When talking about Argentinian wines, there is one name to remember: Mendoza! Whichever of the popular varieties of grapes grown in this mountainous land, chances are it is grown in the Mendoza region, which produces over half of the country’s wine (although there are other provinces that produce wine as well, most notably neighboring San Juan, La Rioja, and Cordoba).
So first, a quick geography lesson. Argentina is the second-largest country in South America. Located at the southeast tip of the continent, it runs from the Atlantic coast to the Andes mountains in the west, where it shares a long border with Chile. Mendoza is located in the west-central mountainous region, with elevations up to 5000 feet above sea level.
The wine grapes of Argentina were brought over to the Americas by Spanish colonizers, and wine production has been popular there ever since. The climate, with its low humidity and high altitudes, is particularly beneficial to the grapes, as it inhibits funghi and molds that often plague grape varieties (and makes organic cultivation easier as well). But it has only been in the last couple decades that an emphasis on improving the quality of Argentinian wines has resulted in top-rated vineyards and vintages.
The most popular variety in Argentina is Malbec, but other reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Bonarda are also widely grown, as are Torrontés and Chardonnay. Interestingly, because South America is of course part of the southern hemisphere, the growing season is October to February, which means you can escape the winter climes of the north to take a wonderful wine-harvest tour in February!
Of course the prevalence of red wine in Argentina pairs perfectly with some of Argentina’s most famous dishes, largely based on the country’s fine beef. Think of a wonderful Argentinian steak or a meat-stuffed empanada with a fine glass of Malbec—perfection!
Do you enjoy Argentinian wines? What is your favorite?
By Peg Kern
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