Mendoza: the Sun & Wine provinceWorld Capital of Wine
At the foothill of the Andes, in Mendoza, there is a region integrated by Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, Godoy Cruz and Guaymallén. A large number of wineries as well we some of the oldest vineyards are gathered in this area. The most traditional Argentine wineries can be found there.
This soil in this region is alluvial with rocky subsoil. It possesses sediments of sand, silt and clay. Its little organic matter restraints the grapevine’s growth and this results in excellent quality grapes suitable for winemaking. Malbec wines from this area hold outstanding features; red and violet tones and great intensity.
The basin of the Mendoza River is located on the northwestern end of the Mendoza province and covers a little extension of San Juan’s southern area. The western limit is set by the Andes mountain range, amidst the Aconcagua (6959 m) and the Tupungato (6635 m) mountains. Both the weather and its water supply are decisive elements for this region. The weather is semi-arid, cold in the winter and warm during the summer. Its altitude and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the presence of the Andes –that acts as a barrier to humid wines from the Pacific Ocean- determine the basin’s climate. In this region, there are late freeze and hailstone risks. Annual precipitations vary around 200 mm. This region’s climate allows for the formation of color and tannins in wines, making them suitable for a prolonged aging process.
During the last decade, this region has grown over 4400 ha, 19%. Undoubtedly, it is an ideal place for red varieties; they occupy over 70% of its surface. Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon stand out.
According to experts, wines from this region present fruity notes, especially ripe plum. In addition, spices such as black pepper are revealed and they hold a mild mineral expression. In the mouth, they are opulent wines, with soft and sweet tannins.
The most outstanding characteristic in white wines is their low color intensity with a greenish hint. They present fruity aromas and moderate acidity and alcohol content. Red wines, on the other hand, display intense strong violet colors. Given the grape’s maturation, they reveal intensity in the mouth as well as pronounced tannins.
This microregion is located at the foothill of the Andes and it is one of the most distinguished of Luján de Cuyo. In this microclimate, bunches mature slowly until they reach full ripeness. Soils are alluvial with stretches that go from sandy-loam to clay soils.
There is broad thermal amplitude between day and night in regions close to mountain ranges. This phenomenon allows grapes to achieve great tannic concentration which provides structure to wines. The varieties that adapt the best are Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine producers are currently experimenting with Petit Verdot.
Towards the West, there is a special zone, Alto Agrelo. Red varieties present exceptional concentration and this translates to elegant and friendly wines. White varieties achieve a good level of acidity and their aromatic authenticity is manifested in delicate and refined wines. Their concentration, structure and body are in perfect equilibrium with their smoothness, refinement and elegance.
The terroir is directly linked to the distinctive quality of the region; outstanding sunlight and thermal amplitude where the vineyards are cultivated, 1000 masl. The foothill has slopes that are optimal for drainage. In Alto Agrelo there are deep, sandy and rocky soils with a low percentage of clay.
At the foothill of the Andes, in Luján, lies the home of some of the oldest vineyards in Mendoza. Wines from this region are exuberant and structured.
Vineyards surround Perdriel, in the Southern bank of Mendoza River, north from Agrelo. Altitude is one of the most relevant elements of wines from Perdriel, vineyards grow at 900 masl. This means they receive intense sunlight.
In Perdriel prevail loamy soils with gravel and clay over a foundation of stones at the riverbed. They drain easily, causing vines to develop deep roots in the search for water.
Given the poorness of the soil, vines are forced to put their effort into creating berries with low water content. This results in rich and complex wines that have firm and structured tannins.
This region is located on the edge of the foothills of the Andes, in Mendoza. Due to its nearness to the Mendoza River, it is one of the coolest areas in the region. Exuberant wines from Malbec vineyards of up to 100 years old are made there. The flow of the Blanco and Mendoza rivers is of vital importance to this area’s viticulture.
Las Compuertas has a dry climate but its convenient position on the edge of the Mendoza River facilitates the access to water. Many of the region’s producers use a watering system that allows water to reach the vineyard through channels on the ground. This technique deposits silt and clay that complement rocky soils that possess poor drainage.
Vistalba is located in the Western foothill of the Andes. Its name means “view of the sunrise” in Huarpe language. Malbec is Vistalba’s most representative variety, but Chardonnay and Cabernet also develop effectively there.
The region has an altitude slightly superior to those around it and, hence, has more sunlight exposure and better air flow. The scarcity of water, warm summers and cold winters are typical of Vistalba. Flood irrigation is widely used in Vistalba and it explains the high levels of minerality revealed in wines from the region.
Barracas is located in Maipú and has slightly warmer weather. This accounts for softer and more mature wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec develop successfully in this region.
The arid weather is cooled down by the effects of the altitude and intense sunlight exposure during the day. Soils are deep and alluvial; they allow the vine to extend its roots, improving its strength and health.
It is located in the Southern border of Luján de Cuyo, at altitudes that are slightly lower than those of the valley; its average altitude is 900 masl and an latitude of 33°.This region produces soft and opulent Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Semillón are cultivated in new vineyards.
Argentina’s largest wine producing region
This wine region is located on a plain, rivers Mendoza and Tunuyán run through it. The area holds the largest vineyard extension in the country and for the last few years has been experiencing a restructuring towards high-end winemaking.
It is composed of different departments: San Martín, Rivadavia, Junín, Santa Rosa and La Paz. It is an ideal setting for rural tourism due to the fact that it was home to the Huarpe ethnic group, the parish Coro-corto’s domain, the Postas Path and San Martin Routes. The biggest producer is San Martín, whose name honors the Father of the Nation, Don José de San Martín.
