Rough Regions Guide
Argentina is the sixth largest producer of wine in the world. The main grape varieties here are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda for reds, and Chardonnay and Torrontés for whites.
One particularity with Argentinian vineyards is their altitude. North of Mendoza, the Salta region would be too hot to plant grapes were it not for the altitude, and indeed this is home to some of the world’s highest vineyards, at 3,000 metres above sea level. By contrast, the southern region of Patagonia has its vineyards at around 300 metres above sea level - it would be too cold to plant at higher altitudes in this part of the country. Given the favourable dry climate in the country, fungal diseases are rarely a problem, and Argentina is, therefore, a significant producer of organically grown grapes.
The most significant area of production is Mendoza, accounting for around 70% of Argentinian wine. Most vineyards are found on the slopes of the Andes, at between 600 and 1,500 metres of altitude. The vineyards benefit from the protection of the Andes, resulting in warm, sunny days and cold nights. This is a dry, desert climate, so most vineyards require irrigation. Luckily, there is plenty of melting water from the Andes making this possible. The large range in temperature and altitude draws out a full and impressive range of aromas and flavours from the grapes. The variety here is Malbec, and the wines are dark, full-bodied and intense, with sweet ripe tannins and aromas of chocolate, raisin and blackberry. They are frequently oak-aged and concentrated. Regarding price, there are some wines with ultra-premium price points, but overall Argentinian Malbec offers great value for money.
The Salta province is close to the Bolivian border in northern Argentina and is home to some of the highest vineyards in the world, some at over 3,000 metres above sea level. The cool climate produces wines of great purity and freshness, and the main grape variety here, Torrontés, is another signature variety of Argentina. Torrontés wine is white and highly aromatic, and in blind tastings, it is sometimes confused with the aromatic Alsace variety Gewürztraminer. Premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec are also produced here but often in a fresher and more restrained style than typically found in Mendoza.