The Province of Mendoza is the largest wine region in Argentina, accounting for 70% of the countries total wine production. The climate in Mendoza is best described as a high altitude desert. The miracle of irrigation (introduced by the Incans) has allowed for an oasis to flourish in the desert. Mendoza is considered the heart of the winemaking industry in Argentina with over 1000 wineries in the province alone. While wine has been made in Argentina for over 400 years, the first appellations of Maipú and Luján weren’t delineated until 1993 in Luján de Cuyo. In the 20 years since then, Mendoza has become somewhat of an international phenomena with the beloved Malbec grape drawing a loyal following around the world. Malbec is Mendoza’s most important planting followed closely by Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In the last decade, Mendoza’s southerly located Uco Valley has emerged as possibly the countries best fine wine producing area. The Uco Valley’s is a good 3 degrees cooler that Luján de Cuyo and allows for a more refined style of red wine and is also cool enough to produce vibrant and crisp white wine.
In the last decade, Mendoza has seen more international investment that any other wine region as the world catches on to what the region has to offer. Many of the world’s most prestigious wineries (from Moet Chandon to Cheval Blanc) now have operations in Mendoza and many of the world most famous wine-makers are now working in Mendoza (Paul Hobbs, Michel Rolland, Roberto Cipresso and Alberto Antonini) and the for now, the future looks very bright.
Patagonia is perhaps most famous for its remote and pristine environment where spectacular glaciers provide a mecca for hikers and climbers from around the world. Patagonia is now also attracting international attention for it’s wines, particularly Pinot Noir. In the early 20th century, vine cuttings were imported from Bordeaux and the first commercial winery in the region was established, the last decade has seen a dramatic increase in plantings as the regions reputation grows. While Patagonia holds the world’s southernmost city (Tierra del Fuego), the wine regions of Río Negro and Neuquén are located at 39 degrees South (the same latitude as Hawkes Bay in New Zealand). The remote and pristine environment here provides an unique environment for producing wines with personality and character. Both Río Negro and Neuquén which have a considerably cooler climate than Mendoza, which provides a long, drawn out growing season in the chalky soils of the area. While Patagonia is perhaps best know for it’s Pinot Noir, the region is also produces stunning Malbec which shows a more robust tannin structure that the incarnation in the North.
Salta is located in Argentina’s North, high up in the Andes mountains. Cactus covered mountains lead to the 200 year old wine-town of Cafayate. This is extreme altitude viticulture with a valley floor at 1700m. Salta’s own Bodega Colome is home to the highest vineyard in the world at an astonishing 3100 meters above sea level.
The weather is warm and dry, with a huge 20°C diurnal temperature range over the growing season which yields wines with intense flavours that maintain a vibrant natural acidity. Salta is particularly famous for it’s aromatic Torrontes but is also producing some eye catching, Tannat, Bonarda and of course Malbec.