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Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay: world-class varietals with an Argentine touch

Considered the kings and queens of reds and whites respectively, these varieties stand out for their color, elegance, and characteristic flavor. In the different terroirs of Argentina, they have found the ideal conditions to develop and have received both national and international praise.

Since its appearance in the 17th century, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape has always produced wines with extra elegance and flavor, turning it into the undisputed king of red wines. In France, this variety makes some of the best wines in the Medoc AOC. In the new world, it has developed extremely well in countries such as California, Chile, Australia, and Argentina, and is in third place in terms of planted hectares, behind Malbec and Bonarda.

The winemaker at Riglos winery, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Villa, explained that due to its plasticity, Cabernet grows in all regions of the world, as it adapts perfectly to different soils and climates. “All wine regions produces Cabernet and Argentina makes outstanding examples, distinguished and recognized worldwide.”

According to a publication of Austral Spectator 2013, in the Argentine market, there are at least four groups of Cabernets according to the terroir.

According to the statement by the winemaker at Riglos, in the North of Argentina, especially in Cafayate, Cabernet Sauvignon has achieved excellent performance with a dazzling and herbaceous style, with vegetal content and typical aromas of bell pepper. “Another region where it has great potential is the province of Mendoza, particularly in the first zone (Maipú and Luján de Cuyo) and the Uco Valley. In these areas the grape acquires a greater fruity character, reminiscent of morello cherry, cassis, and other berries,” said the winemaker.

In the South of Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon reaches distinctive characteristics with floral notes, “in Neuquén, this varietal has an excellent expression with outstanding floral aromas and its flavor is sweeter than those Cabernets from other regions.”

Worldwide, this variety has been greatly recognized for its excellent quality, “in a blind tasting, there is always an Argentine Cabernet among the first few places, especially those hailing from the Uco Valley”, stressed Rodríguez Villa.

Another reason that this grape is highly appreciated internationally, according to Villa is that wines from this variety boast an excellent quality-to-price ratio, “that is to say, we can offer exceptional wines at good prices, better than those from California. This gives us an advantage over other countries well known for their Cabernet production.”

Wines made from this variety are characterized by being hard, with sharp acidity and astringency when young. However, with extended oak aging their flavor softens, and they are more full bodied, with complex aromas and great intensity. “I am more familiar with the Cabernet from Gualtallary, where the winery has planted its vineyards. There the wines obtain an incredible personality, displaying aromas of black fruits such as blackberry and cassis. On the palate they are vibrant, a typical characteristic of this grape. They can be hard due to the presence of tannins but under the process of oak aging, they develop very well’, explained Rodriguez Villa.

Chardonnay, the queen of whites

It is the most appreciated grape in the world. Its popularity puts it in second place behind Cabernet Sauvignon, of consumer preferences the world over. Although it is native to Burgundy, in France, it has managed to adapt excellently to different climates, from the Champagne region to the United States, Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Argentina. In the latter, the grape was in 7th place of the varieties with the largest planted surface area: 6,400 hectares in 2012.

The real development of Premium white wines in Argentina started with this grape, and the fundamental step was taken by Catena Zapata winery, when it believed that their white wines from Mendoza could compete with those from France and the United States.

Argentina’s wine regions are different and the plasticity of Chardonnay enables it to adapt to most of them, giving birth to wines of different styles, “we have the possibility to make full-bodied and velvety Chardonnay, with mineral characteristics,” explained the winemaker at Catena Zapata, Alejandro Vigil.

For Vigil, the most interesting aspect for the development of this grape in Argentina is the wide diversity of terroirs, “this enables us to have between 6 and 7 different styles of Chardonnay, giving us the possibility to reach more markets and many different types of consumers.”

In the past three years, the consumption of white wines has increased globally, ‘this tells us that we have a lot to offer the world, and not only has the consumption increased but also the amount that the consumer is willing to pay for a white wine’, noted the enologist.

Asked about the consumer markets of Chardonnay, Vigil said that there is great potential in the domestic market, and also in the U.S., Canada, and especially in Latin America and England.

As for Argentina, and according to the statistics Chardonnay is growing in volume and value, ‘it is important to give consumers choices and above all to communicate with them. Varieties such as Chardonnay, considered globally as one of the classic wines, have managed to excel at an international level and have placed Argentina among the international producers of high quality wines.’ Vigil also says that for this to produce better results in the short term, it should be done seriously and communicated properly.

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