If you were asked to name the top wine producing countries in the world, you would probably be easily able to name the top 3 or 4, even if you didn’t really know a lot about wine. Things get a little trickier after the obvious choices of Italy, France, Spain, and the US, and you may not be aware that Argentina is actually quite high on the list. There were some weather issues in 2016 that hurt their production numbers, but prior to that year, winemakers in Argentina were in or around the top 5 in wine production in the world.
It has only been fairly recently that wines from Argentina have started to be recognized for their quality, but winemakers have actually been plying their trade there since the 1550’s. The very first vineyards where planted in Mendoza, which is a region that is considered to be the most important in Argentinian winemaking to this very day. It is the elevation and temperate weather of this area that make it ideal for growing grapes, so it’s no real surprise that the art of making wine has survived and flourished in the centuries that have followed those humble beginnings.
Winemakers in Argentina have had to overcome more than most, which perhaps explains why the wine made there has not always been recognized by people outside of the country. Crops hit by disease, civil war, and high inflation have all played negative roles in the wine industry of the country, and it was the latter that caused many wineries to be snapped up by big name European winemakers in the 1990’s. This was a move that not only saved the industry, but which also helped to quickly propel it to heights that had been previously unseen.
The best wines that come out of Argentina are Malbec’s, but they are certainly not the only variety being made there. Malbec was first introduced in Argentina by the French, and it can be argued that the climate in Argentina meant that the grapes used in this wine were of a higher quality, to the point that it can be argued that the best Malbec’s now come from South America. As of 2014, there were approximately 1,200 wineries doing business in Argentina, with the vast majority of them growing grapes in the high altitude regions in the western portion of the country.
We mentioned earlier that altitude played a large role in the production of quality grapes in Argentina, and one interesting thing that you may notice when buying a wine from that country is that the altitude is often added to the label on the bottle. Winemakers in this part of the world put a high value on the thick-skinned grapes that are grown at altitude, which is why that number is often considered to be a sign of just how good the wine is. If you have never tried a wine from Argentina, we suggest starting with a Malbec first before trying all of the other varieties that are available.