Located between 34° 5’ and 35° south latitude, the area covers San Rafael and General Alvear Districts, at the foothills of the Andes main range. This oasis is irrigated by Atuel and Diamante Rivers. It is home to almost 22,000 cultivated hectares, (which represent 15% of the total viticulture area of Mendoza). The annual average temperature is 15° C.
San Rafael is one of the most important departments in the viticulture industry. It has become very considerable due to its natural beauty and growing tourism. The vineyards in this zone are dispersed and have a high percentage of anti-hail net due to the stormy weather in this zone. Being the most southern territory in the province, it is one of the lowest since the lands are between 800 and 400 meters above sea level. The best varieties here are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Bonarda.
San Rafael counts with what connoisseurs call D.O.C (Controlled Origin Denomination) and so producers cultivate and harvest grapes of excellent quality and reliable production origin. There is a great deal of wineries, some of them of international renownas well as small boutique wineries all making great quality wines.
First we find Bodega Valentín Bianchi (Valentín Bianchi Winery) near to San Rafael Airport. Valentín Bianchi arrived in Argentina in 1910. Over the years, Mr. Valentín Bianchi’s family has been evolving in the integration of two goals that summarize today the company’s way of proceeding, which is to make wines and champagne of a higher quality, and to do that combining in the best possible way all the production factors. This entails cultivating vines of selected varieties, using an adapted technology, respectful of weather and soil conditions, to grow grapes using careful methods, and mainly to do so with the enthusiasm, the effort and the dedication of all of those who work to the service of the desired product. It is famous for its traditional wines, such as: Bianchi Chablis, Don ValentínLacrado, 1887, Famiglia Bianchi, Valentín Bianchi D.O.C San Rafael. This winery from San Rafael is the achiever of the gold medal to the category “Art and Culture” in the context of the Award Ceremony for “The Best of Wine Tourism 2008” awarded by the Red Great Wine Capital in Mendoza.
Another very important winery is Bodega Suter, which dates back to the year 1900. It was founded by a Swiss immigrant. It allows enjoying from tours to its vineyards with fine grape varieties. It has been awarded with many international awards.
As regards to olive oil factories, the cultivation of olives and the making of olive oil have notably grown in the last years in San Rafael, reaching the performance of other departments with greater experience in the field.
There are some 200 wineries, many of which are century old establishments founded by European immigrants.
San Rafael is the main zone in Chenin Blanc production, which tell us about the freshness and personality which are considered particular to white wines.
Chardonnay is also one of the varieties that characterize this zone.
If we talk about red wines, the best varieties to produce them are Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.