Argentina’s northern wine-making regions
The northern wine-making regions in Argentina are Jujuy, Salta, Catamarca and La Rioja.
Jujuy is located in the extreme northwest of Argentina, bordering Chile and Bolivia. This is a relatively small wine region. Its best known grape variety is Torrontes, but little wine is exported. Situated 23 degrees south of the equator within the eastern half of the Andes mountain range, it has some of the highest vineyards in the world.
The most northerly of all Argentina’s wine-making provinces, this region produces distinctive and high quality wines. Its northerly latitude would normally be too warm for quality wine grapes to grow, but the vineyards in Salta are high in the foothills of the Andes, with altitude tempering the effect of latitude. Some of the highest vineyards in the world can found here in remote locations, enabling the production of small quantities of rare and complex red wines, typically made from the Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
The climate is predominantly warm and sunny during the day and cold at night, resulting in high sugar levels and good acidity at harvest time. This assures boutique wines of both depth and balance. In particular, in the area around Cafayate, at over 6,000 feet, the Torrontés Riojana grape produces some outstandingly fragrant and full-bodied dry white Torrontés wine.
Just south of Salta, in Catamarca, altitude also balances the northerly latitude. Catamarca has more land under vine than Salta, although the wines from this area are generally less well known. Vineyards can be found in some of the most remote areas on earth in semi-desert conditions, using water channelled from the high Andes to irrigate the vines. The key areas for wine production in Catamarca are the Calchaqui Valley and Fiambala Valley, both at around 5,000 feet.
Typical grapes of this region include Malbec, Syrah, Barbera and Torrontés.
Moving further south, you reach La Rioja, the oldest of the wine-producing provinces of Argentina and the home of the Torrontés Riojana grape. However, due to lack of water for irrigation, wine-making is a fairly marginal activity in this province and there is currently only a relatively small area under vine. As such, wine importers and wine merchants will rarely offer bottles from this region.