Some known and others not so much
Where Argentina is probably known best these days for its production of Malbec, it is by no means the only grape to grow in the fertile and dry climes of western Argentina. While we don’t claim to be experts, we have tried to out line a little information to start you off as to what is on offer.
Certainly the most famous of the Argentinean grape varietals, the Malbec grape was thought to have started its life in the southern wine regions of France. When the vine was brought across to Argentina, in the mid 1900s, it was found to thrive in the dry and humid atmosphere (the grapes are thin skinned and so particularly susceptible to ground frost and disease). Producing a rich violet colouration and full, fruity notes, it is the perfect accompaniment to the beef for which Argentina is so famous.
Until as recently as the 1990s the Cabernet Sauvignon grape was the worlds most planted, and it is found throughout the world. Part of the reason for this is that it has a thick skin and so can withstand variations of temperature and disease very well. Generally used by the Argentine wine growers in their blended wines (often in the so called “Bordeaux blend” using Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec), the Cab Sauvignon brings flavours of blackcurrant and tobacco to the fore.
The world’s most versatile grape, the stronghold for Merlot is, very much, in the place of its birth, France. From its humble beginnings (named, allegedly after a young blackbird, or “merle”), the Merlot grape is used around the world as a varietal wine or in the famous Bordeaux blends. The notes of fruits such as plums and cherries, combined with the low tannin levels, allow it to soften and mellow other, stronger grapes such as the Cabernet Sauvignon or the Cab Franc.
Again, of the cabernet family of grapes, the Cabernet Franc is a fairly widespread varietal that is used either as a varietal wine or blended with other grapes such as Cab Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style. Offering noted of tobacco, raspberry and cassis, it is also often used as a varietal for the famous ice wines of North America and Canada.
While the Pinot Noirs of Argentina are yet to gain any real reputation on the world stage, the slightly cooler hills around Mendoza have begun to produces Pinots’ that are better and better. The grape itself is fairly tricky to grow and convert into wine and, therefore, it is difficult to get right but, when it is successfully produced it offers a light red with notes of raspberry, currant or cherry. In Argentina it is often blended with Cab Sauvignon amongst others.
Another of the famous grapes from Argentina, the Torrontes grape varietal has truly flourished in the northwest of Argentina, in the higher and cooler slopes of the Andes. The varietal itself occurs in Argentina (where they are the only place in the world to be thought to exist) in three different strains and produces a white wine that is light and aromatic with strains of peach and apricot.