With the foothills of the majestic snow-capped Andes and dry moonscape deserts, Argentina’s winemakers are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding great locations to plant vines. As a result they are producing a whole host of wines from rich, spicy red Malbec that goes perfectly with beef, to exotic white Torrontés, not to mention a raft of serious icon wines that are winning praise from critics around the world. So take a tour of Argentina’s wine regions to find out more.
No matter how you look at it, Mendoza is big news for Argentina. With 155,000 hectares under vine it’s the biggest quality wine-producing region in the world. Malbec is the star varietal here, but you’ll find over 100 other grape varieties too, planted across more than 30 different sub-regions. With some of those regions at altitudes of anything up to a mile above sea level, Mendoza is big on diversity too. Producing almost 80% of Argentina’s wine, it’s also the biggest player in the global export market, meaning you’ll find plenty of wines from Mendoza in your local wine merchants.
- Key varieties: Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo
- Altitude range: 650-1,600m
- Key areas: Maipú, Lujan de Cuyo, Uco Valley, Rio Mendoza South, Northern Zone, Eastern Zone, San Raphael
Three transverse valleys, Pedernal, Tulum and the Zonda, make up this other-worldly, lunar-landscape wine region. It’s the second largest wine-producing area in Argentina and home to some of the UK’s best-selling Argentinian wines. It’s hot and dry here, like Australia’s Barossa Valley but with less rain, and so it’s no surprise that varieties like Shiraz and Viognier perform beautifully. It’s also home to the world’s largest Aglianico vineyard. Now that’s something not a lot of people know!
- Key varieties: Syrah, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Torrontés, Malbec
- Altitude range: 650-1,300m
- Key areas: Pedernal, Tulum, Zonda
Tucked into Argentina’s far north west at nose-bleedingly high altitudes, Salta is one of the most remote and beautiful wine regions in the world. All of Salta’s vineyards are firm members of the ‘mile high club’, with some as high as 3,100 metres. Salta is also the spiritual home of Torrontés, where the grape performs at its most exotic, fresh and intense. Many other varieties – both mainstream grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and less well-known ones such as Tannat – are also found here. Expect plenty of blue-flavoured, highly aromatic wines that are among the most distinct and alluring in the world.
- Key varieties: Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Tannat, Merlot
- Altitude range: 1,700-3,100m
- Key areas: Cafayate, San Carlos, Cachi, Angastaco, Molinos, Colomé
Although La Rioja is substantially smaller than Mendoza, with only 8,000 hectares of vines planted, it’s still home to the largest Fairtrade winery in South America and the largest Fairtrade organic winery anywhere in the world.
- Key varieties: Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Bonarda, Malbec
- Altitude range: 1,000-1,400m
- Key areas: Chiliceto, Nonogasta, Felipe Varela, Villa Castelli
If viticulture and viniculture ever become extreme sports then Catamarca will be the home of the champion players! If a moonscape, baking desert in the middle of nowhere doesn’t immediately strike you as the ideal location for quality grape-growing then think again. The treble combination of high altitude, huge diurnal temperature differences and snow melt water from the Andes work a magic that allows winemakers to produce fresh, racy and minerally wines.
- Key varieties: Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Bonarda
- Altitude range: 1,200-1,750m
- Key areas: Tinogasta, Belén
This is by some way the oldest of northern Patagonia’s two wine regions, with a 100-year history of production. It is one of the world’s true cool-climate regions but what makes it distinct from others is the wealth of old vine fruit that can be found here. Its Malbecs, Pinot Noirs and Merlots are deep, pure and profound.
- Key varieties: Merlot, Malbec, Torrontés, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
- Altitude range: 200-300m
- Key areas: General Roca
The second of Patagonia’s wine areas is the world’s only true 21st-century wine region: vineyards were planted in the late 1990s and the first wines appeared in 2003. Now there are seven wineries here which are fast gaining fame around the world for their racy, cool-climate Pinots, graphite-edged Malbecs and sublime sparklers.
- Key varieties: Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
- Altitude range: 200-400m
- Key areas: San Patricio Del Chañar, Añelo