Wines of Argentina

Argentina has been the focus of my studies over the past 2 weeks or so. I may have passed my geography exams at school, but I would have been hard pressed to accurately locate it on a map of South America until recently. When you do learn a bit more about its geography, it explains some of the differences between making wine there and, say, their neighbour Chile.

It is separated from Chile by the largest mountains in South America, so the oceans play no part in influencing the vines. It is just so different from any other wine producing region in the world because of elevation and lack of rain. So, lots of sunlight and dryness, with altitudes of 3000 to 6000 feet above sea level.

Mendoza, the largest wine producing region, only has 8 inches of rain each year. This is quite a challenge for the winemakers. In other wine producing regions, Mother Nature is important but here, it’s “human nature” that counts. One hundred feet of elevation change can change the temperature by 1 degree, so microclimates matter.

It has no indigenous grapes, unlike the South West of France, the two most significant ones being Malbec and Torrontes. At a recent tasting held in London by the trade body Wines Of Argentina, I really enjoyed the Torrontes. It’s a vibrantly fresh and fruity grape. Malbec I also enjoyed, as it is such an easy going, drinkable, fruity wine when young and you could imagine drinking it on its own or partnering a meat dish. And it is so soft given the long hang times compared with other regions, thus softening the tannins. It’s the kind of wine you could introduce to someone not too familiar with wine and they would enjoy its fruitiness and easy drinking.

However, Malbec also ages well. I attended a seminar run by the winemaker from Alta Vista who demonstrated the differences between a 2004, 2000 and 1997 Catena Alta. My own preference was the 2000 with my tasting notes describing it as having an intense almost sweet aroma of ripe fruits with a little cigar box, great length and concentration.

Argentina is the 5th largest wine producer and its inhabitants consume the 6th largest amount of wine per head with less than 15% of its production being exported. I can certainly see why they keep so much of the Malbec and Torrontes to themselves.

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Reader Comments

I have some of Alta Vista’s Monte Lindo line of Malbec in my cellar. This particular Malbec turned a non-Malbec drinker into a believer.

Malbec is one of my go-to red wines, along with Chile’s Carmenere red wine, and I love how they are both so soft with ample fruit and minimal tannins. Great post. I always love to see someone talk about Southern hemisphere wines with such a good voice.

In a blind tasting in London recently 11 judges rated each Argentinian wine’s compatibility with pork, lamb and beef. Bodega Catena Zapata’s Alta Malbec was voted the best Malbec to have with lamb by the panel of wine writers, and also won the overall meat category.