Characteristically South American, Argentinian wine has flambouyantly emerged rather late and with no apology, onto the international stage. Producing more wine than any other country outside Europe and consuming 90% of it at home, previously the emphasis has been heavily on quantity not quality. Thankfully, given the extraordinary potential of Argentina’s environment for creating wondrous wines, things are changing.
As with most New World countries, vines were first introduced to Argentina by thirsty colonials and quickly spread throughout most of the country. Nowadays production occurs primarily along the length of the Andes on the western side of the country. Boasting the highest vineyards in the world, averaging 900m above sea-level, very low rainfall and crystal clear sunny days, Argentina’s bodegas are seldom blighted with disease, fungi, moulds or insects, creating the world’s most perfect environment for pesticide-free and organic farming.
There are seven noted wine growing regions in Argentina but arguably only one that has really made its mark, Mendoza. Jujuy, Salta and San Juan are pretty forgettable. La Rioja, Catamarca and Patagonia have a little more presence. But it is Mendoza which is most recognized on export wine shelves. Nearly 70% of Argentina’s wine comes from here.
And Mendoza’s bodegas’ magic lies in their Malbec. Introduced to Argentina in the mid-19th century from France - where the grape had been rather overlooked for quality but had been exploited as a mixer to soften Bordeaux vintages - Malbec assumed a brave confidence in its ability to stand alone.
And now, with bodegas such as Cavas De Weinert, Catena Zapata and Dona Paula among many others, creating rich, spicey, herbal, lush, dusky Malbec that oozes the feel of Argentina, there really is no excuse but to grab some and see for yourself.