When you think of Argentina you should think: Altitude. Argentina is home to the world’s highest vineyards that get up to over 1,600m high. This height is key to Argentina’s wine industry as it not only enables vine growing in a region otherwise too hot to grow top quality grapes – but it also helps to retain acidities and develop more flavour compounds in the skins. It is this skin ripeness leads to flavour development and the soft tannins that we have come to expect from Malbec of Argentina.
Main Grapes or styles
Malbec – the king of Argentina. It is found in practically every region across the country. It is the leading red grape variety which makes the highest quality wines of Argentina in Mendoza, as well as high-volume chunky reds in the lower altitude regions. Overall Malbec creates wines that are juicy and smooth with ripe black fruit flavours.
Torrontes – an aromatic white grape variety that makes up some of the leading white wines across Argentina. It is a cross of the Muscat grape – possibly the most aromatic grape varietal known to man. Torrontes has been shown to be a real star at higher altitudes where it can retain acidity and straddle the balance of fruit ripeness and freshness.
Cabernet Sauvignon – after Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most important red grape variety for quality wine production. Stylistically Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Argentina is a cross between the wines of California and Bordeaux in France. They are very ripe and concentrated with the top wines having the poise and floral characters of a good Bordeaux.
Mendoza – a large region that has proved winemaking is indeed possible at the seriously high altitudes that the majority of vineyards here are planted at. The leading grape is Malbec that produces juicy, soft and outrageously ripe red wines. After Malbec is Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the white grape: Torrontes.
Salta Province – the most northern region in Argentina and home to the world’s highest vineyard site which stands at 3,111m above sea level. This vineyard is in the Calchaqui valley sub-region of Salta province. The leading wines made here are made of Torrontes with Malbec a close second.
Climate and its effect on the wines made here
Though Argentina has a hot climate often akin to a tropical climate, it is thanks to the high altitudes provided from the Andes that viticulture is possible. Vineyards can be planted in sites with altitude as with every 100m you rise the temperature falls by 1 degree Celsius. The further up you get the cooler it gets and the more cloud cover you get across the vineyards – this is also very important as it keeps sun-strike down and lengthens the overall ripening period. With a longer ripening period the grapes can develop softer tannins and complex flavours than you would ever be able to get in most other wine regions.