Sky Vines: The World's Highest Vineyard

Bodega Colomé boasts some of the oldest — and highest — vines in the world

Kristin Vuković
Extreme altitude enhances wine — the higher in altitude a vineyard is, the more intense the colors, aroma, and flavor.

The province of Salta, located in the Northwest of Argentina, is home to the highest vineyard in the world — planted at an elevation of 3,111 meters above sea level (10,207 feet). Bodega Colomé, located in the heart of Salta’s Calchaquí Valley, is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina and boasts some of the oldest (and highest) vines in the world.

Sky Vines: The World's Highest Vineyard (Slideshow)

Donald Hess, one of California’s early Napa Valley pioneers, and his wife Ursula decided to revive the winery in 1998 and it is now revered as one of the finest wineries in Salta.

“We fell right away in love,” Hess said of Colomé’s spectacular landscape. “In all those years, this love has not diminished—it has increased.”

Hess believes wine came to Salta because of the last Spanish governor’s daughter, who brought Malbec cuttings back from Bordeaux. Colomé mainly produces Malbec, the iconic Argentine wine. They also plant cabernet, tannat, petit verdot, and turrega, in order to blend them and give their wines greater finesse.

It wasn’t easy to grow vines on this rocky, arid land but the land has a privileged climate for great production: minimal rainfall and good quality air contribute to the vineyard’s health and the ability to grow vines biodynamically. It took Hess two years and more than a million dollars to bring water and electricity to Colomé. Now, a 13-thousand-kilowatt generator provides electricity harnessed from a river up the mountain.

Grapes grown at high altitudes produce thicker skins to protect themselves from the high levels of ultraviolet sunlight and fluctuations in temperature between day and night. Extreme altitude enhances wine — the higher in altitude a vineyard is, the more intense the colors, aroma, and flavor. High-altitude grapes also contain more beneficial polyphenols, which are known to help prevent coronary disease and cancer. An antioxidant boost is a great excuse to have a glass of one of these exquisite wines.

A Beautiful Malbec

Colomé’s malbec is ripe and intensely aromatic, with deep colors and concentration.

The James Turrell Museum

At Colomé, you can have the unique experience of visiting The James Turrell Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated solely to the work of James Turrell, an internationally acclaimed American light and space artist.

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Kristin Vukovic is a culinary travel writer. She loves discovering the heart of a culture through its food and wine. You can find her on Twitter @Vukovic

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