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What Should I Know About Argentinean Wines?

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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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The country of Argentina is reputed the world over for producing exciting and high quality wines. In general, Argentinean wines are known to be big, fruit-forward, and well balanced with bright fruity aromas. Most Argentinean wines are enjoyed young, meaning they don’t need to be aged for extended periods of time before they reach optimum expression. Red Argentinean wines include Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. White Argentinean wines include Torrontés, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillón, Riesling, Moscatel de Alejandría, Viognier, Gewürtzraminer, and Ugni Blanc, a French white grape.

Argentinean wines are cultivated in a long stretch of land that spans across most of the western side of the country. Pressed up against the Andes Mountains, Argentinean wineries are privileged with ideal growing conditions. These include a mild and arid climate, uniquely high altitudes, irrigation by Andes melt water, and relative isolation from the pollution of urban areas. Under such favorable conditions, Argentinean vineyards remain relatively free of common diseases and contaminants that often plague wine grapes.

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There are seven major wine regions in Argentina that, collectively, cover 221,700 hectares (547832.63 acres, 2217 sq km) of land. Mendoza is the largest and most widely known of these, and is considered the most important tasting region for Argentinean wines. Mendoza is responsible for producing 80% of Argentina’s wine, and boasts 146,000 hectares (360773.85 acres, 1460 sq km) of vineyards. Mendoza is so large, in fact, that it is organized into five separate regions.

Northern Mendoza is known for growing a range of grape varietals. Particularly important white wines in Northern Mendoza include varietals such as the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Torrontés, a grape almost entirely exclusive to Argentina. Premier red wines in Northern Mendoza include the Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, and Malbec varietals.

In Eastern Mendoza, all varietals of Argentinean wines are grown. However, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Torrontés, Viognier, Sangiovese, Syrah, Tempranillo, and Bonarda take center stage. The Mendoza River area near the city of Mendoza is known a premier region for Malbec, especially in Luján and Cuyo. Here, small vineyards with mature plants lend themselves well to boutique wineries. The Uco Valley produces excellent Malbec and Semillón, and its wines are known to age well. Finally, in Southern Mendoza, the premier grape is Chenin Blanc.

In addition to Mendoza, there are six other wine regions where excellent Argentinean wines are produced. For example, the region of San Juan is well known for its Torrontés and Moscatel de Alejandría. Syrah from the San Juan region has gained worldwide recognition. In the sun-soaked La Rioja region, Torrontés is the most commonly grown wine grape, and in Catamarca, the rocky soil is perfect for growing fine quality varietals, including Torrontés and Malbec.

Salta is another well-known region in the world of Argentinean wines. Wine production in Salta dates back to Spanish colonial times. The varied growing conditions that can be found throughout the Salta region lead to wide variety in the characteristics of Salta wines. The Calchaquíes Valleys in Salta, particularly Cafayete, are famous for their top quality wines. As in La Rioja, Torrontés is the most common wine produced in Salta, but Salta is also reputed for creating Malbecs that are full-bodied with intense pigmentation and excellent flavor.

Neuquén is the smallest of Argentina’s wine regions, covering only 1,000 hectares (2471.05 acres, 10 sq km). Although small, the vineyards in Neuquén are dedicated to finery. Growers here use state of the art technology to ensure the best quality fruit. Conditions here are perfect for creating the fruity, bright, full-bodied wines that are emblematic of Argentina’s wine production. Appropriate acidity and slow, steady development of tannins are easily achieved in this region, which is famed for its Cabernet Franc, Semillón, and Pinot Noir.

At the bottom of the expansive Argentine wine territory is the region of Rio Negro. This is the southernmost wine region in Argentina, and is located within the area of Patagonia. Here, the winters are cold, and the summers are warm and dry. These conditions, along with the southern winds, create a unique minerality in the wines grown here which is not easily achieved elsewhere.

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