ARGENTINA IS THE FIFTH LARGEST WINE PRODUCING COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, BUT THAT HASN´T ALWAYS BEEN THE CASE. IT IS ONLY IN THE LAST 20 YEARS THAT WINE PRODUCTION HAS BLOOMED
Spanish conquistadores introduced grapes and wine to Argentina as far back as the middle of the 16th century. The industry grew rapidly, but for a long time the main focus was on fairly simple and cheap wines for the domestic market based on the local grape Criolla Chica. The center of the grape production was around the foothills the Andes mountains, near where Mendoza was established in 1861.
Since the 19th century new waves of immigrants have arrived in Argentina. They brought with them both grapes and knowhow from their native countries. This, in turn, has created the modern wine production. Spaniards, Italians and the French brought grapes like Bonarda, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. A lot of experimenting followed. But still the focus was mainly on the domestic market. By the 1970´s the consumption equaled 90 liters per citizen annually. By the late 1990´s the consumption was cut in half, which meant it was time to think in terms of export.
With help from flying winemakers, , there has been an increase in quality of the wines produced. Anyone who still thinks that Argentina only produces cheap bag-in-the-box wines or heavily flavored, over-oaked fruit bombs are in for a surprise. The current trend is that many producers are returning to the use of concrete in the production, rather than oak barrels. In addition they have started to harvest earlier which gives the grapes a better and fresher tannin structure. These changes are giving Argentinian wine a purer and fresher taste. An additional bonus is a lower alcohol content. Malbec is a result of this new trend that already has arrived in Norway. It will be exciting to keep an eye on these wines in the years to come.
Malbec, originally from the south-west of France, has become Argentina´s national grape. A lot of wines all over the country are made from this grape. The typical Bordeaux grapes are also popular and there are many producers who make great wines that can also be stored for longer periods. Since Argentina is renowned for its meat production it is only natural that most Argentinian wines are red. There is no import of wine to Argentina. A visit to this fantastic country will therefore include a lot of empanadas and proteins and only local wine, actually a super combination. As mentioned earlier, Mendoza is located right in the middle of the wine region But many new regions have started to produce wines as well. Salta in the north of the country is such a region. What makes Salta unique is its altitude. Here there are vineyards growing grapes 3000 meters above sea level. Both red and white wines are being made. Many of the white wines are made from the aromatic grape Torrontes. Just south of the capital, Buenos Aires, several vineyards have started growing grapes like Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. These are hardy grapes that can withstand cooler temperatures.
This region was originally a desert. But in the 19th century British settlers decided to build channels to lead water from the rivers Neuquen and Limay, both originating in the Andes, to irrigate the dry land, thereby creating an oasis out of the desert and a perfect place to grow fruit. Today the region is most famous for its apples and pears, but around 1930 a few vineyards were also established, growing grapes like Malbec and Pinot Noir. With a dry climate, less than 200 millimeter rainfall annually and humidity at a maximum of 30 %, the region is pretty much without diseases that can influence the vine. . There are especially two wine producers in the region that make excellent wines.
Bodega Noemia, a joint effort between the Italian countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and the Dane, Hans Vinding-Diers, a well-known and very good winemaker. The winery focuses on red wines made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and to a lesser degree Merlot. Their premium wine, Bodega Noemia is made100 % from Malbec grapes grown in vineyards dating back to 1932. The vine doesn’t produce a lot, but what is produced is of very high quality. They have11 hectares of land for grape production, and everything is biodynamic. Most of the preparations are made by the producerthemselves. This even includes the compost used as fertilizer.
Bodegas Chacra is also considered of the pioneers of Patagonian winemakers. Here the renowned Italian winemaker, Piero Incisa della Rochetta makes wines from Pinot Noir. He happens to be the grandchild of the creator of Sassicia, and works with Hans Vinding-Diers. In 2004 Piero purchased a vineyard with ancient-old, dried out pinot that had been planted in 1932. Wine made from these vines are today the vineyard´s iconic wine with the fitting name, Treinta y Dos – the number 32 in Spanish. Since 2004 Piero has added more and more land to his estate and the wines are given related names like Cincuenta y Cinco (55) and Sesanta y Siete (67).
A sea of possibilities
The wines from both Chacra and Noemia are good examples of Argentinian Fine Wine, which is gaining a stronghold in Norway thanks to dedicated importers looking for the best the South-American nation has to offer.
Argentina still has a lot of opportunities and lots of space to grow grapes and make better and better wines. Renowned winemakers from all over the world have seen the potential and settled down in places like Mendoza and other regions to make and create quality wines. Names like Paul Hobbs, Michel Rolland and Francois Lurton are just a few notables riding the Argentinian wave.