Argentina is by far the biggest wine producer of South America. Chardonnay holds the first place among classic white grape varieties. It is much appreciated in Argentina for its capacity for good ripening and because it can be used to make a wide range of wines, form the bases for sparkling wines to the full-bodied varietals fermented in oak barrels to the fresh and elegant wines without oak. Wine exports have recently begun to increase dramatically.
Here is my description of Argentina wine regions.
Argentina consists of eight major provinces and zones and has several important wine areas, from north to south:
Mendoza (this is the largest wine region);
In the north lies the province of Salta. It is very hot here, but the vines are planted at an enormous height, because there it is relatively cool. The main area is in the Cafayate Calchaqui Valley, the highest wine region of Argentina. The vineyards of Cafayate are between 1600 and 2000 meters, and due to the fresh mountain air it is cool there even in mid-summer. During winter, temperatures drop of -6 ° C to -16 ° C so that the vine will have the opportunity to hibernate. Sun is always here: an average of 350 sunny days per year. Blue grape Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon give good results in Cafayate. The red wines from this grape have many color, firmness, fruity flavors and fresh acidity. White grapes, such as the Torrontés grape are doing well because of a combination of sun during the day and cool nights. They will maintain a natural, fine acidity and give aromatic wines. The Torrontés wines from Salta therefore belong to the best of Argentina.
This is still one of the smallest wine regions of Argentina. In the past, there were mostly local breeds like the Muskatel. For the future it is expected that a lot of Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon will be produced.
In the province of La Rioja it is very hot and dry. Also, this area has micro climates with a big difference between day and night temperatures. The vineyards of Chilecito are approximately 1000 meters above sea level. The soil here consists of sand and alluvial soil. This region also was an important area for the production of local bulk wines. The Bonarda is the main grape variety. Today, wines of aromatic varieties are produced, such as the Torrontés. Grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay are emerging.
After Mendoza San Juan has the largest vineyard area. It is warmer and drier than in Mendoza. The soil is sandy clay. Here, traditionally, they grow the Criolla and Cereza gapes. The light-colored bulk wines from this grape are sold at rock bottom prices. On the cooler locations wine producers try to make better (quality) wines. The Syrah grape seems suited for this area.
Mendoza is the largest and most important wine region of Argentina having about 70 percent of all Argentine vineyards. They have a combined area of 160,000 hectares. That is more than the total vineyard surface of many wine countries. Because Mendoza is so vast, there will be large differences. From north to south, there are nine different wine regions:
East and Maipú East;
Luján / Maipú;
Rio Mendoza South;
Uco Valley West;
Uco Valley Center;
San Rafael Mendoza.
Northeast of the city of Mendoza is an area which is in some places 700 meters above sea level. The soil here is deep and fairly permeable in the lowest parts. It is an excellent area for the production of white wines and fruity young red wines. The planted grape varieties: Chenin blanc, Pedro Ximénez, Ugni Blanc, Bonarda and Sangiovese.
The eastern region is located east of the city of Mendoza. This is the largest wine region of Argentina. It is located at 33 ° south latitude, about 700 meters. The area is irrigated by the Tunuyán river. The soil consists of alluvial soil, with a surface of pebbles. It is the most productive zone of the Mendoza region. The emphasis is on mass wines. Planted grape varieties are: Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay.
This region is located along the upper reaches of the Mendoza River. The wines from this region were first recognized as quality wines. It is an area with large temperature differences, ranging from more than 30 ° C during the day to below 15 ° C at night. The altitude varies from 750 to 1060 meters. In the soil there are many minerals from the Andes present.
The Malbec from this area is of high quality and provides very good wines. Other varieties are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling. Luján de Cuyo and Maipú (not to be confused with the namesake Chilean Maipo) are recognized wine regions.
The Uco Valley is the highest area of Mendoza, the altitude varies from 900 meters in the city Tunuyán to 1250 meters above sea level in the northern part of Tupungato. The average temperature is 14 ° C, but here are large differences in minimum and maximum temperatures. The soil is alluvial and stony. Due to these specific circumstances in Tupungato, the area will in the future perhaps qualify for official recognition.
The Chardonnay has an excellent quality here. Because of the high acidity this variety is also very suitable for sparkling wines. Other grape varieties: Merlot, Malbec and Semillon.
San Rafael is the southernmost wine region of Mendoza. The vineyards are situated at an altitude of 450 to 800 meters. The rivers Diamante and Atuel ensure the irrigation of the sandy soil, which has a low mineral content. This area displays the varieties Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay planted. The wine region of San Rafael is a recognized area of origin.
Río Negro and Neuquén
Cafayate is not the only cool wine region of Argentina. About 800 kilometers south of Mendoza is another area with great potential. This region is called Patagonia and consists of the provinces of Río Negro and Neuquén. It is an area with lots of fruit, including apples and grapes. Here are the most southerly wine regions of South America. The wines here have naturally high acidity. Neuquen is the fastest growing wine region of Argentina with a particularly planting of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In Río Negro sees future management particularly for aromatic varieties such as Traminer, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot are also planted here.
Argentina is justly known for its Malbec, a red wine that can be a great value at any price. But although Malbec may be the country’s signature grape, it is by no means the only one that performs well in Argentina’s high-altitude vineyards. Another high performer is the Chardonnay grape from which Mendoza and other emerging regions, such as San Juan, produce excellent wines. I will introduce you to some of these fine Chardonnays in a separate review.
I you have any questions, please leave it in the comment box and I will get back to you within 24 hours.