Like most South American countries, Argentina’s secular wine history began in the 16th century following the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The vine was introduced in the country initially by the Jesuits who followed the conquistadors. The crops spread in the surroundings of what is now Mendoza, the area considered Argentina’s wine heart, thanks to a favorable climate and environment supported also by the great availability of water originating from the melted snows of the Andes.
But it wasn’t until 1800 that the wine industry started to develop consistency after the immigration of Italians and French, who imported grapes and techniques that contributed greatly to quality products.
In the late 20th century, when exports were still quite low, world-renowned wine experts saw the potential of Argentine wines and attracted foreign investments and economic contributions. This commercial push resulted in a substantial improvement in wine making techniques and consequently in quality wines.
Argentine wines now play a central role in the economy of the country, although most of the bottles produced are still consumed at home. The winemaking potential of this country involves a perfect synergy between climate, soil, altitude, costs, lack of vine diseases and the absence of legislative constraints that often limit creativity. All these factors make Argentina one of the countries with the highest growth opportunities both in qualitative and economic terms.
A city and wine region located in the west central part of the country, Mendoza is without doubt the homeland of Argentine wines. Sixty percent of the country’s total wine production comes from here. The strength of the area is represented by its location, 800 meters above sea level, with a sunny climate, warm and cool winters, and a good availability of water coming from the Andes. Here Malbec is undisputed king. Originating in the Mendozan region, Malbec has become a distinctive grape variety for the whole country wine production. In addition to this grape variety, there are also significant quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda.
Among the other wine regions, Salta deserves a special note being home to some of the world’s highest vineyard sites. Here the most cultivated grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot, Malbec and Tannat. There is also a good production of white wines made from Chardonnay and Torrontes.
Located just north of Mendoza, La Rioja is probably the best suited region for white wines, and this is where Torrontes gives the best results.
Associated with the production of table grapes, Catamarca is located in North West Argentina and shows good potential for fine quality wines.
Situated among La Rioja and Mendoza, San Juan historically focused more on quantity than quality with high yielding and ordinary grapes. That was until a couple of decades ago when producers started to show an increasing interest in developing high quality vintages.
Probably the most promising and fascinating wine of Argentina comes from Patagonia, where the peculiar conditions allow a very lengthy ripening process particularly suited to Pinot Noir.