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Wines of Argentina

Argentina is the largest wine-producing nation in South America, and the 6th largest wine-producing country in the world, behind Italy, France, Spain, America and Australia.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the history of winemaking in Argentina, the popular wine grape varieties and the dominant wine production regions. We’ll finish the post by recommending some of our favourite Argentinian wine.

A brief history of wine in Argentina

Wine-making began in Argentina in the 16th century when Spanish missionaries arrived in the country and planted the first vines. The first Spanish-inspired vineyard developed in Argentina was in Santiago del Estero in 1557. From this first vineyard, wine production slowly spread across the country.

Until the late 1800s, the production and consumption of Argentine wines was very much a local affair, with wines not travelling too much further than the local area around the vineyards. Unless you lived close to a vineyard in Argentina, you were unlikely to experience wine.

Between 1895 and 1914, there was heavy investment in the Argentinian rail network, which meant that wines could more easily reach the wider population of Argentina. This led to a surge in the availability and popularity of wine across the whole of Argentina.

Throughout the 20th century, Argentina found itself in the Top 10 wine producers by volume. However, much of this was consumed domestically.

With the high demand in the domestic market, Argentinian vineyards in the 1900s focused more on quantity than quality - crowding vines for greater grape production and picking grapes too early. This gave Argentinian wines a global reputation for being simple, low quality, and unsophisticated.

However, this perception has all changed in the last 30 years.

After seeing neighbouring Chile see success in the 1980s with premium quality wine exports, the financial movements of the Argentinian economy made the Argentinian wine industry a prime target for a lot of international investment in the 1990s and early 2000s.

If we skip forward to today, the world knows that the incredibly fertile lands across the wine regions of Argentina can produce amazing wines, and Argentina is one of the world’s fastest-growing exporters of wine.

Where is wine produced in Argentina?

They produce wine throughout Argentina, but they concentrate production into five main recognised wine regions:

Mendoza

Spanning 360,000 acres, the Mendoza region is the largest producer of wine within Argentina, and includes the provinces of the Uco Valley, Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu.

Mendoza is recognised for its high-altitude vineyards at the foot of the Andes mountains, and a climate that includes sunny days and cool nights, so the grapes ripen more slowly, creating delicious wines.

Historically, the Mendoza region was known for growing the Cereza and Criolla Grande varieties of grape. However, in recent decades, the plantings have become more dominated by international red wine favourites, such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

San Juan

San Juan is the second-largest wine-producing area in Argentina, with plantings covering over 116,000 acres. The climate of the San Juan region is hotter and dryer than that of Mendoza.

The San Juan region is known best for producing high-quality red wine from the Syrah and Douce noir varietals, besides various sherry style wines and brandies.

La Rioja

Home to 20,000 acres of wine-growing land, La Rioja has some of the oldest vineyards in Argentina. A combination of the high altitude and the area’s restricted water flow has caused a scattered distribution of vineyards.

The La Rioja region is best known for white wines, produced from the Torrontes or Muscat wine grapes. However, the La Rioja region also produces red wines from the Malbec, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon varietals.

Northern Argentina

Northern Argentina is home to two of the country’s smallest, yet most popular wine-producing regions, Catamarca and Salta.

Both regions have approximately 5,800 acres of land that grows Torrontes, Tannat, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Patagonia

Patagonia is the southernmost region of Argentina and includes the provinces of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa. The Patagonia wine region spans close to 10,000 acres.

Wine production in Patagonia is relatively new. Most vineyards and wineries in Patagonia are less than 20 years old.

Pinot Noir, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are all grown successfully in Patagonia, and a high proportion of the grapes used for Argentinian sparkling wine comes from this region.

What are the most popular styles of wine from Argentina?

Malbec

It is widely recognised that Argentine Malbec is some of the best in the world, and approximately 75% of the world’s Malbec wine comes from Argentina.

Malbec grapes are originally from Cahors in southwest France and were brought across to Argentina in the 19th century.

However, it wasn’t until recent decades that Argentina has been recognised on the global stage for producing some of the best Malbec wine in the world.

The high altitude vineyards of the Uco Valley in Mendoza are the perfect environment for growing Malbec grapes, and this area has received a lot of international investment.

Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s estimated that Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for around 14% of wine grapes grown in Argentina, with regions such as Maipú and Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza being renowned for producing great wines.

Torrontes

The Torrontes grape varietal is a famous Argentinean grape. It grows well in the higher and cooler slopes of the Andes and is popular in the Uco Valley. Torrontes wines are light and aromatic.

Pinot noir

Pinot Noirs from Argentina are yet to establish a solid reputation in the wine world. However, Pinots from the cooler hills around Mendoza are slowly becoming more recognised and revered in the last decade.

Cabernet Franc

Argentina isn’t typically recognised as a country that produces wines of the Cabernet Franc variety. It’s estimated that Cabernet Franc makes us less than 1% of Argentinian wine production. However, it’s recognised that the Cabernet Franc that is produced in Argentina is of high quality.

Which are our favourite wines from Argentina?

We have a great selection of Argentinian Wines available at Affordable Wine.

Some of our favourites that we recommend include:

NIETO MALBEC 2018

Our best-loved Malbec has a bright fragrance with blackberry plum fruit and sweet spice on the nose. The flavour is smooth and warming, with additional black fruit, plums, and cherries along with cloves, pepper, and cinnamon.

PARA DOS MALBEC

This excellent Argentinian Malbec is made from grapes selected from the San Juan region. The wine has scents of cinnamon and black pepper with undertones of chocolate and cherry.

PARA DOS SAUVIGNON BLANC

This wine is made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontes grape varieties in the Uco Valley of Mendoza. The Sauvignon Blanc grape helps to keep freshness, vitality, and acidity while the Torrontes adds aroma and fruit-driven tastes to the mix.