Wines From Argentina

Is A New Wine Country Destination On Your Bucket List? Maybe It’s Argentina?
By Steven Lay

Argentina is considered New World and is especially so in the world of wines. The beginnings of Argentina are traced to early Spanish explorers who founded settlements around 1520. Argentina has the second largest economy in South America. Over the past six decades they have struggled with economic issues but have never lost its attraction to people wanting to explore the path less traveled. But award winning wines from accomplished wine makers is changing how people look at Argentina.

Relative to the wine industry in Argentina of today, there are more than 26,000 registered vineyards. Of the 6 significant wine regions, Mendoza is the largest. Based upon acres in vines, Mendoza is approximately 70% larger than the second place (366,000 vineyard acres in Mendoza versus 116,000 in the San Juan region) and accounts for more than 70% of wine produced in Argentina. As a comparison, there are approximately 928,000 vineyard acres in California alone.

This arid climate, with a terroir dominated by Andean mountain soils and warm days and cold nights, make for great wines. With annual rainfall averaging less than 8 inches per year Mendoza relies on the snow melt in the Andes for vine irrigation. In the early 1800’s many European wine makers came to Argentina based upon ideal soil conditions, relative freedom from vine diseases, and available land. With most of the Mendoza vineyards at 2,600 to 5,000 feet above sea-level, this area is proving to be interesting as a case study on growing grapes at high elevations. This is especially true in the U.S. where, for example, the University of Nevada-Reno is interested in studying potential grape crops grown at high elevations. In some areas of Napa 2,200 feet in considered being high altitude.

Even at higher altitudes, the largest varietals planted in Argentina are: Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah Merlot, Chardonnay, and Tempranillo. All these are prominent varietals in Europe and the U.S.

All varietal wine grape production in the U.S. in 2014 was approximately 2.8 million tons and Argentina produced 2.1 tons. But the top 5 wine producers in the world are (in descending order): France, Italy, Spain, U.S. and Argentina. It is interesting to note, 2010 versus 2014, all of the top 5 wine producing countries had a decrease in production except for the U.S. and Argentina-both had 5% growth.

But why is this of any interest to wine drinkers? Is it important to note that France produces 22% of the world’s tonnage of wine grapes? From the viewpoint that most wine drinkers eventually start searching for new experiences in wine, then it is natural to explore new wines-not just wine from regions we are comfortable and accustomed with. The famous historic wines of the world are from France, Italy and Spain, but why not explore other wines that are new and different and offer new sensations (aromas and taste) and experiences. Argentina offers wines that have recently started coming onto the wine stage in America; primarily because the quantity and quality are meeting very high standards.

For too long Argentina produced wines for local consumption. Now, with new wineries and major commitments from large family wineries from Europe, quality is vastly improved and exporting is becoming more common, especially as production increases and exchange rates make for bargains. In addition, many wine drinkers have experienced the traditional Europe, Australia and New Zealand, winery visits, now they want something new. Further, many in the U.S. market are marketing the texture of terroir/AVA. Certainly, Argentina has a very unique terroir, so why not explore Argentina for their wine.

Terroir is talked about a great deal. California wineries are starting to really market their AVA’s on labels and promoting the wine’s character from specific AVA’s. Gerald Boyd, writing for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, CA comments, “Soil is one of three main components that make up the over-arching concept of terroir, the others being topography and climate. There are dozens of soil types scattered throughout the wine regions of the world. A few years back, scientists told me that in the Napa Valley alone there are 33 different soil series and more than 100 soil variations. That new knowledge about soil encouraged me to look further at the impact of terroir on wine quality.” Based upon that recommendation, maybe wine lovers should try a new terroir.

Until now, there were not a lot of good options to find quality Argentina wine at good prices. But, as the industry grows, more quality wines are coming to America from Argentina.

I submit that the wine and culinary tour industry has worked its magic relative to European wine experiences and has branched out to Australia and New Zealand; everyone knows of YellowTail, but not everyone knows much about Argentina and their wines. This is relatively new.

Michel Rolland is probably the most noted wine consultant in the world. He represents clients in all the major wine regions of the world. His consulting fees are shocking to some and yet reasonable to those wanting to produce wine that is descriptive and born of a particular region. All of this is to say, he has one of his Argentinean wineries in Mendoza and he produces both red and white wine.

Many of the newer and most exquisite wineries in Argentina have roots in America as well. Quite by accident the son of the Frito-Lay CEO, Herman Lay, comes from Texas and has built a very exclusive winery in Mendoza he named Andeluna. It is a 200,000 acre winery and hunting lodge in the foothills of the Andes.

Argentina is worth a visit if you have been to Napa/Sonoma and other wine centric parts unknown to anyone but you. They are 5 hours ahead of West Coast time and their summer is North America’s winter.

Mr. Lay started Image of Wine to manufacture and sell high end wine accessories to corporations as gifts and branding items. These are items may be personalized.

All products are custom manufactured and recongnized for their quality. Inquiries are welcomed by calling: 702-289-4167.

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