Composed of both arid and oasis landscapes, Argentina’s wonderful vineyards stretch over one thousand miles, with always the impressive Andes Cordillera background.
Main South American and 5th world largest wine producer, Argentina plays a more and more important part in the global wine market.
The vineyards are located along the Andes mountain range on a distance of more than a thousand miles, between Patagonia and the Bolivian border. These latitude gaps allow an important difference of terroirs. However, apart from Patagonia, every wine region gets a very dry climate with very few rainfalls and intense sunshine, filled by a controlled irrigation. Producers favor more and more high quality wine, rather than huge volumes, adapting to the very demanding exportation markets. Its red wines are worldwide renown, especially for its Malbec, whose name is now inherent to Argentina.
Main vineyards description :
- Mendoza : Around 3500 acres vineyards divided in more than 1200 producers. Ideal terroirs for red wines, especially Malbec. Strong sunshine, important temperatures variations between night and day, due to an elevation that reaches until 6000 feet above sea level. Very dry climate.
- San Juan : Very hot and arid. Syrah, very powerful and spicy, is the emblematic variety of the region. Progressive evolution of the vineyard to improve the general quality of the wines rather than large volumes.
- Cafayate : Vineyard located between 5500 and 10000 feet above sea level. Very intense sunshine during days and cold nights: high temperature variations, which makes Cafayate a unique region. Climate rather adapted to white grapes, especially Torrontés, which is the representative/emblematic variety of this vineyard.
- Neuquén/Río Negro : Located in Northern Patagonia: cool temperatures, more rain and humidity. Ideal climate for most of white varieties, like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and some red grapes, like Pinot Noir, which reveals its real potential only in this region of Argentina.
Mendoza’s vineyards can be divided in different subregions. The 3 main regions are Maipú, Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Other vineyards can be noted: San Rafael, the southest vineyards of Mendoza, and Lavalle, Junín and San Martin, situated North and East of Mendoza, which historically produce important volumes, with a much lower quality than the first three vineyards.
Mendoza has unique terroirs that allow it to produce high quality wines. Its main advantages are :
- The altitude of the vineyard: between 2000 feet (Maipú) and 5000 feet (until 6000 feet) above sea level for the highest vines of Uco Valley.
- Different temperatures between these 2 areas.
- Different soil and subsoil: rocky (also volcanic rock) and very compact near the mountain, more clay and sand going to the East and the desert. In both cases, temperature variations between night and day are very important (especially above 3000 feet).
- Very dry climate. Mendoza region is a desert. 300-330 sunny days a year, very low humidity (few disease and fungus), around 200-250 millimeters of rain a year, which makes that vineyard one of the driest of the world. Therefore, irrigation is indispensable. Flood irrigation is the ancestral method, but drip irrigation is more and more used to have an optimal control of the vine water needs. Water is provided all year long thanks to ice melt of the Andes Cordillera summits.
There are around 1200 wineries in Mendoza. The main grape varieties used for quality wines are mainly Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon for red wines. Chardonnay from Uco Valley is distinguished for white wines.
Maipú is the most distant part of the vineyard from the Andes. Eastern and Northern vines are cultivated in “panal” (pergola) to protect the grapes from the too strong sun. The soil is mainly composed of clay, and sand on the eastern part, which makes the irrigation easier, giving more volume and less concentration.
Western part of Maipú and Lujan soils are denser and rocky. It is the oldest wine region, where we can find the oldest wineries (more than 100 years old). Some vine stocks are more than 100 years old as well. There are also modern wineries with very original architecture. This region is the historical heritage of the Mendoza wine-making.
Maipú altitude: 1900/2300 feet above sea level.
Main grape varieties: Bonarda + Malbec
Luján altitude: 2900/3300 feet above sea level.
Main grape varieties: Malbec.
South of Luján, in Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos areas, it is currently the most prized area. Many new wineries with original architectures have been built in the 1990 and 2000 decades. Altitude is higher here (between 3200 and 5900 feet above sea level), night temperatures are generally cooler than in Luján and much cooler than in Maipú, however the sun is very strong at that altitude. The high quality Mendoza white wines mostly come from vineyards of Uco Valley. Chardonnay is the main white variety. Of course, there is an important production of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec for reds. Pinot Noir has become more popular in the recent years, but the climate is too hot to allow the production of balanced wines.
The scenery is absolutely breathtaking: huge and impressive vineyards at the foot of the majestic summits of the snowy Andes. The scenery is spectacular and it is worth going there for that sole reason.