Argentina

Argentinian red wines

Argentina has a rich wine-drinking culture that has contributed to its status as one of the world’s largest producers of wine. Generally speaking, Winemaking in Argentina is part of the culture.

Argentina is best known for Malbec and for its more inexpensive wines. The country’s winemaking tradition and its geography lend themselves to varied and high-quality production.

Mountains created a special climate and special type of soils. The Andes Mountain Range is the defining geographical feature of Argentina’s wine regions. As the mountains isolate the wine-growing regions from the Pacific. Additionally, the origin of the soil is mostly alluvial soil.

History of Argentine winemaking

Argentina’s winemaking history begins with the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century who discovered the perfect climate of this region. These Spanish pioneers, missionaries, and settlers began cultivating grapes and established the Argentinian wine industry in the foothills of the Andes. Most of the vineyards are actually located in high elevation between 2,500 and 5,000 feet. That gives the Argentinian grapes an extra sunlight intensity so concentrated grapes with a lot of polyphenols, tannins, and aromatics can be produced.

The heart of Argentina’s wine industry is the broad Cuyo region, which includes the provinces of Mendoza, La Rioja, and San Juan. Mendoza produces 70% of the grapes of the whole country and can be divided into three regions: Maipú, Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley. Furthermore, all of these wine regions are dominated by Malbec. Indeed, Mendoza is Argentina’s Malbec powerhouse.

Luján de Cuyo is well known as the land of Malbec. The characteristic of the Malbec from this region is the complexity, the elegance, the finesse, and the flavor of red fruits. You can get nice and fresh acidity, higher tannin concentration, and violet profiles.

To the north of Cuyo, the Calchaquí Valley traverses the northern provinces of Catamarca, Tucumán, and Salta. The vines here are actually planted at the world’s highest elevations for grape growing.

Malbec

Grown in every wine region from north to south, Malbec is Argentina’s best-known grape. This is the variety that represents Argentina in the rest of the world. Malbec was brought from Europe before phylloxera in the mid-1800s. Therefore Argentina has a population of Malbec, very antique, that produces a usually low yield with small grapes. In fact, Malbec accounts for 21% of grapes planted in Argentina.

Bonarda

The second most planted grape is the red variety Bonarda at 9%, known elsewhere as Charbono. Bonarda really has a very good adaptation to the Argentinian weather. It grows a lot near to Malbec, but in general, has been very focused on the lower altitude areas. It has a lot of natural acidities, very fruit-forward and it’s very light indeed.

Red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are finding success in Mendoza, while Patagonia is developing a reputation for its Pinot Noir.

Lastly, like any historic wine region, Argentina’s food and wine cultures have evolved together, and the two marry well, particularly when it comes to meat.

Photo credit: Brooke Lark