the next chapter.
Ancellotta landed a century later, cultivated first in Caroya before the Zuccardi family took the variety to Mendoza.
Oenologist Gaby Campana contributes to setting the province’s winemaking standard at Terra Camiare, while the magnitude of the 505-hectolitre vats at La Caroyense showcases the area’s bygone winemaking muscle.
Fourth-generation vintner Gaby plays around with old Isabella and Pinot Noir vines – the latter known as la francesa, or ‘the French one’.
He’s a pioneer who microvinifies Ancellotta, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay in concrete eggs. His top-line Socavones Capitulum Semillon comes from Quilino, a desert-like area where summer temperatures can reach 45°C.
Bodega Del Gredal’s small-production Misitorco Sauvignon Blanc from nearby San Pedro Norte is a herbaceous surprise among Córdoba’s strong red pack.
Try Del Gredal’s vintages with superb Colonia Caroya salami, which has held a geographical indication (GI) since 2014, at La Cautiva Parrilla steakhouse in Jesús María.
History abounds at La Caroyense, which in its 1970s heyday picked millions of kilos of grapes. Today oenologist Agostina Lucchesi makes 500,000 litres of traditional-method espumoso sparkling, two grappa spirits and Lagrimilla, a sacramental wine, plus red varietals. A former co-op, the heritage is evident in oak casks and stained glass windows.
- Where to eat: Chef Martín Altamirano brings European Michelin experience to La Torgnole near Ascochinga, creating a whimsical seasonal tasting menu; sample Piensa’s red blends here.
- Where to stay: Once the home of 19th-century president Julio Argentino Roca, rise and shine to sweet birdsong at Pueblo Estancia La Paz, a beautiful rural bolthole constructed in 1830.
Córdoba wine tour: days two and three
Valle de Traslasierra
There’s plenty to savour in Traslasierra, from Granja Verbena’s Sardo goat’s cheese to the handcrafted local Fernet Beney amaro brand distilled with more than 40 highland herbs.
This is a hilly southwest region about three hours’ drive from Jésus Mária, dotted with charming towns and villages, such as San Javier and Yacanto.
Overlooked by ruddy-faced Champaquí, Cordobá’s tallest peak at 2,790m, Traslasierra offers activities galore, from cabalgatas (horse riding) with gaucho Alejandro Oliva of Los Teros, who also gives carriage-driving lessons, to fishing for pejerrey (silverside) at Dique La Viña reservoir. Cooling off in one of the numerous shallow rocky streams is a treasured simple pleasure in summer.
Winemaker Nicolás Jascalevich leads Traslasierra’s movement at Bodega San Javier, having set out in 2001 to recover the region’s lost wine heritage. Two decades on, standout bottlings that adhere to organic agriculture include Champaquí Gran Reserva Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon and a stylish Noble Malbec rosé. He also runs a cosy inn surrounded by vineyards.
Goyo and Ana Aráoz de Lamadrid also paired their winemaking project (in partnership with Richard Kirton) with a delightful lodge bolthole tucked away in San Javier.
Besides cultivating 10ha of Malbec and Syrah vines with Mendoza-based viticulturist Federico Zaina, xerophile fan Goyo also keeps a 450-species Cactusarium and leads guided visits at weekends that culminate in a three-wine tasting with picada (charcuterie and finger-food).
Driving local sustainable identity is paramount at La Matilde, a biodynamic winery and farm plus intimate 10-room hotel run by Pablo Asef.
Viticulturist Matías Michelini helped Asef get the vineyard off the ground a decade ago, and although today Bodega San Javier’s Jascalevich vinifies Malbec and Tannat here, Rhône-style whites are also on the horizon.
The sustainable approach continues at De Adobe restaurant, with chefs picking organic vegetables from their own garden. It also stocks local Traslasierra wines, such as Finca El Boleado’s Viognier and Bodega Viarago’s Malbec duo. The latter is opens its cellar door in Villa de las Rosas with prior reservation.
- Where to eat: Buenos Aires transplant Nitu Digilio left molecular cuisine (El Bulli in Catalonia, among others) to create abundant burgers at the charming 19th-century Peperina in La Población.
