The Wines of Argentina - An Ongoing Story of Improvement

The Wines of Argentina - An Ongoing Story of Improvement

Anna von Bertele is a wine expert at Roberson Wine.

She has worked in the industry for two years since being converted on a cycling holiday around the vineyards of Argentina and has a particular interest in New World wines.

The Past

Most people who work in wine have that epiphany moment when they realise that wine is the path they want to take in life. Mine happened to be when I was travelling in Argentina before going to university. I visited Mendoza - beautiful vineyards surrounded by mountains, small windy roads to cycle along, and bright sunshine - it was perfect. Anna von Bertele

Ever since this discovery of Argentinian wines, they have been some of my favourites and sometimes I am amazed that they are not more popular (and expensive). There are several reasons why Argentinian wines are so great (other than the fact that they are delicious!). With a wide range of regions, growing conditions and grape varieties there is huge diversity across the wines.

Mendoza, in central Argentina is the largest and most famous, though Salta in the north and Rio Negro and Patagonia in the south are also producing some good quality wines. Argentina is fortunate to have all the right environmental factors for winemaking: good soil, well-drained slopes, lots of sunshine and the high altitudes that ensure overnight temperatures are low, helping the grapes to ripen slowly and develop lots of flavour.

The Present

Another reason I love Argentina is because of the pace of change and the diversity that it is bringing to wine. At the moment it is one of the most exciting New World countries. It was slow to develop a strong reputation, as the best wines were made in small quantities and sold to the domestic market, while bulk wines without much complexity or interest were made across the region for sale in supermarkets.

However, over the past 10 years there has been an influx of investment and enthusiasm as people realise that Argentina is capable of producing extremely good wines. Old wineries have been rejuvenated and new vineyards and varieties have been planted. Without the restrictions that many Old World countries face, for example what vine treatments are allowed and which grape varieties may be grown, Argentinian wine is just getting better and better. But they still tend to offer good value for money, especially when eating out.

It is well known that restaurants often mark up the prices of well-known wines to a greater extent, so choosing a Bordeaux or Sancerre on a wine list isn't always the wisest of course of action. I always look out for the more obscure regions and perhaps an unusual variety like the floral white grape torrontés, or an up-and-coming Argentinian producer.

The Future

As for the future of Argentina, the potential is huge and exciting. Argentina is most well known for producing Malbec - it is the country that has made the grape famous, even though it originally comes from Cahors in France (they used to call it Cot, though with the success in Argentina, even they now refer to it as Malbec).

But producers are cautious about being seen as one trick ponies, and are now showing that they can also produce other varieties, for example Cabernet, Bonarda and Pinot Noir. As well as experimenting with these varieties, they are working hard to increase the quality of their Malbec and make it one of the world's top wines.

More boutique wineries are now labelling wine from sub-regions and even individual sites, rather than Mendoza - after all Mendoza is a large region, with varying soils, altitude and climate. The future lies in people recognising these sub-regions, in the same way people might recognise that a Bordeaux is different if it is from Medoc or Pomerol. The wines have different personalities depending on where they are from and there is no reason why producers shouldn't reflect this in their labelling.

One area, Lujan de Cuyo has its own appellation. All of this means that hopefully the it won't be too long before you'll be choosing your regional Malbec to go with a specific cut of meat (another great Argentinian product). You will be pleasantly surprised!

Vino Argentina by Jesús Dehesa

The Wines of Argentina - An Ongoing Story of Improvement

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