Argentina has the fifth largest wine production in the world and is the second largest country in South America after Brazil. Up until the 1990s nearly all that were produced were simple, inexpensive table wines and were consumed in Argentina. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that Argentina’s most progressive wineries decided to modernize and focus on improving the quality of their wines. In 1994, Argentina exported 389,000 gallons of wine to the United States and by 1998 that figure increased to 3.3 million gallons.
Argentina’s wine production is monitored by the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura. It does not have a strict system of laws similar to the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. As for labeling regulations, if a grape variety is named on the label, 80% of the wine must be composed of that grape.
The wine regions are in the west central part of the country, in the foothills of the Andes, at higher elevations than most wine regions elsewhere in the world. Argentina has never been the victim of phylloxera, the plant aphid that devastated many of the world’s vineyards in the mid- and late- nineteenth century. Because phylloxera has never been a factor in Argentinian viticulture, most vines still have their original rootstocks.
There are four major wine regions, the most important is Mendoza, followed by San Juan, La Rioja, and Salta. Directly east of Buenos Aires, Mendoza accounts for 70% of Argentinian wine. The most famous grape in Mendoza is Malbec. Wines produced in Mendoza from this grape often have a full bodied structure rarely found in Bordeaux. French producers usually blend well under 10% of Malbec into Bordeaux blends. In Argentina, Malbec is compelling enough to be made into a wine on its own.
Argentina is primarily a red wine country. About 60% of the total production of fine wine is red. There is a fairly significant sparkling wine industry, with such prestigious Champagne houses as Moet and Chandon, Piper-Heidsieck, and Mumm having Argentinian subsidiaries.
There are about twenty grape varieties. Besides Malbec, Criolla, and Cereza a handful of Italian and Spanish varieties grow there as well. The most fascinating white variety is Torrontes. This grape makes flowery, aromatic wines, and grows almost nowhere else in the world.
I hope you have the opportunity to try some of the delicious wines produced in Argentina!
This month we are featuring our white Wine of the Month, Portuga 2013, from Lisboa, Portugal. The grapes are Fernao Pires, Arinto, and Vital. This is an aromatic wine, with tropical fruit and citrus notes, and excellent balanced acidity. Our red Wine of the Month is 2 Copas Red, 2013, from Mendoza, Argentina. The grapes are Tempranillo and Malbec. This wine features crisp and rich flavors of mature cherries, raspberry with hints of pepper and exotic spices in the finish.
Wine club members come in early to pick up your wine, before they’re gone.