In this special section, Wines Of Argentina shares select wine contents to make Argentine wine known around the world. Welcome!

Mendoza, world wine capital

The province accounts for over 60% of Argentina’s wine production. Among the most important characteristics, it boasts a great diversity of soils, climate, and altitude, thus giving young and fruity wines, as well as products with great aging potential, fruit and aroma concentration

Mendoza is considered Argentina’s most important province in terms of productivity, with 165,000 hectares of cultivated vineyards, representing around 66% of the overall wine production in the country.

According to José Galante, Salentein’s winemaker, the major feature of this province is its ‘diversity’, “all the wine regions in Mendoza have their own characteristics, being altitude essential at which its vineyards are cultivated and, according to this variable, diverse grape varieties are grown and different wines are produced.”

Roberto de la Mota, partner and winemaker of Mendel Wines, agreed that the Mendoza  is vast, with variable microclimates and soils; “therefore, we can obtain from base wines to make sparklings to aging wines. Moreover, as vineyards are under irrigation and cultivated in poor soils, it is possible to have vineyards of vigor and yield according to the amount of water and fertilizers we use.”

In this respect, all the winemakers consulted by Wines of Argentina agreed that the province gives from young, fresh, and fruity wines, to concentrated products, with marked tannins and colors, and great aging potential.

Salentein’s winemaker maintains that the wines with great aging potential come from vineyards cultivated in the upper areas of the foothills. “The altitude, as it moderates the maximum temperatures and gives days with wide temperature range, in an environment of relative low humidity with sunny days, enables us to produce grapes displaying great intensity and phenolic concentration. These grapes ripen slowly, with a long stay hanging on the clusters. This leads to colorful wines, with good structure and tannic texture, a base to give exponents with great aging potential. Moreover, in these conditions, there is a very good preservation of natural acids, obtaining products with good balance of acids.”

According to Daniel Pi, winemaking manager at Trapiche, in order to make red wines with aging potential, it is necessary a high concentration or level of polyphenol. “To this end, the grapevine should grow, during its vegetative cycle, in climatic conditions that privilege the synthesis of these compounds in the grape berry. This is favored in the coldest climates.  For this reason, the highest areas of the Uco valley and the upper part of Mendoza River, especially for red varieties, will source wines with high aging potential.”

Thanks to these last characteristics, Argentina and Mendoza have managed to be well known worldwide, competing with great wines from other hemispheres.

Mendoza has been blessed with very suitable climatic and soil conditions for aging wine production. On the basis of this, Roberto de la Mota stressed that Mendoza’s wines can compete with products from any wine region of the world. Actually, “they have showed this since some time now, and have managed to capture many markets and gain a position against wines from different origins.”

Susana Balbo, owner and winemaker of Dominio del Plata, added that these excellent aging wines made in Mendoza, correspond to diverse varieties, and not only to Malbec. “We make outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, on a pair with any Cabernet from other part of the world.”

Galante underlined that the recognition has been achieved partly as the country has had a signature varietal wine and for all tastes; from a young, fresh, and fruity Malbec, to an aging Malbec, suitable for different occasions and meals.

To this description, Daniel Pi added that “wines from Mendoza compete efficiently with products from other wine regions of the world, in terms of quality and price, offering consumers an excellent value for money which is increasingly appreciated.”

Varieties and wines according to the micro-regions

In Mendoza, five valleys stand out. Among them, the upper area of Mendoza River that, according to Roberto González, Nieto Senetiner’s winemaker, is characterized by developing colorful wines with tannins suitable for aging. Galante commented that this province has a great prestige for the quality of its wines coming from the Andes foothills at over 800 meters above sea level, and it is well-known worldwide for the quality of its wines, of great expression and concentration.

Nieto Senetiner’s winemaker pointed out that Malbec is the grape variety that has adapted to this microclimate, with plants being over 50 years old. Higher vineyards source Malbec with more acidity, body, and color. Besides, here there are other great varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, and Semillón.

The second valley is the north of Cuyo Region.  Gonzalez explained that the best developed grapes here are Syrah and Bonarda, whereas among whites, Chardonnay and Ugni Blanc stand out. On the other hand, there is the large area of Mendoza’s East, “where a great number of varieties grow, distinguishing for the intense fruit notes of their wines. Among them, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Tempranillo; and in the case of whites: Pedro Jiménez and Ugni Blanc”.

In addition, Galante stressed that the northern and eastern valleys of Mendoza give birth to young, fresh, and fruity exponents.

