Wine Jones: Argentina
November 14, 2008
Argentina is a land of many sunny and warm days, which is ideal for allowing grapes to reach full maturity, producing concentrated flavors and aromas. For the most part, Argentine vineyards are located on sandy, rocky, clay-based soils. Argentina’s wine-growing regions run from the north to the south, covering more than 1,200 miles of land near the western border. The vineyards are located at varying altitudes in the foothills of the Andes. There is little rainfall, usually between 8 to 10 inches a year, so the vineyards must be irrigated, mostly from waters obtained from melted snows of the Andes. The very dry conditions make the vineyards free of fungal diseases, and for the most part spraying of chemicals in vineyards is unnecessary.
It is the most important wine-producing country in South America, and is the fifth largest wine producer in the world. Argentina has four major wine producing regions, Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja and Salta, and three smaller areas, Jujuy, Catamarca and Rio Negro.
The majority of vineyards are located in the province of Mendoza, which is East of Buenos Aires. The Mendoza region produces more than 80 percent of the total wine production. Most of the wineries of note are located there. The San Juan region is north of Mendoza in an extremely hot area, producing lots of grapes that are not of very high quality and are used for Argentina’s sherry-type wines and the basis for brandies and vermouths. La Rioja is the oldest wine-producing area, offering outstanding Torrontes wines. Rio Negro is the coolest wine region in the country. It is located in the southern portion of the country, producing nice sparkling wines and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs.
The Salta region, a small area located in the far north of the country, produces high-quality Cabernet Sauvignons with good fruit flavors.
Argentina is mostly known for red wine, about 60 percent of their total wine production is red. Malbec, a grape that originated in Bordeaux, has truly found its home in Argentina. Barbera, Tempranilla, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon are also produced there.
In the white wine arena, there are reasonably-priced Chardonnays and very good Sauvignon Blancs, using the flagship white Torrontes grape. Although it probably is a clone from a grape that originated in Greece, the Torrontes is now considered native to Argentina. The wine has a nose of apricots and honeysuckle, similar to Viogneir. The flavors are apricots, peaches, with a crisp acidity ” this is one must try Argentinian wine.
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Although Argentina is ranked fifth in the world for wine production, most people had not tasted wines from that country until the ’90s. Previously, most of the wine produced was not exported. Argentina was then “discovered” by major winemakers worldwide. Many American and European winemakers, including Robert Mondovi and Paul Hobbs invested there and started producing Argentine wines for world-wide distribution. International wine consultants have also assisted in making Argentine wines suitable for export. Moet Hennessy, Mumm and Deutz all have invested in Argentine wineries.
Argentine wine exports totaled $379 million last year. Many wines from this country can be found at very affordable prices at local restaurants and wine shops. Look for this country’s signature varietals, Malbec and Torrontes, to start. They produce excellent Syrahs, Cabernets and Chardonnays.
Love all things wine? You have something to look forward to this new year. PBS will be airing a new reality series called The Wine Makers, which will premier in early 2009. The series will be on KVIE, channel 6 from Sacramento.
” Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. You may reach her at email@example.com