Argentina’s southern wine-making regions
The southern wine-making regions in Argentina are San Juan, Mendoza and Patagonia (Neuqúen and Rio Negro).
San Juan is the second largest of Argentina’s wine-producing regions. Still in the northern half of the country, it is both hotter and drier than its southern neighbour Mendoza, with summer temperatures of 42˚C not uncommon. This region was traditionally the engine room for Argentina’s inexpensive table wine, producing high-yielding pink grape varieties such as Cereza. It is also responsible for much of Argentina’s formidable brandy and vermouth.
In recent years, growers in San Juan have started to plant a few more lower-yielding varieties such as Bonarda and Syrah.
Sitting in the centre of Argentina’s western border, Mendoza is the main grape-producing province of Argentina and is responsible for around 70% of wine production in the country. Summers are warm, winters are mild and humidity is relatively low, meaning that there are few problems with mould and rot.
Rivers from the Andes are channelled through irrigation canals which have created three long oases in the virtual desert. These are North Mendoza, Uco Valley and South Mendoza. The average Argentinian vineyard here lies at an altitude of between 2,000 and 3,600 feet above sea level.
There has been a huge amount of investment in this wine region in recent years, with wine growers and wine makers coming from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and America to develop the amazing potential of this area with great success. Today it accounts for a large proportion of Britain’s Argentinian wine imports, with bottles of wine from Mendoza populating the shelves of every good wine shop.
Malbec is the predominant grape here, but there is also good representation from Chardonnay, Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Patagonia (Neuqúen and Rio Negro)
The most southerly region. Much cooler here; typically a fruit growing area, the potential of this region is still being tested and developed but already there are some big players investing in new vineyards.
The cool climate and chalky soil combine with a long, warm ripening season under clear skies, making it ideal for the production of good quality white wine, especially Torrontés and Sémillon, and for base grapes for making sparkling wine. Good quality Pinot Noir is also being produced.
This is on the northern edge of Patagonia and is the eastern neighbour to Neuqúen. The main water source for the arid plains that cover most of the province is the Rio Negro river in whose valley most of the farms and settlements are located. The climate is temperate at lower elevations. Summers are hot but the nights are cool. This province produces about 70% of Argentina’s apples and pears.
In terms of wine production the region is known for Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines, and Pinot Noir, Merlot and Malbec for red wines.