News - 19.03.13
San Juan and La Rioja, two Argentine regions finding their place in the world
The evolution of these wine provinces in the recent times has been significant. Both San Juan and La Rioja bet on offering distinctive grape varieties, making from fruity and easy-to-drink wines to examples with lot of structure and complexity.
Wines from San Juan and La Rioja have found little by little their place in Argentina and the world, captivating young people as well as the most demanding consumers.
Both provinces showed a growth in the overall wine exports, compared January-December period of 2011 versus 2012. In the case of San Juan, the increase ranged from 4.4% in value to 37.5% in volume; whereas La Rioja grew by 10.3% in value and 25.2% in volume.
Winemakers and agronomists of wineries from these regions share in this article some characteristics of the climate, soil, vineyards and grape varieties.
The protagonists in person
José Rubén Morales, Callia winery’s winemaker, one of the leading companies in this region, told that some of the most outstanding features of San Juan wines are their liveliness and freshness. “They are sweet, fruity and silky products, leading to easy-to-drink wines that adapt perfectly to what the younger consumer looks for today.”
The winemaking manager at Finca Las Moras, Eduardo Casademont, commented: “the most important attributes of San Juan wines are granted by the excellent quality of the grape. The natural climate and soil conditions enable us to produce grapes with a great health, good sugar ripening and phenolic ripeness, with which we can make from varietal wines that are easy to drink, very fruity and balanced in acidity, to red wines with a great structure, complexity, fruit concentration, with sweet and soft tannins, and capacity for a long aging in barrels.”
Likewise, Pedro Pelegrina, winemaker at Casa Montes, pointed out that the wines have the special feature of displaying an intense color and fruity character, being pleasant and easy to drink even at a young age. As regards the whites, he highlighted that they are characterized by being very expressive and aromatic.
In addition, Morales stressed that this province has very different features depending on each valley. “Providing a brief description, the Tulum Valley sources fresh, light and sweet wines (not from sugar), wines in general to drink during the whole year, and Syrah as the signature grape variety, which perfectly adapts to its conditions. Besides, the Zonda and Ullum valleys, give birth to great varietal exponents of Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Tannat. Finally, in my opinion, the best of San Juan is Pedernal, an altitude valley expressing high quality, producing delicious Malbec wines being on a par with the best exponents in the world. Obviously, in this valley, we also find excellent expressions of Syrah.”
In relation to the characteristics of these places, he explained: “soils are different but we can say that they are mainly alluvial, with some special features such as sandy extensions towards the Tulum valley and calcareous soils in Zonda valley with great potential. Concerning the climate, it is warm and dry, with sunny days registering one of the highest temperatures in the globe. This phenomenon leads to wines with sweet and fruit sensations, with silky and soft tannins.”
Due to this panorama, the distinctive features that make San Juan’s varieties different from other regions’ are their sweetness and fruit expression.
Moreover, regarding the grape varieties, Syrah is the queen of the region, having its place in all the valleys of the province.
Beyond this variety, Callia’s winemaker spotlighted the quality of exponents like Malbec from Zonda and mainly from Pedernal, and varieties such as Tannat and Petit Verdot among reds, as well as Viognier and Chardonnay among whites. In relation to the future of varietal developments, I think there is a great potential in Bonarda and Torrontés Riojano, though the latter is no longer a potentiality but a reality, as we consider this variety a tool to develop different kinds of products that are very competitive, such as sweet and sparkling wines.”
According to the winemaker of Casa Montes, in the case of the whites, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin are the most outstanding grapes, whereas all the reds have a great adaptation, but Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc stand out.
From Finca Las Moras, Casademont explained that “San Juan is the wine province enjoying the widest diversity of production. It produces grape for raisin, fresh consumption and grape juice, for table and high quality wines, varietals or blends.”
Red wines from this province are characterized by the concentration of fruity aromas and complexity reached in the different varietal wines. Although all the varieties stand out, Torrontés Riojano is the leader among the whites.
As regards this variety, Mario González, president of La Riojana Cooperativa maintained that “this variety managed to be developed due to a natural combination of varieties introduced by Spanish settlers. Its distinctive features are the scent and fruit flavor that, together with the addition of a special yeast, discovered by Dr Rodolfo Griguol and patented by our winery, grant the wine a superior subtlety. This variety expresses its greater potentiality in La Rioja, Catamarca, and Salta. Besides, it is the only variety recognized as Argentine.”
In respect of the wines from this variety, Javier Collovati, winemaker at Valle de la Puerta, explained that depending on the stage of harvest, the outcome can be a product with fruity aromas (early harvest) or floral scents (late harvest). “They are examples presenting great complexity, good volume in the mouth and, the most important of all, it invites to drink another glass.”
Moreover, both professionals stressed that Bonarda, Malbec, and Syrah stand out among the red wines.
González pointed out that one of the special features of the vineyards in La Rioja is that they are located between two valleys separated by mountains: Antinaco-Los Colorados valley, between the Velasco hill in the east and Famatina with its snow-covered peaks in the west; and Bermejo valley, between Famatina hill in the east and the Andes Mountain in the west. Both valleys are not exposed to sunlight during the first hours in the morning and in the afternoon they enjoy a low-level sun exposure, achieving a better fruit ripening. Besides, the region of the coast has small vineyards and some large winery, with wines of a large tradition and history.
The soil and microclimate of La Rioja allow obtaining wines with intense fruity aromas and great complexity. “The low level of humidity and rain make the viticulture of this region one of the healthiest in the world,” highlighted Collovati.
Comparing La Rioja wines with the rest of the country, the difference lies in the fruit that is always present in all the wine lines, from young to great reserve.