Argentinian wine-making: a brief history
Having started as a result of Spanish colonisation in the 16th century, wine-making has an extremely long history in Argentina. Many of the highest quality vineyards over there are exceptionally old, with some growers in Argentina claiming that their vineyards harbour vines dating back hundreds of years.
Initially, Argentinian wine-making began with the Criolla grape – known in California as the ‘Mission’ grape – a variety which is still widely grown in Argentina today. This grape was cultivated to make low quality wine for general consumption.
Today, although Britain is a relatively small Argentinian wine importer, Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine in the world (a fact that surprises many people). However, quality Argentinian wine exports are a relatively recent phenomenon. Indeed, up until the 1990s, like other South American wine, Argentinian wine was largely low quality and aimed at the domestic market. Only in the late 1990s did Argentina start exporting quality boutique wine with any serious intent.
Around this time, French, Italian, Spanish and American winemakers suddenly began to take a very real interest in the area. This burgeoning interest resulted in a sizeable improvement in the overall quality of the production process virtually overnight, with significant investment in new technology and implementation of new production methods taking place across the country.
With the ability to make the most out of their grapes, Argentinian growers and wine merchants then started looking to the export market and are currently the largest producer of wine in the southern hemisphere.