Wine in Argentina – Travel to One of the World’s Best Wine-Growing Regions

No one likes to be shown up in a restaurant when confronted with a wine menu. Most of us try to look knowledgeably through the confusing choices of countries of origin, grapes and wineries whilst trying not to panic. If all goes well, our fellow dinner companions will be impressed. It’s even nicer if the wine actually turns out to be drinkable!

If there’s a safe bet when confronted by a phone-directory thick wine list, its a wine from Argentina. As they are the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, there are bound to be a couple of their bottles to choose from. With a quick skim of this article, you’ll hopefully have a good idea of the selection to expect and a bit of impressive chat to go with it.

How did Argentina get wine anyway?
The production and consumption of Argentinian wine has been around for more than 400 years, when the first specimens of ‘vitis vinifera’ were brought to the continent by the Spanish conquistadors at the start of the 1500’s.

The catholic priests that arrived established vineyards close to their monasteries to be able to cultivate wine for celebrating mass. Thanks to the favourable climate close to the Andes mountains, the vineyards grew fast, showing great potential for a wine industry.

When European immigrants arrived in the 1800’s, they brought new tools and techniques for cultivation as well as a wider variety of grapes. Construction of railroads in the late 1800’s removed the final obstacle for large scale supply and the Argentinian market boomed.

Where do they grow the grapes?
The coverage of vineyards in Argentina is roughly 226,450 hectares. Despite the wide variety in climate from the change in Latitude (vineyards covering the country from the same level as Morocco in the north to New Zealand in the south) the higher altitude between 2000 and 3000 metres keeps growing conditions roughly the same.

Growing conditions in the Andean foothills prove ideal for Cabernet, Malbec, Pinot, Semilon, Merlot y Chardonnay varieties. In general, growing regions are dry and arid with low levels of rain and humidity; perfect for good, healthy grapes. Insects, fungi, mould and other diseases normally punishing European vineyard owners aren’t an issue in Argentina, and this gives the added benefit of being able to grow with few pesticides. As a result, organic standard wine is much easier to produce.

The vast majority of cultivation happens in the Mendoza region in western Argentina at the foot of the Andes, where around 80{d12c25610243042b09500b0060ea6d37dace7f22fb8ef1db378f2f4a8d1039ec} of the wine is grown. Other popular regions include Salta in the far north of the country and Neuquen and Rio Negro in the far south on the fringes of Patagonia.

What types of wine are there?
Red wine is most commonly produced in Argentina at 47{d12c25610243042b09500b0060ea6d37dace7f22fb8ef1db378f2f4a8d1039ec} of total production. Rose make up 30{d12c25610243042b09500b0060ea6d37dace7f22fb8ef1db378f2f4a8d1039ec} and the remaining 23{d12c25610243042b09500b0060ea6d37dace7f22fb8ef1db378f2f4a8d1039ec} is white wine.

A wide variety of grapes exist in Argentina, including popular choices available in neighbouring countries such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. However Argentina also has a tradition of Spanish and Italian varieties like Tempranillo, Bonarda and Barbera that can make some excellent red wines.

A couple of grapes that have been cultivated and developed very well are Torrontes and Malbec. Torrontes is a white wine grape that according to experts, makes “Terrifically fragrant, perfumed yet rich and fruity wines with crisp acidity and plenty of body.” When considering a red, Argentinian Malbecs are “Perhaps the best in the world, with powerful, smooth deeply-fruited inky black wines full of spice and character.”

Get to know your grapes first-hand
Up until the 1990’s, wine in Argentina was more focused on the national market; 90{d12c25610243042b09500b0060ea6d37dace7f22fb8ef1db378f2f4a8d1039ec} of consumption was Argentinian. However, with a huge drop in national wine consumption, vineyards started a big drive to export more wines and focus their attentions on international markets. The strong increase in tourism has also encouraged them to open their facilities to the public. This now means that when confronted with the wine selection, you can name drop certain bottles that were tasted on your last trip to Argentina…

If you want to get deep into the Argentinian wine culture, tours are available on the ‘wine route’, a winding 2000km that traverses several provinces, altitudes and geographic regions. Its a great alternative way to discover a beautiful country, and with around 2000 wineries you’ll never be short of options putting together your own unique trip. Sitting on the veranda of an Argentinian winery and sipping a glass of Malbec while the sun sinks below the grape-heavy vines may not appeal to everyone…but someone has to do it!

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