Argentina, renowned for its expansive landscapes, vibrant culture, and succulent steaks, has also earned a formidable reputation in the world of wine. Argentina ranks fifth in global wine production following closely Italy, France and the United States.
Today, Argentina is celebrating record economic growth. In 2021, Argentina reported exports of 844$ million compared to $791 million the precedent year. In addition, the industry appreciated 9.2% in volume and 15.8% in value.
While the Mendoza region has traditionally been the heart of Argentina's viticulture, the country is experiencing a shift towards trendier wine regions that are captivating the palates of enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike. These emerging regions are shaking up the wine scene with their unique terroirs, innovative winemaking techniques, and the passion of the people behind them. In this article, we will delve into the trendier wine regions of Argentina that are making waves in the global wine industry.
Patagonia: Unveiling the Secrets of the South
In 2002, Patagonia was designated as a geographical indication of origin. The region's distinctive terroir, mineral-rich soils and diverse microclimates, has proved conducive to growing elegant and expressive wines. The provinces of Neuquén and Rio Negro are particularly famous for their burgeoning wine scenes. Neuquén, with its high-altitude vineyards and proximity to the Andes, is producing remarkable Malbecs and Pinot Noirs. The altitude and temperature variations contribute to extended ripening periods, resulting in wines with intense flavours and acidity. Meanwhile, Rio Negro's cooler climate is ideal for producing delicate white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, showcasing the versatility of the region.
Salta: The Heights of Excellence
Venturing north to the province of Salta, we encounter one of the highest wine regions in the world. The Calchaquí Valley, nestled within the Andes, has breathtaking beauty and viticultural potential. The altitude here brings about significant diurnal temperature variations, allowing grapes to ripen slowly while retaining their acidity and aromatics.
Salta is known for its signature white grape, Torrontés. This aromatic variety thrives in the region's high-altitude vineyards, producing wines with floral aromas and fruitiness. In addition to Torrontés, red varieties like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon are also gaining traction, showcasing the region's ability to craft both elegant whites and structured reds.
Uco Valley: Elevating Mendoza's Excellence
While Mendoza has traditionally been the cornerstone of Argentina's wine production, it is within the Uco Valley, a subregion of Mendoza, that innovation and trendiness converge. Situated at the foothills of the Andes, the Uco Valley offers a range of altitudes and soil types, allowing winemakers to experiment with different grape varieties and styles. Uco is home to the new geographic indication, EL Peral on Mendoza’s Tupungato. The area is unique because of its very high elevation (5000 feet and more) and its heterogeneous alluvial soils which vary according to the slopes of the area. The climate like many parts of the Tupungato is warm during the day but cool at night, perfect for viticulture.
The Uco Valley has gained recognition for its high-quality Malbecs, known for their depth and complexity. But beyond Malbec, the region is also embracing lesser-known varieties like Bonarda and Syrah, adding diversity to its portfolio. Additionally, the Uco Valley's commitment to sustainable practices and modern winemaking techniques is attracting a younger generation of winemakers and consumers.
Cafayate: Exploring Argentina's High-Altitude Oasis
Nestled within the Calchaquí Valley in Salta, Cafayate is a sub-region that deserves special attention for its distinctive terroir. This oasis in the midst of arid landscapes is a testament to the resilience of vines and the potential for producing unique wines in challenging conditions. In Cafayate, Bodega Colome is recognized for having the highest vineyards on earth at 10,206 feet.
Cafayate is known for its production of Torrontés, which reaches its peak expression here. The region's high-altitude vineyards contribute to the preservation of acidity and the development of intense aromatics. Visitors to Cafayate can explore bodegas (wineries) that offer tastings of Torrontés in its various styles, from fresh and aromatic to more complex and age-worthy.
Embracing diversity with historical roots
As Argentina's wine industry evolves, the emergence of trendier wine regions showcases the country's dedication to diversity and innovation. From the breathtaking landscapes of Patagonia to the heights of Salta and the modernity of the Uco Valley, each region contributes its unique character to the country's vinous tapestry. These regions challenge traditional norms, experiment with different grape varieties, and adopt sustainable practices, capturing the attention of wine enthusiasts worldwide.
As the global wine community continues to explore Argentina's trendier wine regions, it's evident that the future of Argentine wine is as exciting and vibrant as the regions themselves. The key to Argentina’s wine future might be the rescue of its viticultural past. Argentina is investing in bringing back its old criolla varieties. Criolla is the common name to identify the varieties of Criolla Grande and Criolla Chica and also designates a range of varieties such as Torrontes Riojano, San Juanino and Mendocino.
Winemakers such as Alpamanta are making a wonderful range of intriguing natural and orange wines with Criolla grapes. According to Jorge Prieto, a researcher at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), these diverse Criolla varieties form part of the ancient viticultural holdings that constitute the crest of grape genetic diversity in Argentina. While they may not dominate the global wine scene like Malbec, these grapes play a crucial role in Argentina's wine culture. They produce wines that are easy to enjoy, versatile in pairing with food, and reflective of Argentina's diverse terroirs.
As Argentina continues to make its mark on the world stage of winemaking, the Criolla grape varieties stand as a testament to the country's rich viticultural history and its bright future in the world of wine.
1. The Globe and Mail. 2022. “Winemakers in Argentina Face a Challenging 2023 Vintage after Severe Frost”
2. Romano, Aaron. 2022. “Argentina’s Wine Regions: What to Know ” Wine Spectator.
3. “Wine Region Salta - Falstaff.” n.d. Www.falstaff.com. Accessed August 19, 2023.
4. Iglesias, Alejandro. 2023. “El Peral GI, the New GI in the Uco Valley 2023.”
5 “Cafayate, Argentina | Best Wine Destinations 2017 | Wine Enthusiast.” n.d. Www.wineenthusiast.com.
6. Mason, Jessica. 2022. “Why Everyone’s Talking about Argentina’s Criollas and Orange Wines.” The Drinks Business. 7. Eads, Lauren. 2021. “Summer Sipping: Argentina’s Great Criolla Grape Revival.” The Drinks Business.