Following its independence from Spain in the 1800s an influx of European immigrants to Argentina led to its first modern vine plantings close to the Andes. Today Argentina is one of the top wine producing countries in the world (second largest in the New World and fifth globally).
Argentina’s wine regions cover over 1,500km from north to south, and, apart from Patagonia in the south, are concentrated in the far west of the country in the foothills (and rain-shadow) of the Andes, at a southernly latitude. At such low (and hot) latitudes the influence of altitude (and cool temperatures) is essential. Argentina has the highest vineyards in the world (the highest at over 3,000m above sea level) and this means greater diurnal temperature variation (difference between day and night temperatures). The sunlight in the day increases sugar, tannins and complex flavours in the grapes, whilst cool night time temperatures preserves natural acids. Although wine is made in the far north (Calchaquí Valley) and the south (Patagonia) over 70% is produced in the middle country, Mendoza.
Although it originated in Bordeaux, France, Argentina’s specialty red grape, Malbec, makes up about 20% of plantings in Argentina. It can produce a wide range of styles and at different price points, making it super popular - as a result, since 2000, plantings have increased by 250%. Another top red is Bonarda, which makes soft and fruity, easy-drinking, wines. Torrontés is Argentina’s signature white grape, producing floral and distinctive wines. Argentina was slow to export its wines beyond South America because its local grape varieties were unknown to most international wine drinkers, but over the last few decades wine production has moved from local grapes to international ones (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay) and to greater quality.