- Where to stay: Recharge batteries at Posada La Matilde, a kingdom of tranquillity and biodynamic vineyards.
Córdoba wine tour: day four
Valle de Calamuchita
A three-hour drive east takes you on the winding mountain road known as the Camino de los Grandes Lagos, which makes for a radical contrast to the prairie-flat Colonia Caroya and Traslasierra’s green hills.
The principal Los Molinos dam, popular with water skiers and pejerrey anglers, guarantees a cooler climate in which the Calamuchita valley’s white varieties are stating their case.
While Oktoberfest may draw in the hop heads to Calamuchita’s largest town Villa General Belgrano to celebrate, the Italian connection continues in Calamuchita, a relatively newer wine region.
At Famiglia Furfaro, brothers Jorge and Hugo first planted on slopes overlooking Los Molinos in 2012, converting a potato farm into Villa Ciudad Parque’s first vineyard. Highlights from Famiglia Furfaro’s mainly red portfolio include a powerful French oak-aged Cabernet Franc blend, while Primaterra Chardonnay’s refreshing acidity is most enjoyable.
Hugo runs a restaurant in Italy but he returns for harvest, making this the best time to visit, as the brothers are together and their infectious laughter reverberates around the log-constructed tasting room over a picada.
Off the beaten track in Los Reartes is Río del Medio, which is owned by Carlos and Laura Testa.
The petit bodega’s star is Malabar, a zingy Sauvignon Blanc named ‘Argentina’s Revelation 2021’ in Decanter contributor Patricio Tapia’s Descorchados guide. It’s best savoured while enjoying the rocky landscape and watery panorama of Los Molinos dam.
Close by is Vista Grande, an ideal spot to refuel with a picnic among the vines. Here, Daniela Martinelli leads this four-hectare family project that started out as dad Daniel’s hobby and today produces 14,000 bottles across nine labels.
Her experimental approach is really paying off, co-fermenting Cabernet Franc and Merlot in stainless steel tanks and cultivating Rhône whites. Surmenage, a fresh Roussanne-Chardonnay blend, is particularly promising.
Calamuchita’s latest bricks-and-mortar project is Sineres Champañera, which opened to visitors in October 2021.
Husband-and-wife team Agustín Sommavilla and Andrea Fissore drive forward traditional-method sparkling wine, a radical take on bubbles for hop-loving Villa General Belgrano.
For a Córdoba-wide panorama, Brazilian sommelier and regional transplant Cristiano Yamamoto, who used to lead the wine programme at Four Seasons hotel Buenos Aires, runs tastings in English, Portuguese and Japanese around Calamuchita. He can be contacted on the following mobile number: +54 9 11 3014 9501.
- Where to eat: Beat the summer heat with cider on tap and a Neapolitan-style pizza at El Taller in Villa General Belgrano town, touted as the finest slice in all of Córdoba.
- Where to stay: A stately hotel on the outskirts of Villa General Belgrano, Altos de Belgrano is a peaceful sanctuary away from the central hubbub.
Córdoba wine tour: day five
The provincial capital’s dining and nightlife is vibrant and well priced, and a 90-minute drive back from Villa General Belgrano, so it’s worth tagging on an extra night.
After a day’s sightseeing in the historic Jesuit Quarter or zipping alongside Suquía river on an e-scooter with Get Move, refreshment is due with a pint of Golden Ale co-fermented with Isabella grape must at Höppers pub’s spacious roof terrace.
Córdoba’s nightlife is alive with pubs and cocktail bars in the Güemes district, such as Francis, and an evening is best rounded off listening (or dancing) to cuarteto at Estadio de Centro dance hall, fuelled by one last Fernandito.
- Where to eat Devour the lunchtime tasting menu at El Papagayo , a slip of a restaurant artfully helmed by chef Javier Rodríguez; with a list of 30 or more Córdoba wines.
- Where to stay A block from central Plaza San Martín, Azur Reál Hotel’s creature comforts include a subterranean water circuit spa and Bruma restaurant.
Córdoba is most easily reached by air, with numerous daily flights from Buenos Aires. Flight time is 1hr 23mins. Alternatively, you can hire a car in Buenos Aires or take the bus; drive time is about 10 hours on RN9.