Huge and beautiful gravel slopes here beneath the snowy Andes are what has caught the eye of multiple foreign investors. It’s these slopes in the Mendoza province with their deep alluvial soils brought down by rivers from the Andes that produce stunning reds including Malbec which is now recognised as a world-class variety.

These smoky, beefy Malbecs are backed up by dense, juicy Merlots and Bonarda, to say nothing of the spicy, sherbety delights of Viognier and Torrontés in the whites. With all that Latin blood from the early settlers, it’s not very surprising that the Argentinians get a lot of flavour and passion into their wines, making this range one of the most exciting we have!

Argentinian wine regions are somewhat confusing until one realises that they are labelled simply according to the province where they come from. There are vineyards and wineries in the central eastern provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa and Córdoba, but the vast majority of production is in those provinces that line the Andes Cordillera from Jujuy, butting up against Bolivia in the North, to Chubut in Patagonia in the South. It is generally hotter and sunnier in North and cooler and cloudier in the South, but hot temperatures can always be mitigated by planting half way up a mountain and there is no shortage of those in Argentina! Indeed Argentina has the highest vineyard in the world at 10,206 feet and will one day beat New Zealand for the most southerly one too.

We have divided Argentina into three: Northern, Southern and Mid Argentina, the last of which is where most of the vinous action takes place. There are three provinces in Mendoza & Mid Argentina: Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja. San Juan, one province up from Mendoza, is building a reputation for Syrah, then historic La Rioja has big areas producing large quantities of soft, easy-drinking wines – Torrontés in particular.

Mendoza city, Argentina’s wine capital, is a mere 70-odd miles from the Chilean border and is on the same latitude as the Casablanca in Chile and Perth in Australia. Mendoza province is predominantly a red wine-producing region which includes the crucible of Malbec, the Luján de Cuyo area, just south of Mendoza city. Here Don Cristóbal 1842, a family bodega run by Eduardo Lapania, has vineyards and produces Tanners own-label Malbec. South-east of the city is Maipú where son and father, Sebastián and José Zuccardi, of Familia Zuccardi have their Santa Julia winery. They have recently built a state-of-the-art winery further south in the Uco Valley (Valle de Uco), which is an important area of Mendoza burgeoning with foreign investment. Despite the surname Patricio Gouguenheim – in the northern ‘Tupungato’ part of the Uco Valley – is Argentinian and is making the most the area’s propensity for international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. François Lurton, a senior member of the Bordeaux dynasty, identified the Uco Valley’s gravelly soils for making top reds and Pinot Gris when he set up Bodega Piedra Negra near Tunuyán. With the grapes growing at an altitude of 1,000 metres or more you’ll find freshness and pure harmony in these wines.

Salta and Northern Argentina has four provinces from south to north: Catamarca, Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy where you are a mere 17 hours’ drive from Buenos Aires. It’s a big country! Wine-wise Salta is the most important province with its wineries clustered around Cafayate yet it takes a further three hours into the Andes to reach El Arenal, the world’s highest vineyard. With the higher altitude mitigating the latitude, Salta has set down a marker for fine Torrontés and elegant reds too. Catamarca, hitherto rustic, is exciting whilst Jujuy and Tucumán are in their nascence.

In Río Negro and Southern Argentina wine production is a relatively new concept with the wines majoring on being ‘Patagonian’. The vines here endure the same windy conditions as erstwhile explorers discovered, and the cooler sun allows varieties such as Pinot Noir to grow more easily. The main bodegas are situated along the Río Negro, close to the town of Neuquén, with flat, low-altitude vineyards on deep beds of gravel, washed down from the Andes. A further handful of wineries are found up stream in Neuquén province itself. Plantings are pushing further south into Chubut province but with less than 100 ha might at this point be described as ‘experimental’, being some of the coolest, most southerly vineyards in the world.


Various Grape Varieties
Settlers in Argentina were mainly of Latin origin, so it is no wonder that alongside French Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah you’ll find Tempranillo from Spain and Bonarda from Italy. All benefit from the extra sunshine that they enjoy here, fleshing out the core of these wines and making them rich and ripe to drink.

Malbec & Blends
Argentinian Malbec is now recognised around the world as a mostly rich, soft style of red wine that is as easy to drink on its own as to pair with the beef for which Argentina is justly famous. Don’t forget that the French still make Malbec! Grown at altitude in the Andean foothills, Malbec has good purity of flavour, yet plenty of concentration and power, which combines to make it a major world player today.

Dry White

Torrontés, originating in north-west Spain, is Argentina’s flagship white grape. Deliciously floral and grapey in flavour, those of Salta seem to be leading the way. Pinot Grigio performs well too, keeping lovely aromas when grown at altitude but also developing a richness and personality sometimes lacking in Italian examples. Chardonnay arguably shows the most quality; again the cool micro-climates found on the higher slopes of the Uco Valley can produce precise flavours which combine well with oak to give great potential to age. Viognier tends to keeps its acidity and therefore vital balance.