A bunch of Malbec grapes
At the time of this article, Argentina is the world’s 6th largest producer of wine and most of that wine is from Mendoza. Mendoza is Argentina’s most important wine region accounting for nearly two thirds of the country’s wine production. 70% of Argentina’s vineyards are here in Mendoza .
One cannot mention wine in Mendoza, or wine in Argentina really, without mentioning MALBEC! This beautiful french grape found its way to Argentina by way of by a French agronomist, Miguel Aimé Pouget. Let’s take a look at Malbec’s new home…
Located in the Eastern foothills of the Andes and on the same latitude as Morocco, it has some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world. In the rainshadows of the Andes, the climate is arid and the massive flat vineyards are irrigated from the mountains by a network of canals begun by the native dwellers (Incas and Huarpes) centuries ago.
Argentinian vineyards at the foot of the Andes. Photo courtesy Tablethotels
Physical factors for Mendoza’s success include:
- Lack of precipitation. Little rainfall
- Thermal range. High diurnal variation; lots of intense sun in the day and cool winds from the Andes at night.
- Soil quality. Stony, sandy alluvial soils with low organic matter.
- Lots of sunny days
- High altitude (up to 1100m above sea level) which provides larger than normal sun intensity. This altitude sees intense sunlight during the day followed by cold nights that are cooled by alpine winds from the Andes Mountains. This diurnal temperature variation slows ripening overnight, extending the growing season and leading to the development of varietal character without losing precious acidity.
The most planted grapes are Malbec, Cabernet-sauvingon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay. There are two main departments Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo and a lesser region; Uco vallley.
The Maipu region, NOT to be CONFUSED with Maipo Valley in Chile, is home to some of Mendoza’s biggest wine names, such as Catena Zapata, and produces bright, intense, red wines made from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
Lujan de Cuyo is the first region in Argentina to be recognized as an appellation. It is well known for production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontes as well as the ever present Malbec.
Uco Valley has really made a name for itself in the production of great Malbecs. It’s at the highest elevation closest to the mountains. Aside from Chardonnay, Uco Valley is also a reputable producer of Torrontes wine . Soils here are clay and rock with a sandy surface.
Mendoza also benefits from having a picturesque, fantasy like landscape that lends itself to beautiful wine tours ala Napa Valley. Maybe, one day you can go on a bike tour in the lovely wineries of Maipu or Uco Valley. And if you do, have a glass of Malbec and think of me, your ever faithful wine friend. Salud y amor y tiempo para disfutario!