Wines of Argentina 2020

If you had mentioned Argentina over the last 10 years to almost any fan of lush, deeply coloured, fruit forward reds, the first word they most likely would have said would have been “Malbec.” The grape variety has helped pushed the country to the forefront of the wine world.

Argentina’s surge to the top has been fueled by the great value that the country’s wines can represent; a resonably priced Argentine Malbec can offer the complexity and depth of flavour that you would have to spend considerably more to achive a similar quality elsewhere.  Not surprisingly, Argentina’s rising star has attracted investment from across the wine world buying up plots, planting new vines and testing new techniques – all to take full advantage of the special and unique terroirs that Argentina offers. Lovers of great wine can’t help but cheer.

 

Fun Fact

Although Argentina has only recently gained prominence on the world wine scene, it has long been one of the planet’s great wine cultures. Not only does it produce a staggering 130 million litres annually (fifth most in the world), but its people are also some of the thirstiest, consuming approximately 45 litres of wine each annually according to 2006 data. 

 

Argentina’s Altitude of Taste

If Argentina has a secret advantage for making world class wines it has to be the altitude of its vineyards. While elsewhere in the world most grape growing stops well below 1,000 meters because it gets too cold for the grapes to ripen properly, many of Argentina’s vineyards sit at 1,000 meters or above (one is even located at 3,300 meters, the highest in the world!).

Here the extreme altitudes provide for more intense ultraviolet light levels, which helps the grapes counteract the lower temperatures by growing thicker, darker skins to protect themselves – perfect for varietals like Malbec. This, and Argentina’s arid growing conditions, translate into wines with great structure, deeper colours and higher tannin levels – key elements sought in quality red wines.

 

Fun Fact

Argentina’s wine industry dates all the way back to 1557 when Jesuit missionaries planted the first commercial vineyard near Santiago del Estero in northern Argentina. Within a decade they had expanded production to the regions of Mendoza and San Juan which remain the centre of wine production in the country more than 450 years later.

 

Mendoza – A Region to Know

Just as Bordeaux is synonymous with great French wine, Mendoza has become the go-to region for some of Argentina’s best wines. Not only is it home to 75% of the country’s vineyards, but 85% of Argentina’s Malbec is grown here as well.

While high quality grapes are grown throughout the region, if you’re seeking something special look for wines originating in the sub regions of the Valle de Uco (Tunuyán, Tupungato and San Carlos departments) where the higher elevation of its vineyards produce savoury wines with plenty of earthy tannins and layers of rich black fruit, or the Primera Zona (Luján de Cuyo and Maipú departments) which is known for producing elegant, lush wines with flavours that can include blackberry, cherry, tobacco and graphite.

Argentina’s Wine Regions

Hugging the base of the Andes Mountains, Argentina’s vineyards run from north to south in a series of pockets for almost 2,400 kms (about the distance between Vancouver and Thunder Bay). While each region is noteworthy in its own right, about 95% of the country’s total wine production is found in the centre three regions of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja.

 

Wine Map of Argentina

 

Notable Argentine Grape Varieties

Thanks to an impressively wide range of terroirs, Argentina is much more than its flagship varietal Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Bonarda and Chardonnay can also do very well here (in the right locations), and of course there is Argentina’s very own Torrontés, a highly aromatic white wine grape that can smell sweet, but be very dry on the pallet. By Argentine law, if a single varietal is identified on a bottle’s label, the wine must contain at least 85% of the grape named.


Red Varietals

Malbec
106,255 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: plums, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, raisins, pepper and tobacco
Regions: Mendoza, Salta, La Rioja, San Juan,

Cabernet Sauvignon
36,240.66 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: blackberries, ripe currants, green pepper, black cherries, spices and tobacco
Regions: Mendoza, Catamarca, La Rioja

Bonarda
45,759 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: cherry, plum, cardamom, fig, graphite, raspberry aromas and subtle aniseed notes
Regions: Mendoza, La Rioja

Syrah
30,260 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: plum, black cherry, graphite, green peppercorn and floral aromas
Regions: Mendoza, Catamarca, La Rioja, San Juan, Patagonia

Tempranillo
14,062 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: smoke, raspberries, black cherry, cinnamon, cedar, vanilla
Regions: Mendoza

Pinot Noir
5,032 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: red currents, cherries, raspberries, sandlewood and earth
Regions: Patagonia
 

White Varietals

Torrontés
25,398 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: lychee, citrus, peach with floral aromas

Regions: Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja

Chardonnay

14,933 acres planted
Common flavours/aromas: baked apple, tropical fruits, cream, nutmeg
Regions: Mendoza, Patagonia

 

Want great wine? Stress out a grape.

Just like athletes push their bodies to extremes in training to perform better, grapes grown under stress produce better wines. Plant a vine in good soil with ample water and you will end up with flabby, flavourless grapes, perfect for making flabby, flavourless wine.

But take that same vine and plant it in challenging soil that receives so little rain that its roots must fight for every drop of moisture, you end up with smaller grapes and more concentrated juice – precisely the starting point for making great wine.

And, thankfully, Argentina has the perfect conditions to stress out any grape. High altitude vineyards with cooler temperatures, drier growing conditions and more intense UV exposure all combine to produce wines of exceptional quality.