Argentine Wine Regions
The Northern Region is characterized by the altitude of its vineyards, located between 3,280 and 9,800 feet above sea level. The Calchaquíes Valleys, in the province of Salta, boast the highest vineyards in the world.
Other distinctive features of the region, in addition to its high altitude, are the scarce rainfall and dry, warm climate, with very high average temperatures, and sandy soils that favor good drainage.
Main variety: Torrontés
Salta is located at 26° 23’ latitude south and 68°33’ longitude west. The most outstanding wine region is Cafayate, in the so-called Calchaquíes Valleys, and it concentrates 70% of the vineyards in the Valley.
It has more than 7,900 acres of vineyards, 99% of which are devoted to the production of fine wines. The grape-growing area starts at an altitude of 4,900 feet above sea level and extends beyond altitudes of 6,500 feet to reach 10,210 feet high, which makes this the highest grape-growing region in the world.
One of its most outstanding wines is Torrontés Riojano, a very fruity wine which is considered to be the finest expression of this province.
The winemaking area of Catamarca is located to the west of the province. The district of Tinogasta concentrates 70% of the area destined to grape production both for winemaking and fresh consumption. Most of the wineries in the province are located in this district, as well.
Other grape-growing districts include Belén, Fiambalá and Santa María.
Among the region's most typical varieties are Torrontés Riojano and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cuyo Region («the land of deserts», in the native Huarpe Milkayac language) is one of the driest, yet most productive regions for winegrowing. This is the largest wine region in Argentina and the main wine producer in South America. With an annual mean temperature of 59° F and altitudes ranging between 2,300 and 5,600 feet, this region is characterized by its rugged mountainous relief. The Andes Mountains are the main source of irrigation, providing their meltwater every summer.
The scarce rainfall and pure meltwater irrigation make the difference for this region, as they allow growers to regulate vine and grape growth, as well as sugar and tannin concentration, among other features. Cuyo has more than 519,000 acres of vineyards.
Main variety: Malbec
La Rioja has more than 17,300 acres of vineyards, located mainly in small irrigated valleys to the west of the province, between the Sierras de Velasco to the east and the Sierra de Famatina to the west.
This province is the home to two kinds of wine growing: industrialized and traditional, the latter consisting in the home-made production of regional wines.
The main varieties are white and rosé grapes, among which may be mentioned Torrontés Riojano, the typical variety of the region, which accounts for 35% of the province's vineyard acreage. Red varieties are less extensively grown and include Bonarda and Syrah.
Ranking second among the wine-producing provinces of Argentina, San Juan has a cultivated area of 116,700 acres standing between 1,970 and 4,590 feet above sea level.
With valleys like Tullum, Pedernal, Ullum-Zonda and Calingasta, and a warm, sunny climate most of the year (less than 30 days with cloudy skies), San Juan grows grapes that are rich in polyphenols and yield wines with intense, fruity flavors.
Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda, Chardonnay and Torrontés are the most widely cultivated varieties. San Juan’s Syrah deserves special mention as its varietal expression has earned increasing attention worldwide.
Mendoza, is the main winemaking province of Argentina, producing more than 80% of domestic wine, and has more than 395,000 acres of vineyards. It is undoubtedly a center of reference for the wine industry in Argentina and South America.
There are five large oases in Mendoza: North, East, Center, South and Uco Valley (Valle de Uco).
It includes the municipalities of Lavalle, Guaymallén and Las Heras. It covers the lowest altitude areas irrigated by Río Mendoza.
Altitudes range between 1,900 and 2,300 feet above sea level, with mild slopes. Fine sand predominates in the soils. The region is well-suited to the production of white wines such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Ugni Blanc and Torrontés, and for reds like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bonarda and Malbec.
The East of Mendoza is indeed a winemaking power, if one is to consider the extent of the vineyards and the number of wineries established in the area. With altitudes decreasing from 2,400 to 2,100 feet, it presents substantial differences in climate, soil and temperature range depending on the area.
This subregion comprises the departments of Rivadavia, San Martín, La Paz and Santa Rosa.
All the grape varieties grown in Argentina are found in the East, but Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin, Torrontés and Viognier stand out among the whites, and Sangiovese, Syrah, Bonarda and Tempranillo stand out among the reds.
This old, traditional winemaking region covers the departments of Luján de Cuyo and Maipú and is known as the «premium winemaking area (primera zona)» of Argentina. Such name is no coincidence: it reflects the prestige earned by its wines, historically ranking among the best in the country. Its privileged location to the south of the city of Mendoza, its ideal altitudes and the quality of its soils have significantly contributed to its prestige. Altitude ranges from 2,130 to 3,500 feet above sea level.
Its most characteristic variety is Malbec, which yields the iconic wine of the region, the province and the country. Other red varieties found here include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc stand out among the whites.
Located between latitudes 34° 5’ and 35° south, it comprises the San Rafael and General Alvear departments. Altitudes of this region come down from 2,600 to 1,480 feet above sea level.
It is the main producer of a traditional variety: Chenin. Other whites and reds are produced in this area, among which stand out Chardonnay, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This subregion features the highest altitude vineyards in the province, at more than 5,580 feet above sea level. The Uco Valley comprises the Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos departments.
It stands out for its ideal conditions for the production of top quality grapes, yielding both white and red wines with great aging capacity.
The most traditional varieties here are the Malbec, Merlot and Pinot Noir of La Consulta district. White varieties grown in the area include Chardonnay and Semillon.
Patagonia is the southernmost region of Argentina where grapes are grown. Winters are harsh and summers cool, particularly at night, which allows winemakers to obtain harmonic combinations of acidity and sweetness and abundant aromas.
Among the virtues of the region may be mentioned the slow, protracted ripening of the grapes.
All these features lend Patagonian wines refined flavors, unequaled aromatic intensity and a unique personality that reflect the purity of the environment and add to the prestige of this, the world's southernmost winegrowing region.
Main variety: Pinot Noir
Neuquén contrasts sharply with the aridity of the mountainous northern region. San Patricio del Chañar, 37 miles to the northwest of the province's capital, has been chosen by the largest winegrowing establishments. In the last few years, more than 3,460 acres have been planted with vineyards and five wineries have been built.
The region receives 7 inches rainfall and has temperature ranges exceeding 68° F difference between day and night during the ripening period. The climate is ideal for the development of winegrowing. All these features come together to ensure extremely healthy grapes with great concentration of colors and aromas, slowly developing tannins and perfect levels of acidity, which will then yield high quality wines.
The most outstanding representative of Patagonia is located in the province of Río Negro. The High Valley of Río Negro is a 75 mile-long, 5 mile-wide river oasis standing in the vast, arid, wild Patagonian plateau.
Standing at an altitude of 1,200 feet, the High Valley of Río Negro has a markedly dry, continental climate, with an annual rainfall of less than 7.5 inches and very low relative humidity. Winters are cold and summers warm and dry, with abundant sunshine and great thermal amplitude. Winds blowing constantly from the southern Andes increase air dryness and allow for outstanding sanity in the vineyard.
The uniqueness of the landscape confers Patagonian wines a well-defined personality. All of them stand out for the perfect balance of alcohol and acidity resulting from the slow ripening of the fruit. The whites from this region are particularly interesting, especially those obtained from Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, with very personal mineral aromas that are hard to find in other regions. Among the reds clearly stand out Merlot, Pinot Noir and Malbec varietals, with good color intensity and noteworthy typicity.