A brief guide to the major varieties of wine produced in Argentina.
Altitude, soils low in organic matter, a dry, sunny climate and pure water contribute to develop premium grapes with distinctive flavour, which set Argentine wines apart. Add the fine winemaking traditions brought along by European immigrants and the local know-how and you get deep-coloured, velvety, intensely ripe and attractively gamey reds, terrific roses with a crisp dry finish and aromatic, crisp, dry whites.
Argentina’s vast winemaking region is located on the west of this South American country, at the foot of the Andes range. The cultivated area is a little more than 226,000 hectares. Since low humidity and scant rain prevent the onset of vine diseases, vines yield healthy grapes and local bodegas are able to make fantastic organic wines.
There is little doubt that malbec is the flagship red wine of Argentina. High up in the Andes in the province of Mendoza is where this kind of grape grows at its best, thanks to the area’s extraordinary climate. This grape produces deep-hued, velvety wines with subtle aromas of violets, vanilla, a hint of chocolate and also game-like undertones. This full-bodied but approachable wine ages well.
Malbec is ideal with red meats, hard cheeses and pasta with tomato sauces.
Decanters.com recommends the following wines (September 2009): Andeluna Cellars, Mendoza 2007; Finca La Linda, single vineyard malbec, Mendoza 2006 and Ique (Bodega Foster), Mendoza 2007. Las Moras, Alto Las Hormigas, Catena Zapata, Angelica Zapata, Los Arboles and Luigi Bosca are other great options too.
Torrontes- a fragrant, Muscat-like grape- is the characteristic white grape of Argentina. It grows at 3,000 meters above sea level in the Cafayate Valley in the north of the country. The wine produced here has a strong personality. A young torrontes is pale yellow with greenish hues, which turn golden when aged. This wonderful dry white has orange and peach undertones, sometimes with spicy notes.
Torrontes goes well with spicy food (like Thai, Indian or Vietnamese) and seafood. It also makes an excellent aperitif.
Decanters.com, a leading British website devoted to wine, recommends: Trapiche’s Broquel, Mendoza 2006; Amalaya de Colome, Salta 2007 (70% torrontes, cabernet sauvignon, tannat and syrah) and Laborum, Salta 2008. Don David, Crios, Vinedos de la Posada and Urban Eco are also worth trying.
La Riojana co-operative is the world’s largest producer of certified organic / Fairtrade wines. Their Tilimuqui single vineyard torrontes is pleasantly crisp, dry and aromatic.
Italian immigrants introduced the bonarda grape in Argentina, where it became very popular. This wine has intensely purple hues and blackberry and vanilla spice undertones. Bonarda is often blended with malbec.
Bonarda is fantastic with pasta, like home-made lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs and also with hard cheeses.
Finca Las Moras Bonarda 2006, Valbona Reserva Bonarda 2006, Norton Bonarda 2007, Norton Bonarda 2007 are among the best right now.
Tempranillo is one of the most widespread varieties in Argentina. The oak-aged older wine has notes of wild fruit, black plums, cherries and raspberries. This versatile wine is food-friendly: tapas, roasted chicken, red meats, you name it.
Hinojosa Tempranillo Roble 2006 Mendoza, La Linda 2006, Finca El Retiro Reserva Especial, Urban and Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2005 are highly recommended.