The Wines Of Argentina are amazing. For a wine lover it is:
A Whole New World
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A country that has been growing vines since the 1500s but only really focusing on quality since the 1980s. It’s a shame because Argentina is close to the most perfect place to grow grapes on the planet.
Why is this?
The Andes mountain range is to blame. The average elevation for vineyards in Argentina is about 900m, meaning they have the highest vineyards in the world. This provides warm days and cool nights that lead to a long and slow ripening period that retains beautiful acidity in the wines. The dry and cold air from the snow-capped mountains alleviates any disease pressure and the snow melts provide plentiful irrigation resources for a country that doesn’t see much rainfall. The grapes tend get a lot of exposure to UV from the sun which means they naturally develop thicker skins which leads to more tannin and flavour compounds.
The other strength of Argentina is the vine stock. Having had vines in the ground for a long, long time they have managed to work out what grows well where and the vines have even started to evolve to suit the climate. Being able to access such material for planting new vineyards is a priceless resource.
But what does that really mean for the wines?
The bountiful water and lack of disease means that grapes can be harvested when they are fully ripe and in pristine condition. The old wine making saying goes “you can’t make great wine out of poor grapes.” That, combined with flavour packed grapes and some modern know how, means you get quite a good deal when buying quality wine from Argentina.
Malbec – Native to South West France, Malbec is a minor player in Bordeaux and the major grape in the underappreciated Cahors. It has long been the star of Argentina. It makes wines that are intense, tannic, dark fruited with nice acidity. Perfect match for a country that consumes a lot of meat.
Torrontés – DNA testing says this white grape (well there are three distinct Torrontés clones) is related to the Muscat family but is a variety in its own right. Fragrant, textural and a hint neutral in the best possible way. Makes a refreshing drink that is versatile for food matching.
Bonarda – A French variety from Savoie called Douce Noir at home. This is the second most widely planted red grape in Argentina. It requires a long growing season to fully mature and makes richly flavoured reds of medium to full body. Often it is blended with Malbec.
International Varieties – Chardonnay, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Noir and the like all have their chance to shine in the vineyard to varying success. Pinot in particular seems to excel in the right terroir.
Salta – This province lays claim to the highest vineyard in the world. Big diurnal temperature variations means these wines are elegant and high in acid. Great for Torrontés but the reds do very well if you like lots of structure.
Mendoza – Without question the jewel in the crown of Argentina. A large region. Lots of young and innovative producers have moved in and are slowly mapping out sub-regions and single vineyards of note. Look out for great Malbec but lots of experimentation means you can find all sorts of wonderful wines.
Patagonia – Further South than our beloved Tasmania, this is the coolest of the cool regions in Argentina. There is a lot of scope for cool climate varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and that means sparkling wine is a natural for this part of town. That being said, full-bodied Malbec of outstanding quality is still a viable product down here too.
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