Discover the Uco Valley with BIRA

A Journey into High Altitude Viticulture

Often referred to as "The Napa of the South," Mendoza stands as Argentina's foremost winemaking region, boasting a reputation that rivals many others across the globe. Look a little bit closer, and find the Uco Valley, located to the west of the Tunuyan River, a watercourse that provides natural irrigation for the wineries in the area.

This picturesque region is renowned for its fusion of cultures and innovative approach to winemaking, making it a top-tier destination for wine lovers, especially those enamoured by the region's renowned Malbec.

BIRA was born in 2017 as a result of two friends’ quest to revive their family roots, both deeply connected to Italy. With a fondness for wines from the so-called boot, they set out to seek out ancient vineyards in the Uco Valley, reviving the production of uniquely blended red wines for Argentina, alongside whites infused with that distinctive influence. Their approach is all about limited production and a steadfast commitment to quality and consistency.

In the latest instalment of our Discover series, we caught up with Santiago Bernasconi, co-founder of BIRA, to uncover the best spots for scenic tours, food, and of course, wine, in the picturesque Uco Valley. 

What is the best way to explore Uco Valley?

SB: Uco Valley’s wineries are dotted along the Provincial Route 89, dubbed "The Wine Road." The best way to go around is definitely by renting a car, giving visitors the freedom to explore at their own pace and allowing them to visit their selected wineries. Or… you could hire a designated driver, that way you can fully enjoy each tasting!

What to expect when visiting BIRA and exploring the surrounding area?

SB: At the heart of the Uco Valley lies the captivating BIRA Winery, where guests are invited to immerse themselves in the art of winemaking amidst the breath-taking Andes mountain-range. Surrounded by ancient Sangiovese vineyards, guests can indulge in the unique opportunity to taste wines amidst the very vines that produce them. The winery's proximity to the Andes infuses its wines with a distinctive character, evoking a sense of place that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression.

Beyond BIRA, what other attractions or experiences in Uco Valley do you recommend for visitors?

SB: While BIRA Winery stands as a beacon of excellence, the Uco Valley offers a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be explored. From leisurely hikes in San Pablo to culinary adventures at RUDA restaurant in Gualtallary, there's no shortage of experiences to delight the senses. For those seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures, scenic drives through the valley's picturesque landscapes offer a glimpse into its lesser-known corners, revealing hidden gems waiting to be discovered

Any other addresses to know?

SB: Easy; more than addresses, I like to drive from Potrerillos to the Uco Valley entering the Valley from behind, through La Carrera, or doing it the other way around, from La Carrera within the Uco Valley and down to Potrerillos. Magical.

Can you share any upcoming projects or developments at BIRA that you’re excited about?

SB: Innovation is at the core of everything we do, something very visible in our recent releases. We have recently released a white made with Malvasia that’s unique in Argentina, it’s the only Malvasia wine vinified as white in our country. We also have our fantastic rosé, blending Sangiovese and Syrah, boasts floral notes, expressive character, and a crisp, refreshing finish. We're equally thrilled about BIRA's expanding presence in the export market, now available in 10 countries across America and Europe.

Where to eat in the Uco Valley?

SB: You just can’t go wrong in eating at the Uco Valley! The culinary scene here is as diverse and captivating as our wines; with an incredible array of flavours and experiences to savour. From savoury lamb and rabbit to the famous Argentine asado, local delicacies blend with international cuisines, creating a culinary tapestry that reflects the valley's rich cultural heritage.

My absolute favourite spot is RUDA, run by a dynamic young couple – with him as the chef and her as the sommelier. They're fantastic people who whip up incredible dishes and curate an impressive wine selection. For a more laid-back vibe, I'd suggest La Azul, a cozy restaurant perfect for groups who are looking for a more relaxed atmosphere. I also must recommend, Hornero Restaurante, nestled in the charming La Morada hotel in Chacayes; another gem worth exploring. It’s managed by Andres Rosberg, former president of the International Sommelier Association. It goes without saying that their wine list is sure to impress!

How would you say Sangiovese from the Uco Valley differs from its Italian counterparts?

SB: Uco Valley’s wines boast a character all their own. I would say that Sangiovese from the Uco Valley bears more resemblance to the style of Montalcino than that of Chianti. The abundant exposure to sunlight infuses these wines with an intensity that simply differs from those found in Chianti. Wines grown in this part of the world, at this altitude, have copious amounts of fruit expression with some red and black fruits, tomato, and black tea leaf.

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Joana’s first memory with wine was at a very young age, when she first tasted the sweetness of Madeira during a family trip to the Portuguese archipelago. After graduating with a degree in Economics in Lisbon, and a stint in the Fashion industry in Amsterdam, Joana delved into the world of Wine, a passion that had never left her. She has a particular interest in low-intervention, artisanal wines.