In the Land of Malbec, and Other Iconic Argentinian Grapes

Argentinian wine’s flagship grape, and others that are gaining in popularity

The Malbec grape, originally from France, reached Argentinian shores in 1853. There, it found the ideal conditions in which to reach its full potential. Produced in several provinces from Patagonia to the North East, Malbec has an extraordinary range of styles, depending on the terroir, latitude, and altitude in which the grape happens to have grown. In a century and a half, it has captivated the Argentinian palate and reached global markets with its round, fruity, spicy flavors, and its delicacy and personality.

Fotos (2021-01-20/2021-01-23) by Delfo Rodríguez / Carlos Púrpura PistarelliGustar

Saved from an epidemic

Malbec—in keeping with the finest Argentinian tradition—reached Argentinian shores by boat and was carried around the country by mules and sold as a French grape. In 1863, a phylloxera epidemic completely wiped out French vineyards, with the result that Argentina became the only country to have the original grape variety.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

The most widely planted variety

Malbec is now the country’s most widely planted vine, covering an area of 45,657 hectares. It makes up 39.96% of all red varieties, and the province of Mendoza produces 85.9% of the total. It was also the most-exported variety in the whole of 2020.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

A place on the map

The 1990s placed Malbec—and indeed Argentina—firmly on the international wine-producing map, thanks to the wholesale modernization of the industry through new technologies, the appearance of modern wineries, and the backing and expertise of renowned wine experts such as Michel Rolland.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

A growing phenomenon

Exports of Malbec wines reached a total of 1,582,360 hectoliters, with an FOB value of 486,638,000 dollars. Overseas exports of this flagship vine have grown by 57% in the past 10 years.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

In the shadow of a classic

Before Malbec entered the scene and stole the show, Cabernet Sauvignon had always held the title of the great Argentinian wine. Many still consider it to be the leading red, thanks to its elegant profile, and fine yet intense tannins that vie for center stage.  

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Radiant in white

There is life beyond Malbec. Torrontés is Argentina’s only native vine and is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Listán Prieto, both of which were brought to Argentina during the colonial era. It is one of the most-consumed varietals, achieving excellence in Cafayate wine from the Salta region, and in La Rioja.

Ruta del vino de la provincia de Buenos AiresGustar

Forever young

In terms of Argentina’s traditional white varieties, Chardonnay is second only to Torrontés. The grape of sparkling wines, it has a growing number of devotees attracted to its fresh, elegant wines that are evocative of tropical fruits. 

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

New colors and flavors

In recent years, several wineries have taken a more adventurous route, showcasing emerging vine varieties such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Marsanne, Roussanne, Tannat, Barbera, Garnacha, Petit Verdot, Caladoc, and Albariño, and painting a new landscape of labels and flavors from another world.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

An award-winning harvest

In 2018, two Argentinian products, Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard’s 2016 River Stones and Gran Enemigo Single Vineyard Gualtallary 2013 Cabernet Franc, were awarded 100 Parker points for the first time. This is the highest possible score in the scale devised by the influential magazine, The Wine Advocate.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Star quality

The second most cultivated red variety after Malbec is Bonarda, another imported vine. Used for years in coupage wines, the grape is a deserving hero in its own right, with a fresh, light flavor that gives it an extraordinary potential.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

The taste of summer

A white wine with a cult following, Sauvignon Blanc is attracting increasing numbers of devotees thanks to its lush palette of wild aromas, citrusy flavors, herbaceous notes, and an ability to exude freshness even on the hottest days of the year.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Old school style

A growing phenomenon alongside the professionalization and technical advances in the industry is the development of artisan wineries, run by small producers driven by a passion for wine and a wish to showcase the production of traditional Patero wine.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Looking to the future

 Trends come and go in line with global demands, producers’ willingness to take risks, and grapes that continue to defy all expectations. Pinot Noir, Semillón, Criolla Chica, and white blends have all jumped on the bandwagon, winning over an increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable public.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Raise your glasses

In 2020, Argentina’s per capita consumption reached 710 fluid ounces (21 L). Red wines grew by 9% more than in the previous year and were clearly consumers’ first choice over whites, consuming  78% compared with 22%. There was also marked growth in varietals over generic wines.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

Size doesn’t matter

Glass bottles and, in particular, the extra-large versions, were the stars of the recovery in consumption, with sales increasing by 35%, or 12,944,430 liquid gallons (49,000,000 L). With regard to bottling, demijohns, bag-in-a-box wines, and cans also saw significant growth.

Restaurant y parrilla (2021-01-23/2021-01-24) by Leo LibermanGustar

On the crest of a wave

The darling of many, ultra-trendy, and a multi-award winner: the industry’s love-affair with Cabernet Franc, a red wine that seems to confer prestige on anyone who declares their approval of it, isn’t over yet. The father of Cabernet Sauvignon, this expressive wine is unstoppable, with flavors that vary between red fruit and darker berries.

Bodegas (2021-03-08/2021-03-10) by Delfo RodriguezGustar

The final battle

As the reinvention of Argentinian wine has taken root, new forms of consumption are appearing, encouraged by the industry as it competes with beer:  wine bars serving wine on tap, wine sold at kiosks and without a cork, and the growth of wine-tasting in wineries.

Credits: Story

Editor: Diego Marinelli/Text: Aníbal Mendoza 

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