Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. From intense, complex Malbecs to refined Cabernet Sauvignon blends, the country’s wines are receiving more recognition than ever before. Reliable growing conditions, low production costs and the ability to churn out large volumes of good value wines have set the scene for Argentina to play a big role in the world of wine over the next few years.
When we talk of Argentina, the first wine region that springs to mind is Mendoza. This is from where the famously full-bodied Malbecs are finding their way to the UK. Improved quality and competitive pricing is driving this influx of Argentinian wine. However, there are seven main wine producing regions all with their own characteristics. Starting in the north and working South, these are Salta, Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, Neuquen and Rio Negro. In these regions, there is much complexity. Few regions consist of a single terroir.
Climate and Terroir
There are two very different climates at work in Argentina: the cooler, mountainous regions of the Andes very much contrast with the baking semi-desert regions further east. Being a ‘long’ country, the south has lower temperatures associated with latitude, as opposed to altitude.
Some of the highest vineyards in the world are found in Salta and it’s here you’ll find some very complex Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blends.
The remote vineyards of Catamarca are irrigated by the Andes. This region is a big producer of Barbera wine, while the desert of San Juan is mainly responsible for Argentina’s brandy and vermouth. But it’s in Mendoza, where irrigated by the rivers of the Andes, you’ll find some of the most famous wines. The Uco Valley, in particular has had visits from some of the most important wine growers in the world looking into its potential for creating some seriously world-class wine.
Rio Negro in Patagonia is producing superb Pinot Noir. Not surprising, considering the cool climate, chalky soil and long season. Some Sémillon is made here too. The wine growing regions of Argentina are mostly found at high altitude and in areas of low humidity making it ideal to protect the vines from disease, fungi and moulds. This allows the winegrowers to use little or no pesticides. With vines growing above 1,000 metres, and higher in some areas, at night the temperature drops significantly resulting in grapes of deep colour and good flavour.
Grapes and Wines
Malbec is the grape variety most associated with Argentina. It has become an export flagship, which producers have really gone to work on to make sure these wines deliver power, finesse, delicacy and fruit all in equal measure. Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tempranillo are other red grape varieties that are widely grown. Pedro Giménez and Torrontés are the most common white varieties. These varieties have been historically important for Argentina, and may have been brought over by early Spanish settlers. Muscat of Alexandria, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also important for white wine production. Pinot Noir does well in cooler regions.
Did You Know?
Argentina is home to a large domestic wine market with 90% of production going to local consumption.
The Bodega Colomé is one of the highest vineyards in the world, if not the highest, at 2,300 metres above sea level.
La Zonda is a warm, dry wind that blows down from the mountains in Argentina and can help protect the vines against disease. However, it can also affect flowering and lower yields.