Argentina

IN A NUTSHELL...

Argentina boasts a wealth of natural resources - areas of stunning scenic beauty from high summits and plains to lush forests, arid deserts, glaciers and waterfalls. In fact if you were to imagine any landscape, you will more than likely find it somewhere on Argentine soil. And the importance of the country’s wonderful landscape when it comes to wine making? Well, where growing grapes is concerned the conditions are ideal; the dryness, the varying altitudes, the scarce rainfall and pure melt water irrigation all contribute to the intense colours, complex aromas and bold flavours Argentinean wines have become recognised for.

So how much do we actually know about wines from Argentina? Well generally speaking the Argentinean wine industry is ruled by M&M and no this does not refer to the popular chocolate confectionary! This particular M&M refers to the region of Mendoza, which produces approximately 80% of the wines of Argentina and that well known grape variety Malbec. As the fifth largest wine producing country in the world, there is a whole lot more to the Argentinean wine industry than just M&M.

So here's a little introductory insight…

THE WINE REGIONS

The history of vine cultivation and wine making in Argentina seems to date back to the early 1500s when the Spanish began their colonisation of the Americas. Vine cuttings were brought over to Santiago del Estero and soon cultivation and production spread to neighbouring regions and then to other parts of the country.

In its simplest form the wine producing areas of Argentina can be divided into three regions:

NORTHERN REGION

The Northern Region is characterised by the altitude of its vineyards, located between 3,280 and 9,800 feet above sea level. Other distinctive features of this region are the scarce rainfall and dry, warm climate, with very high average temperatures, and sandy soils that favour good drainage. The main winemaking areas in these regions keep thousands of years of history: Cafayate, Tinogasta, Santa María and Belén were once the home of the Calchaquíes and the Diaguitas, who were among the first peoples to inhabit the Americas.

Wine, The Facts: The Calchaquíes Valleys, in the province of Salta, boast the highest vineyards in the world.

CUYO REGION

The Cuyo Region is one of the driest, yet most productive regions for winegrowing. With an annual mean temperature of 59° F and altitudes ranging between 2,300 and 5,600 feet, this region is characterised by its rugged mountains. The Andes Mountains are the main source of irrigation, providing their melt water every summer. The scarce rainfall and pure melt water irrigation make the difference for this region, as they allow growers to regulate vine and grape growth, as well as sugar and tannin concentration, among other features. Cuyo has more than 519,000 acres of vineyards and the most typical and widely grown variety is that old classic Malbec.

Wine, The Facts: Cuyo translates as “the land of deserts,” in the native Huarpe Milkayac language.

PATAGONIA

Patagonia is the southernmost region of Argentina where grapes can be found growing at altitudes of between 985 and 1,640 feet above sea level. It covers the provinces of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa, and has 11,240 acres of vineyards. Winters are harsh and summers cool, particularly at night, which allows winemakers to make wines of great refinement with great balance of acidity and sweetness, an abundance of aromas, flavours and wonderful intensity. The personality of the wines from this region most definitely reflect the purity of the environment and add to their prestige.

THE GRAPES

TORRONTES

Being the only wine variety considered 100% Argentine, Torrontés is cultivated in all the wine regions of the country, from Salta to Rio Negro. Its origin remains something of an issue of broad-ranging discussion amongst many wine experts, but its relationship to the Europe Mediterranean Muscat is undeniable and you can appreciate why it is believed there is a relationship when you first smell the wine.  The aromas are fragrant and unmistakable, resembling roses, jasmine and geranium, with occasional spicy essences.

It is no surprise, due to its similarities to the whites of Alsace, that it makes the perfect accompaniment to Asian style food. On a more regional level though it pairs beautifully with Northern Argentinean food, such as the typical empanadas and corn stew.

A Grape Representation:

Dante Robino Torrontes

CHARDONNAY

Chardonnay holds the first place among classic white grape varieties. It is much appreciated in Argentina for its capacity for good ripening and because it can be used to make a wide range of wines, from the bases for sparkling wines, to the full-bodied varietals fermented in oak barrels and to the fresh and elegant wines without oak.

MALBEC

Regarded as the flagship grape of Argentina the variety does in fact originate from Cahors (where it is known locally as Cot) in the south of France where due to the intensity of its colour and the dark hues it is known as “the black wine”.

It arrived in Argentina in 1852 having been brought over by French agronomist Michel Pouget on the request of the Argentinean Government. As a grape variety that adapted very quickly to the various terroirs offered by Argentina’s landscape its success grew rapidly and the quality of the wines it produced started to surpass the quality of those produced in Cahors. Malbec had found its spiritual home in Argentina.

In terms of style, wines made from Malbec range from young, simple easy drinking wines to the most complex and aged ones, including roses, sparkling and fortified wines. In every case though, its primary aromas resemble ripe prunes and sometimes mint, while in the mouth it is softly meaty and rounded.

Malbec is "the red wine" to pair with roasted beef, stews, pasta with tomato sauce and cheese, game meats and hard cheeses.

BONARDA

Bonarda is thought to originate from a red grape known as Bonarda Piemontese which as the name suggests hails from the Piemonte region of North West Italy. It was the most widely planted grape variety in Argentina, but was recently surpassed by Malbec in terms of plantings and production. Traditionally it was cultivated for the production of table wines. Now though for anyone in search of wines of interest and character then the Bonarda is most definitely worth a try

In terms of style these range from lighter bodied wines full of cherry plum flavours with light tannins and moderate acidity. But with the concentrated fruit from older vines and especially when oak aged Bonarda can also be big, fruit-driven, dense and tannic.

Grape Representations:

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