Besides, there is the Uco Valley. As José Galante explained, this valley is made up of the front of the Andes Range and the Huayquerias region. It is the zone of influence of Tunuyán and Tupungato rivers and the altitude ranges from 900 to 1,600 meters above sea level. Warm days with wide temperature ranges favor a slow grape ripening, obtaining wines with great concentration, suitable for a long aging.

In relation to the Uco Valley, Edgardo del Popolo maintained that wines from white grapes such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and recently Torrontés stand out for their freshness and terrific natural acidity, displaying intense aromas of citrus fruits, in some cases with spicy and mineral profile, and in some others, presenting floral or tropical character. They are very complex examples if they are aged, and they usually offer an excellent potential to stay in bottle for few years, especially Chardonnay from the highest sub regions such as Gualtallary in Tupungato, Vista Flores in Tunuyán, and Altamira in San Carlos.

“Whereas, the main red wines are Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah. These exponents flaunt very deep colors, aromas of black fruits, spice, minerals, and flowers. They are perceived very intense and delicate, with different tannic characteristics. Depending on the region they come from, tannins may be firm from thicker berry skin or delicate from a thinner berry, but in both cases, the aging potential of these wines is exceptional. They boast a great longevity, which mostly exceeds 15 years,” pointed out Edgardo del Popolo.

Other of the valleys is in the eastern region. “This traditional valley is the largest wine producer of the Cuyo Region, located at 33° 2’ South latitude. It is a plain receiving the waters of Tunuyán River. It is a vast region in which there are a great number of grape varieties that stand out for the intense fruit notes of their wines.

Finally, the Southern Valley of Mendoza, which is a region with mid-to-low vigor vineyards that give birth to balanced and elegant wines. “Here, the climate is hot, presenting cold nights and a moderate drought. The main varieties used to make reds are Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec; and for white wines: Chenin and Chardonnay”, pointed out Gonzalez.

To Edgardo del Popolo, Dominio del Plata’s general manager, “the white wines from the North and East of Mendoza are fresh, fruity and easy to drink, with tropical fruit notes. In the case of reds, they are also very fruity, but display red fruits such as strawberry, with lighter body, in comparison with other regions. They are excellent to be consumed within the year of production.”

Moreover, he commented: “In the region adjacent to Mendoza River, on its right and left bank, red varieties such as Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon stand out in Lunlunta, Cruz de Piedra, Barrancas, and Russell in Maipú, or Las Compuertas, Vistalba, Perdriel, Agrelo, and Ugarteche. Wines from this region exhibit intense color, aromas of red and black fruits, spices, and nuts, with very sweet, pleasant, and round tannins. They boast a greater concentration than those wines from lower regions, so their aging potential is very interesting.”

Mendoza’s climate and soils

In relation to the climate of this province, Susana Balbo commented: “It is classified according to Winkler, zone 2 and 3; that is to say, cool-temperate climate predominantly in the Uco Valley region (zone 2) and temperate-warm or zone 3 in the north, east, and central valley. According to this classification, “we have conditions to develop almost all grape varieties thanks to the diversity of climates we enjoy in the length and breadth of Mendoza.”

In addition, Roberto de la Mota added that it is important to remember that Mendoza is a desert, with around 200 mm of rainfall because of some summer storms. So, “it is a really healthy viticulture. The climate is characterized by being warm in summer, especially during December, January, and February. As we get closer to the Andes Mountains, that is to say as the altitude increases, nights are more chilly, so the daily temperature range is wider, reaching 68° F o more.”

On the other hand, as regards soils, Daniel Pi explained that most of vineyards are located on the Eastern slope of the Andes Mountains. The origin of the soils, unless few exceptions, is alluvial due to the materials swept down the mountain. These materials generally are thicker as they get closer to the mountain and thinner as they go away from it.

In this respect, he highlighted: “closer to the mountain, the profile of soils is given by the materials swept along the alluvial cones; whereas farther away from the mountain, in general the materials are deposited by streams and rivers in their natural way eastward. Therefore, in Lavalle region, there are more clayey deposits; in the East we find silt and sand; in Maipú/Luján, pebble; and diverse materials in the Uco Valley, where we also find some deposits of limestone, closer to the Andes Mountain. There are some spots of sedimentary soils in the regions closer to the foothills.

Finally, Daniel Pi expressed that Mendoza has a great diversity of grape varieties and owns larger areas of lands suitable for cultivation, as its oases enjoy a greater availability of water suitable for agricultural use, thanks to Mendoza, Tunuyán, Atuel, and Diamante River. For this reason, Mendoza has over two thirds of the overall surface of the country cultivated with vines.

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