Although it is one of the largest wine producing countries in the world and the most important in South America, Argentinian wines are less known and understood in the UK than those of their neighbour and rival Chile. It was only when domestic consumption fell off dramatically in the 1980’s and Argentina needed to export, that quality began to rise to meet the demands of foreign markets. The majority of the vineyards lie in the north amongst the foothills of the Andes where rainfall is low and the vines are irrigated by snow melt from the mountains.
Argentina’s grape varieties
Altitude is key here as this creates a wide gap between the temperature during the night and day, essential in making wines with body and structure. Red wines are, perhaps, the most successful with Malbec being the most prized for its quality and character; there are, however, fine white wines turned out too, notably the alluring, aromatic, Torrontes. Mendoza is the best known region but other areas such as San Juan and La Rioja are now coming into focus. Argentina is a largely undiscovered, exciting, wine country with enormous potential.
Argentina’s wine regions
Argentina’s most important wine region and at the heart of its wine making. Situated high up in the eastern foothills of the Andes, with a continental, arid climate, watered by snow melt from the mountains via rivers and irrigation channels, and by boreholes. There are several sub regions with Maipu, and Lujan which has a sub region, Lujan de Cuyo (located at an altitude of 8-1100 metres) amongst the most important. However, the Valle de Uco, which lies at an altitude of 1200 metres and includes the Tupungato district, is also gaining prominence as a quality area. The altitude of the vineyards is of significance and is often quoted on the label. The main quality red grape used is Malbec (which Argentina has made its own) followed by Bonarda, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo are also cultivated. The white varieties include Chardonnay and the aromatic Torrontés. Wines from Argentina, especially those from Mendoza, are often of above average quality and are generally underrated.
The Tupungato vineyard area in Mendoza is the northernmost sub region of the Uco Valley. At 1300 metres it lies in the rain shadow of the Andes, watered by snow melt from the mountains and by boreholes. At this height, although the days are hot, the nights are cold which creates good conditions for vine growing. This area is gaining a reputation for rich, warm Malbecs and excellent blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chardonnays here achieve good levels of acidity and are especially elegant.
San Juan is located North of Mendoza and most vineyards lie within the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Just like Mendoza the climate is semi continental and irrigation is needed. International grape varieties are grown here alongside Malbec and Torrontes.