Of all South American wine producing countries, Chile and Argentina stand out. The former is famous for quality, while the latter for quantity. Yet this phenomenon is rapidly changing.
Spanish conquistadors introduced grape growing and wine making for religious purposes. This quickly developed to an industry given the favourable terroir in both countries.
In the shadow of the Andes Mountains where most of the wineries of Argentina are located, grapes grow in remarkably suitable natural conditions that exist nowhere else in the world. The high-altitude, almost desert like climate with hot days and cool nights, plus pure air, soil and water combine to yield extraordinary wines.
The soils are naturally rich requiring few enhancements other than organic material. Hand harvesting of grapes is almost universally employed due to an abundance of labour and vineyard layout, not to speak of concern for quality. This was not always the case. Only a few decades ago, Argentine wineries were more concerned about quantity than quality, but recent political and economic changes forced most winery owners and mangers to focus on quality. All understood that if they want to increase export, quality must be their first concern, since Argentines now consume also less wine but demand quality.
They are willing to pay for quality, which is the case in almost all wine-consuming countries, except China and Russia.
Suitable Argentine land is still relatively inexpensive and many Chileans, Europeans, particularly the French and Americans invested considerable capital planting vineyards and establishing wineries.
The following red grapes are preferred; malbec (Argentina’s signature red grape variety), mourvedre, touriga nacional, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, sangiovese, freisa, croatina, bonarda, barbera, dolcetto, syrah, and even pinot noir and cabernet franc.
For white wines, growers prefer: chardonnay, semillon, viognier, pinot blanc, torrontes, and a few experimental varieties.
Argentine winemakers blend to achieve depth of flavour and have few restrictions to end up with satisfactory results. European winemakers do not enjoy such privileges and for this reason as well as for fiscal inwested in New World wine producing countries such as Argentina, Australia, South Africa, Chile, the U S A, New Zealand and Canada.
Mendoza is the largest viticultural region with many sub-regions, climates and soils. Here, altitude of vineyards plays a great role. Winemakers determined that grapes grown at 1500 metres taste completely different than those at 1800. As the altitude changes the sunrays ripen grapes differently, i.e. at higher altitudes the skins of grapes become thicker and darker due to the intensity of the sunrays.
In Alta de Rio in the west, vineyards are planted at 1000 metres above sea level; Uca Valley is even on higher altitudes, as is Tupungato.
The most modern wineriwes are Zuccardi, Finca Flichman, Norton, Lurton Brothers, Clos de Los Siete, Belbo, Finca El Retiro, Chakana, Carlos Pulenta, Platero, Bodegas catena Zapata.
The following wines are highly recommended and available from time to time in Vintages releases throughout the year:
Malbec Reserva, 2004, Bodegas Norton
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000, Weinert
Syrah, 2004, Finca El retiro
Cabernet Sauvignon, 2004, Bodegas Catena Zapata
Viognier Alamos, 2006, Bodegas Catena Zapata
Torrontes, 2006, Susana Belbo
Torrontes, 2006, Familia Zuccardi
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.