Go into any supermarket in France and you’ll be amazed at the wealth of wine on offer. I am not even necessarily talking about those enormous hypermarchés where you can buy everything from a pair of skis to a thimble, I am talking about the local corner shop. Wine is a religion in France, forget whisky as being the aqua vitae, in the hexagon, the water of life very definitely comes from grapes.
Which is why it is always so amazing to do a supermarket shop for your wine. There will be shelves upon shelves of French wine, while when it comes to “vin etranger” aka foreign or non-French wines, you’ll be lucky to get a bottle of Asti Spumante.
Their approach is kind of like when you closed your eyes when you were little, thinking that no one could see you. It’s the if you ignore something long enough, then it will go away approach. To me, this is one of France’s biggest downfalls. While their homegrown products are undoubtedly and for the most part outstanding, the French have a horrible habit of ignoring anything grown off home turf.
At Vindome, we are on a mission to introduce the wine investor to wine that goes beyond Burgundy and Bordeaux. You’ll already find lots of Italian wines on our wine investment app but the savvy wine investor should note that we’ve begun adding new world wines to our Live Market and Collections. Most recently, we have introduced a behemoth of a Malbec from Argentina. Which got us to thinking.. How is it that in France, we know so little about Argentinian wine?
The Argentinian Wine Regions
By far the best example of what the country is capable of can be found in the Mendoza valley. Vineyards here are planted from 500 metres up to 1500 metres, meaning that there is something to suit all palates (not to mention wallets). The incredible diversity of Mendoza’s production means that whether you are looking to create an exciting portfolio with world-famous, award-winning Malbecs, or just simple vino patero (foot-pressed wine) for summer barbeques, with the right guidance and advice your wishes will be answered.
Undoubtedly the country’s main wine region, Mendoza nestles comfortably next to the Andes, about 1000 kilometres west of Buenos Aires but on 350 east of Santiago, Chile’s wine and administrative capital, and is roughly the size of the state of New York. The key to understanding this vast and varied region is its high altitude, with many wine producers specifying the vineyard’s elevation on the labels (Catena and Moët & Chandon subsidiary Terrazas de los Andes to name just two). This badge of honour is down to the fact that the highest vineyards have the coolest nights which positively affects the acidity and colour of the grape (ergo wine). Wine producers have been quick to understand this and vineyards have sprung up everywhere from the foot of the Andes to the Uco Valley in the past 20 years. Elevation can reach up to 1,600 metres in some places and means that producers can decide when to harvest according to their own schedules, rather than those of Mother Nature. The dry summers and cool winters also lead to a lack of vintage variation, so if you are looking for a consistent fine wine year in, year out, Mendoza could be your valley.
Say the word Patagonia and two things will probably jump to mind. One, the prolific and famed glaciers and two, expertly made expensive gear for outdoors lovers. But we bet you don’t think of its wine. Yet, Patagonian wine is a thing. Despite being one of the world’s least-obvious places for quality viticulture, this desert region – with its cool, dry climate – has proved itself well suited to producing elegant red wines from Pinot Noir and Malbec. Wine production is only possible near the rivers, and the classic desert climate of warm days and cold nights offers an ideal opportunity for viticulture. The region is slowly gaining a reputation for excellent wine, although it still has yet to reach the heights of the more established zone of Mendoza, be sure to have this region on your radar. Pinot Noir is prince here with wines from Rio Negro leaning towards a very European taste, showcasing the region’s ability for fresh tasting, medium bodied wines.
North of both Mendoza and San Juan and nestled in the foothills of the Andes, La Rioja is one of Argentina’s most important wine regions. The region is known for its varietals; Malbec and Syrah for reds and crisp, aromatic Torrontes for whites. The low rainfall – just 5cm a year – is made up of the regions humidity and high altitude, which helps to cool the staggeringly hot temperatures in the summer. The region is less known than Mendoza and San Juan but interestingly it is the country’s oldest wine-producing area. La Rioja dates from the 16th century when it was colonised by Spanish settlers from – you guessed it, Rioja. Understandably there is some confusion between the two places – in fact, in 2011, La Rioja won a long fought court case against Rioja in Spain allowing it to be called by the same moniker. The ruling was that since La Rioja’s produces mainly white wines, and Rioja’s mainly red, Argentina’s could carry on calling its wine region by the same name.
