OK, so there may not be much ‘song’ in this, but there is definitely wine and Singani (a popular grape based Bolivian firewater similar to Pisco or Grappa). Which means this is one of the most typical sights in the valley surrounding Tarija…
…not only because this is the home of Bolivia’s emerging wine industry, and well established Singani industry, but because this time of year is the grape harvest.
We were lucky enough to go on a tour of one of Bolivia’s oldest and best winemakers at the Campos de Solana bodega. The people behind the Campos de Salano brand also happen to own Bolivia’s best known Singani brand, Casa Real. Which meant we got to do a tour and tasting of both.
First on the agenda at 9.30am was the Casa Real Singani distillery. At 40 proof, a slightly flowery aftertaste and with a kick in tail that is like being slapped across the face, Singani cannot be recommended as a post-breakfast digestif. Still, we got to see the freshly picked grapes arriving to start the long process of being turned into Bolivian firewater.
Then it was on to the business end of the process…distilling and mellowing, with a little help from the French in Cognac where all the equipment comes from.
After a shot of Singani at 10am to test the claim that the ‘black label’ was better than the ‘red label’, we went off to the Campos de Solana bodega and a tour of the wine making facilities – followed by a much easier tasting of Cabernet Sauvignon.
After our tour of the Campos de Solana vineyard we headed out to the small village of La Conception where we tried out a few ‘artisanal’ wines, still made traditionally by crushing the grapes by foot. Travelling through the lush valley en route to a date with non-commercial wine we passed some amazing scenery.
Fearing the worst, I was pleasantly surprised by the ‘artisanal’ wines, although I wouldn’t want to drink a whole demijohn of the stuff. After all our exertions throughout the morning it was time to return to Tarija for a light lunch and a well deserved siesta.