Towards the Northeastern part of San Martín, you can find Junín, a region that is almost entirely rural; 90% of its surface is cultivated. Its main economic activities are wine making, olive growing and poultry farming. The main activity in Rivadavia, on the other hand, is viticulture and its raw material is mainly used for grape-juice and wine. As an entrance to Mendoza along the East, one can find La Paz and San Rosa. Their main economic activities are winemaking, fruit growing and dryland farming. History, tradition, folklore, craftsmanship and an antique religious patrimony make this a very appealing area since its beginning.
The predominant varietals are Criolla Grande, Cereza, Bonarda, Moscatel Rosado, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. In recent years, this region has displayed a noteworthy progress in the management of plantations: watering systematization as well as new technology for vineyards, wineries and other establishments dedicated to make concentrated grape-juice.
Some of the region’s advantages are land available for cultivation, the vineyards’ youth and the favorable agroecological conditions for the development of high-end winemaking.
Its plain viticulture is situated between 650 and 750 masl. In addition, its mild weather combined with over 2220 hours of sunlight within a period of 210 days proves to be extremely beneficial for the vegetative development. The latter allows for the grape’s excellent maturation.
Wines and vineyards
In this region there are almost 70000 ha of vineyards, it is the largest one in Argentina dedicated to the production of wine grapes. Even though the total surface has remained unaltered, in recent years there was an increase of red varietals. Red wines from this region present violet tones and intense aromas that reveal mature fruits.
Amongst white varietals, Pedro Giménez ranks first and Torrontés second. Torrontés occupies the same cultivated surface as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This region’s white wines are fresh, fruity, they resemble tropical fruits and are easy to drink.
Uco Valley is located approximately 100km. Southeast of Mendoza. In recent years, it has become a top destination for tourists and wine conoisseurs. It covers the departments of Tunuyán, Tupungato and San Carlos, at the foothill of the Andes. Its total extension is over 17.370 km2 and it’s watered by the rivers Tunuyán and Tupungato.
The region has mild weather, winters are harsh and summers are warm with cool nights. The annual average temperature is 14,2° C and it covers over 25000 ha of vineyards. The valley is a distinguished place for high-end winemaking. Thermal amplitude lingers around 15° C, creating intense color and tannic structure in grapes. It is an ideal spot to elaborate wines with aging potential.
Tunuyán River’s basin runs from West to East through the province of Mendoza, following the 34º parallel south. Climate and water are decisive factors for this region. Its altitude and distance from the Atlantic Ocean, along with the Andes mountain range acting as a barrier for the humid Pacific winds, shape the basin’s climate. As a consequence, there are great oscillations in the atmospheric conditions, creating a pronounced season variation.
Vineyards and wines from Uco Valley
In 2012, the planted surface covered around 25500 ha, almost double as in 2001. It is evident how much this region has expanded, becoming one of the most well-known areas in Argentine winemaking. Out of this total, three quarters belong to red varieties; they have adapted exceptionally to the altitude. Malbec has developed to be star of the region with a growth of 44% in cultivated surface. In addition, this growth triples the cultivated surface of a decade ago.
Red wines from Uco Valley possess intense violet colors. Its aromas reveal mature fruits, especially red berries. In the mouth, pronounced tannins are revealed, as well as moderate acidity and alcohol content.
On the other hand, white wines present low color intensity with greenish tones. Its distinctive aromas are citric, fruity and floral. Their level of acidity can range from moderate to high.
The region’s altitude acts as alleviator of extreme temperatures in an environment with low humidity and intense sunlight exposure and, therefore, allows for the production of grapes with great intensity and polyphenolic content. Soil also plays an important role in the creation of high-quality wines. In the case of Uco Valley, they are alluvial, sandy or rocky and therefore possess excellent permeability and drainage.
This region is integrated by San Rafael, Malargüe and General Alvear. Rivers Diamante, Atuel and Grande run through it. Many relevant hydraulic works have been built there: Agua del Toro, Los Reyunos, Nihuil and Valle Grande. Thanks to the railroad, this area was incorporated to the national market; artificial watering works were conducted and agriculture and farming expanded.
This area has over two centuries of history and there are wineries that have been making high-end wines for over ninety years. Throughout recent years, the varieties with the biggest expansion are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The region has positioned itself as a producer of sparkling wine.
San Rafael is a unique place due to its mild continental and semiarid weather and its pronounced thermal amplitude. Its altitude varies between 600 and 800 m masl, scarce precipitations and low humidity.
Malargüe is famous for its extraordinary amount of impressive landscapes and turism activities, such as mountain climbing, rafting, kayak, safari, horseback riding and much more. In addition, it is home to Las Leñas, one of the most important ski and winter sports centers in the country.
General Alvear is one of the main cities in the South of Mendoza. It was founded in 1914 and its growth was based in the 30000 ha oasis watered by Atuel River. The latter plays a big role in the area’s agricultural and farming development.
Vineyards and wines
Southern Mendoza has undergone a deep transformation during the last decades. Malbec has expanded its surface by 854 ha and it is possible that it will shortly surpass Bonarda’s cultivated surface.
White wines from this region are fruity and they possess an excellent equilibrium between acidity and alcohol content, as well as outstanding tannic intensity. Their color is tenuous with greenish tones. Chardonnay is amongst the white varietals with the largest expansion. This variety has fruity aromas with a touch of banana fragrance.
Cabernet Sauvignon has experimented amazing growth in San Rafael. In this region, it presents spicy aromas, with vanilla and cassis hints. It holds a deep texture and presents sweet tannins. Syrah from Southern Mendoza express aromas from blackberry and raspberry, with a spicy touch. These wines are robust and their after taste is firm and rich.