Argentina is one of the world’s biggest wine-producing countries by volume. Many of today’s finest Argentine wines have barely five years of history. Argentina has inherited wine expertise from Europeans who settled there around the turn of the century and brought in grape plants and winemaking know-how. Until the end of the 20th century, almost all Argentine wine was made for domestic consumption. Over the last 20 years, however, the country’s wine producers have raised quality levels and successfully consolidated an international export market. There has also been an explosion of foreign investment by wealthy wine producers from other countries and individual investors attracted by inexpensive vineyard land and by Argentina’s warm, dry climate which is ideal for viticulture.
Mendoza is the largest wine region in Argentina, and accounts for 70% of the country’s annual wine production, however as a result of the recent growth, there are a number of developing wine regions, including Salta in the far north and Neuquen and Rio Negro Valley in the south (Patagonia), separated by more than 1250 miles (2000 km).
Argentina’s geography includes high altitudes and semi-desert landscapes. The majority of the country’s vineyards are located around dry, mountainous areas at the foothills of the Andes. High altitude and low latitude lead to increased sunshine levels and higher diurnal temperature variation – ideal for developing balanced sugars and acidity in grapes.
The country’s most widely grown grape variety, Malbec, has played a dominant role in winning worldwide acclaim for Argentina’s wines. Malbec was originally brought into the country from Southern France. Other varietals include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontes, which has come to be seen as the ‘indigenous’ white grape of Argentina.