San Juan could be considered as Syrah’s playground. The overly sweet fruity wines of San Juan are long gone and with the region producing some of the country’s highest quality Malbecs and Syrahs, San Juan has stepped out of the shadows. The region is the second largest in Argentina with vineyards in the five valleys: Tulum, Ullum, Zonda, Pedernal and Calingasta. Of those five valleys, Tulum is the region’s most successful calling card. However, recent plantations of high-quality grapes and huge investment in state-of-the-art technology in wineries has allowed for Pedernal wines to take the spotlight and gain recognition on the international stage. Granted the wines are fruit-laden and need time to properly age, but they are also bursting with quality and style that needs to be considered when adding Argentinian fine wines to your portfolio or cellar.
Winemaking in Argentina
Argentina is currently one of the most undervalued countries when it comes to fine wine. Although investors have been slow to add Argentine wines to their collection, experts believe the future is bright for the South American country.
History of Argentinian Wine
Argentinian wine might be a relative newcomer to the fine wine scene, but it has roots that date back over four centuries. In fact, wine is so deeply rooted in Argentina culture that the only city that drinks more wine per head than Buenos Aires is Paris!
The first cuttings are believed to have been planted in Argentina in 1556, by Father Cedron, a Spanish priest who had settled in Mendoza. The plants seemed to like the high altitude and dry climate but progress was slow – by the late 19th century there were still only 120 vineyards in the region. However, lacking the funds that their European counterparts had, winemaking remained entirely artisanal. Post-independence in the early 19th century and things began to become industrialised, however civil wars in Argentina from 1814 to 1880 slowed down the potential once again. It wasn’t until the mid 20th century that things would really begin to take off after WWII brought many European settlers to the country.
These European settlers brought with them modern technology and centuries of savoir-faire. These key elements, coupled with the country’s rich terroir gave birth to what we know today as “new world wine”. The country became widely known for its affordable, excellent Malbecs, and today is the 5th largest producer of wine in Latin America.
As Argentinian wine grew in popularity, the country looked to its neighbour Chile at how best to export its produce, notably to the lucrative and thirsty British and American markets. The country brought in big name consultants who imparted their technical knowledge particularly regarding yield control, successful harvesting, temperature control, fermentation and the use of oak barrels for ageing. Their input was clearly successful – by the end of the 20th century Argentina was exporting over 3.3 million gallons (12.5 million litres) to America with exports to the UK also strong.
Climate of the Argentinian Wine Regions
Argentina owes much of its success to its superb terroir. The regions are located in the favoured location at the foot of the Andes, and enjoy dry climate from the altitude (Bodega Catana Zapata has some of the highest altitude vineyards there are. Nicasia is a Malbec, planted at 1095 metres above sea level and Adrianna, a Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, planted at 1450 metres above sea level. The wine magnificently showcases how elevation increases and intensifies the grapes flavour profile). Additionally, the terroir enjoys superb, natural irrigation from the melting snows of the mountains.
How Much Wine Does Argentina Produce?
In 2020, Argentina produced 10.8 million hectoliters of wine.
Argentina’s winemaking has gone from strength to strength and it is finally stepping out of the shadows. It has been considered as one of the world’s top ten winemaking countries for decades, often beating French wines in blind tastings.
In Argentina, wine is one of the most important commodities. Argentina has been one of the world’s top ten winemaking countries for decades now. Wine plays an important role in Argentinean culture and families often gather at home during holidays to enjoy their favourite drink.
What Wine Is Argentina Known for?
Argentina is mostly known for its Malbec wine.
Argentina’s most important wine-producing area is Mendoza Province, located in central Argentina. Mendoza’s vineyards are responsible for 60% of Argentina’s total annual production of wine, and 95% of all Argentinean Malbec comes from this region.
The Best Wine From Argentina You Have to Try
By far the most interesting producer for Vindome investors is Bodega Catena Zapata. This winery is run by an all-star team that includes the charismatic Alejandro Vigil as it’s a chief winemaker, and an ER doctor with degrees from both Harvard and Stanford. Located in Mendoza, Bodega Catena Zapata produces 41 different wines from six vineyards. Of their wide range of wine, the top tier are the Catena Zapata and Adrianna lines, which regularly score in the high 90s during tastings. Catena Zapata is made from two of Catena’s highest altitude vineyards, Nicasia (Malbec, planted at 1095 metres above sea level) and Adrianna (Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec, planted at 1450 metres above sea level). The wine magnificently showcases how elevation increases and intensifies the grapes flavour profile. Adrianna comes only from its eponymous vineyard and is one of the rare 100% Malbec wines on the market.
Now that you know so much about Argentina, learn more about the world’s best wine regions!