Perhaps no other country’s winemaking history is as tied to its socioeconomic and cultural influences than Argentina. These factors have impacted its products as well as its individual industry, and have brought considerable new attention to the country’s wine, especially in recent years.
Based at the southernmost tip of South America, Argentina holds the honor of being the continent’s largest, most prolific wine producer. Its wines are considered New World due to the changes in the country’s winemaking style and techniques as well as the motivation behind the same, but this might be an unfair assessment. Although Argentinian wines as we know them are relatively new, the country has been producing wine as far back as the 1500s. History claims that while a smattering of vines may have existed before, it was the arrival of Spanish missionaries during that time that assertively generated winemaking in the
Although these improvements were welcomed, the negative side to all this work rested in the end product. Made from the popular Criolla grape, the wine itself was less than refined, yielding a product completely lacking anything resembling the slightest finesse. Nonetheless, Criolla wine remained a staple for nearly 400 years. What came next for Argentina, however, was the culmination of economic need and European influence. This combination launched a new chapter in Argentina’s wine producing reputation.
Argentina’s newfound approach to winemaking was sparked, to some extent, by neighborly competition. Chile, another current South American wine producing leader, was undergoing its own winemaking metamorphosis: with the arrival of American and European winemakers and viniculturists, Chile began to revise its previous protocols to meet the standards – and palates – of more profitable markets. Argentina, which at the time was experiencing a politically-driven decline in its role in international trade, needed an economic remedy. Luckily, the country found one among the vines and never looked back. As its new wine industry began to take flight – the country’s terrain, after all, was already ideal for additional growth – investors from both the U.S. and Europe took notice, bringing enhanced technology and well-known experts to the region. Together, these forces paved the way for what is now a remarkable presence on the global wine market.
Argentina’s primary wine producing region, Mendoza, is located in the far western section of the country, ironically close to the Chilean border. Mendoza is responsible not only for more than 70% of the entire country’s annual production, but also for the majority of vineyards dedicated to Malbec, now Argentina’s most popular red wine export. Native to southwest France, Argentina’s Malbec is slightly more intense due to the climate’s impact on the flavor concentration of the grapes. Fruity yet velvety, the oak-barrel aging process delivers a forward, full-bodied and highly structured wine with hints of vanilla and dark stone fruits. To the north of Mendoza, the provinces of Salta and La Rioja are home to Argentina’s most prized white grape, Torrontés. Slightly sweet, this classic wine is a favorite of oenophiles seeking a light wine teeming with brightness and aromatics.
In addition to its red and white signature varietals, Argentina produces highly competitive, high quality Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Not to be outdone, Chardonnay is also grown in northern Mendoza, introduced to the region by Italian immigrants in the late 1800s.
Despite the fluctuations in its wine production over the years, Argentina has proven itself to be a dependable, not to mention formidable, player in the winemaking arena. After much work and dedication, it has definitely earned a well-deserved level of respect, and has secured its spot among the some of the best producers in the world.