Argentina’s wine history dates back to the 1500s when vines were brought over from Spain. Back then, Malbec wasn’t on the Argentine radar yet and most wines were made from a now mostly forgotten pink grape, Criolla Chica. The wine industry started picking up steam in the 1800s when immigrants from Italy, Spain, and France brought their wine-drinking culture to Argentina. Malbec came over from Bordeaux in the mid 1800s and quickly became the country’s signature grape. Wine skyrocketed in popularity in the 1900s, but since domestic consumption was so high there wasn’t much need to export and Argentine wines stayed a well-kept secret. Producers started looking to markets further abroad in the 1980s and 1990s, bringing in more modern techniques and technology to raise quality standards drastically and rapidly. And now Argentine wines are well-known for high quality wines at value prices with ripe fruit flavours, soft tannins, and fresh acidity.
Argentina has a continental climate with summers that can be too hot and dry for vine growing. But there is an important geographical feature that helps to moderate temperatures and make quality wine possible: the Andes. Vineyards are mostly in the mountain’s foothills planted at high elevations that bring the hot summer temperatures down so grapes can ripen without burning. As a result, the wines have great flavour concentration and structure. The Andes also supply a generous amount of water for irrigation in the mostly arid country from snow melt. The southern tip of Argentina is far enough from the equator that the climate is generally very cold, making it an ideal region for cool climate grapes like Pinot Noir and sparkling wine.
The north of the country has some of the highest vineyards in the world, reaching 3000m above sea level! While it is arid and dry, the high altitude cools things down and allows for intense sunshine meaning fruity and impactful wines. The northern regions include Salta, Jujuy, Tucumán, and Catamarca.
The Cuyo area is the center of wine production where the most important region of Mendoza is located. Mendoza wines have fresh acidity from the Andes altitude and deeply concentrated flavour from old vines. This area of Argentina is the driest of all, so the irrigation from the Andes snowmelt is particularly important. Mendoza includes Argentina’s first controlled appellation, Luján de Cuyo, where most of the highly regarded wineries are located. Other regions in the Cuyo include San Juan and La Rioja.
Plantings stretch all the way down the country, even in the south where the climate cools significantly and there is less influence from the Andes Mountains. The regions of Patagonia, Nequén, and Río Negro excel at cool climate grapes, like Pinot Noir, and sparkling wine.
Originally from Bordeaux, Malbec has been the signature grape of Argentina since the mid 1800s. It makes wines with a deep violet hue, full body with plush tannins, and flavours of dark plum, blueberry, spice, and chocolate.
An aromatic white grape not so dissimilar to Muscat or Gewürztraminer. It has an intensely sweet aroma of meyer lemon, peaches, and rose, but the wines are dry on the palate and balanced by zesty acidity.
The ‘other’ red grape of Argentina makes fruit forward wines with refreshing acidity and tannins that are bold yet supple. The wines taste of black cherry, figs, and baking spices.