As the Argentina wine harvest, or La Vendimia Festival, gets going, at Vindome.net we take a look at this great wine country.
Several of Argentina’s top wines are already available on the Vindome Wine investment app or Vindome.net. These wines look to become among tomorrow’s great wine investments. More wines from Argentina are sure to follow.
Argentina is the largest producer of wine in South America. The famous high-altitude deserts of the eastern Andes mountains provide most of the vineyards. Areas further south, and more coastal, are becoming more successful and noticed.
How did Argentina’s wine harvest industry begin?
Wines have been made in Argentina since the 1500s – initially by Spanish missionaries, and later by Italian settlers. Little had changed until recently but in the last 30 years, the country’s wine producers have raised quality levels and developed international export markets. Argentina is now the fifth largest wine producing country in the world, following Spain, Italy, France, and the USA.
Many of today’s famous Argentinian wine producers have their own roots in this history. Norton was an English railway engineer who decided to stay after he finished building the line to Mendoza. Catena-Zapata is the most famous. They have been making wine since 1902, but are now regarded as the best producer. They own high altitude vineyards which are regarded as the ‘Grands Crus’ of Argentina.
Is Argentina’s wine good?
While Catena-Zapata is the most famous, names such as Norton, Zucchardi, Salentein and Trivento are growing in fame.
Terrazas de los Andes (owned by LVMH) and Cheval des Andes (owned by Chateau Cheval Blanc) also show that Argentina is taken seriously by great European producers.
Younger producers such as Sebastian Zucchardi, Susanna Balboa, and Matias Riccitelli demonstrate that the future is bright for Argentian wine. Each would acknowledge the importance of Catena-Zapata in establishing and developing the industry in which they work.
Many of Argentina’s wines are very good indeed. Well priced and well made, they offer the best of the New World.
Argentina’s famous Wine Varieties
Malbec is the most celebrated grape in Argentina. Bought from France in the nineteenth century and only significantly planted there in the small area of Cahors since. It is still permitted in Bordeaux, and as the climate changes more producers are planting it in Bordeaux because it thrives in sunny conditions.
45% of Argentina’s plantings are Malbec. It loves the warm and sunny conditions of the plains at the foot of the mountains, around the city of Mendoza. You can read more about Malbec in this article.
Argentina’s unique grape is the white Torrontes. A cross of the original missionary grape, Pais, with Muscat, it is an aromatic, floral white. It makes wines best in youth, and so while they can be delicious, they are not for the investment market.
Argentina’s other best wines are from Bordeaux blends of Cabernet Sauvignon (12% of plantings) Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These often also include some Malbec.
Argentina’s Wine Regions
Mendoza is the heart of the Argentinian wine harvest. It is the largest and best region. On the plains around the city, the exposed sunny vineyards are perfect for Malbec and other Bordeaux varieties.
Further into the mountains the sub-regions of Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley are making high altitude wines. These may offer a different taste of Malbec – lighter, finer and fresher. Equally they may be producing varieties like Pinot Noir, or white wines, especially from Chardonnay.
In the northern Salta region the low latitude is made up for by altitude. The highest vineyard in the world (at 300m or 9000 feet) is here. This is home of the country’s best Torrontes, and some light red wines.
A newer development is significant planting in Patagonia, especially in the valley of the Rio Negro. Further south and more coastal, these areas are producing world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can read more about these and other Argentinian regions here.
Festival de la Vendimia
The harvest in Argentina starts in February (light whites) and continues into April (last of the reds and sweet wines). The climate is predictable and constant in Argentina making variations of vintage unimportant compared to Europe. The mountains bring a risk of hail. Producers deal with this by netting the vineyards as protection. Drought may be an issue (although water-stressed vines produce the best wines) but irrigation is legal and normal in Argentina.
Grape picking ends with a huge party in March. The Fiesta de la Vendimia is a true national event which celebrates the cultural heritage of wine. Held every year in Mendoza, it’s considered one of South America’s major festivals. Recently Mendoza’s Vendimia ranked number two in National Geographic’s Top 10 Harvest Festivals of the World (after the Thanksgiving celebrations in Plymouth, Massachusetts.) A great time to visit Argentina and Mendoza.
Focus on Catena-Zapata
Nicolas Catena-Zapata, and his family, are at the pinnacle of wine in Argentina. Definitely, in wine investment terms, Catena-Zapata is the most bankable name.
Nicolas planted the highest and best vineyard in the country – named Adrianna named after his youngest daughter – at over 5,000 feet. The company is now run by his other daughter, Laura, who continues to research and develop, planting further and higher in the mountains and making Argentina’s best wines, from Malbec, Chardonnay and other varieties.
It was a Malbec from the Adrianna vineyard which was the first to be awarded a perfect 100 point rating by the Wine Advocate (River Stones Malbec 2016). It will not be the last.