March 24, 2012
In the world of palaeontology, Argentina is famous for its spectacular dinosaur fossils. But in the greater world, it is known for, among many other things, its amazing wine. The province of Mendoza has been producing world-renown wine for many years, but in the last decade successful wineries have taken root in Patagonia. This is the land where wine and dinosaurs meet. Saturday, we spent a glorious afternoon at a winery with a very unique story that demonstrates the incredible richness of Argentina for dinosaur fossils. During the construction of the Shroeder Family winery in 2002, workmen digging the wine cellars and tasting room made an unexpected discovery- a giant fossilized bone over 1 meter long from a prehistoric animal.
The Schroeder family called paleontologist Jorge Calvo to come have a look. The bone turned out to belong to a titanosaur, a sauropod dinosaur, which was common in the Cretaceous of Gondwana. Dr. Calvo immediately commenced an excavation, where his team recovered other bones from the back and the ribcage. Recognizing the value of Argentina’s prehistoric past, they constructed a permanent display of the bones as they were found in the winery building, between the tasting room and the cellar. The exact spot where the bones came to light after 75 millions years is a highligh of the winery tour. And as a tribute to dinosaurs, they named their first line of wine Saurus, as the sediments just below the rows of vines dates back to the Age of Dinosaurs.
The story doesn’t end there. After years of preparation and study, Dr. Calvo noticed features of the bones not present in any other sauropod. These unique characteristics justified the recognition of new species that Dr. Calvo named Panamericansaurus schroederi, in honor of the family, and the winery, that worked so hard to preserve them.