Malbec: Argentina’s Flagship

Vines in Argentina

Malbec is Argentina's flagship variety, and the country has the largest Malbec acreage in the world. This variety originally comes from South West France, where it is called Cot and features a hard, tannic style. Due to its intense color and dark hues, wines obtained from this variety were once called “the black wines of Cahors.” These wines consolidated their prestige in the Middle Ages and gained full recognition in modern times.


The conquest of the English market was a crucial step for the success of Cahors wines in England and around the world. In 1852, Malbec was brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government. When phylloxera destroyed French viticulture towards the end of the 19th century, the “Cot” fell into oblivion. However, a culture of appreciation of Malbec had already consolidated.

Malbec in particular adapts quickly to the varied terroirs offered by Argentina’s landscape and begins to produce wines better than in its original land.Argentina became the only country to have original Malbec vines of true French heritage.


Malbec in Argentina

Argentina is currently the main producer of Malbec in the world, with 76,603 acres of vineyards planted across the country, followed by France (13,097 acres), Italy, Spain, South Africa, New Zealand and the USA.


Argentine producers have grown Malbec extensively in every wine region of the country. Today, opulent, vigorous Malbecs may be found all along the Andes mountain range, from Salta to Patagonia.


Mendoza is the main Malbec producer in the country, with 65,730 acres, representing 85% of all Malbec vineyards. San Juan ranks second with 6,700 acres, followed by Patagonia (Neuquén and Río Negro) with 2,230 acres, Salta with 1,730 acres and La Rioja with 1,235 acres.


Malbec wines have Controlled Denomination of Origin (DOC) in some Argentine regions, which helps to protect the name of the area and forces winemakers to maintain the high quality of wines.


Malbec Luján de Cuyo
was the first Denomination of Origin (DOC) of the Americas. Malbec from Luján de Cuyo has an intense, dark cherry red color, which may look almost black. It shows mineral expressions, with black fruit and sweet spices standing out.


Malbecs from Tupungato, Tunuyán and San Carlos (in the Uco Valley) are more elegant and display distinctive spicy and floral notes.


In Patagonia (Neuquén and Río Negro) the climate is slightly colder and altitudes are less extreme, which leads berries to retain acidity, yielding wines with notes of ripe black fruits in combination with a marked mineral tone.


The north (Salta and Catamarca), instead, is one with the sun and high altitude. Malbec from this region expresses a unique personality: aromas of very ripe red and black fruits, black pepper and paprika, with a very solid structure of solid, sweet tannins.


Malbec expresses itself very well in regions with broad temperature ranges and calcareous, clayey or sandy soils as those found at the foot of the Andes. These geographic and climatic features make Argentine Malbec stand out particularly for the quality of its tannins: sweet, silky and mouth-filling.


TORRONTÉS Argentina’s Flagship


It is produced only in Argentina and has an incomparable flavor. It is found across all the winemaking regions of the country, from Salta to Río Negro, and is becoming established as an icon among Argentine white wines.


There are three kinds of Torrontés in Argentina: Torrontés from Mendoza and from San Juan are better suited for fresh consumption, while Torrontés Riojano is more extensively grown and expresses the best qualities for the elaboration of very fruity yet dry premium wines. The latter has earned numerous international awards.


Cafayate Valley, in Salta, to the far north of the country, is now building a strong international reputation due to the growth of this variety. This region enjoys a special microclimate. Vineyards grow at 9,840 feet above sea level, with very scarce rainfall, and these conditions allow for an exceptional development of grapevines. Delicious and fruity, the wines of Cafayate have a strong personality and linger in the mouth.


The emergence of Torrontés, today's emblematic Argentine white wine variety, was the result of the genetic crossing of two varieties brought to the country in colonial times: the so-called “uva negra” and Muscat of Alexandria or “uva de Italia,” which might be the ancestors of Torrontés (Agüero 2003). The identification of this new variety was a long, complex process fraught with difficulties. Torrontés initially grew among other varieties, without producers noticing it was a different stock.


When grape growers found it among other varieties in Cuyo, they had no idea how to classify it. From the theoretical point of view, this variety had no name or ampelographic description. It simply did not exist.


The name “Torrontés” started to be used in Argentina by the middle of the 19th century. The oldest available record we have found is a study by Damián Hudson dating back to the 1860's.


According to the sources studied up to now, it may be said that Torrontés originated in Mendoza, apparently under the leadership of the Jesuits. They introduced the growth of uva de Italia in the vineyard of the School of Our Lady of Good Voyage, and from there, they spread across the region. The Jesuits remained interested in this variety throughout the 18th century and recommended its growth, as reflected in writings by an anonymous member of the expelled Jesuit Order dating back to the end of that century. Under these conditions, Muscat of Alexandria spread to most of the winemaking regions of Chile and Argentina, but Mendoza remained its main center of development. Thus, its genetic crossing with uva negramay have taken place anywhere in this region, but most probably in Mendoza, where the chances were greater. In addition, the oldest record mentioning the existence of Torrontés to date was also found in Mendoza.

The vineyard area of Argentina covers 546.602,00 acres (2012). From the total area just 504.485,00 acres are able to vinify. 52,31% are red wine varieties,20,9% are white wine varieties and 26.79% are rosé wine varieties.

RED WINE VARIETIES

Acres

WHITE WINE VARIETIES
ACRES

Malbec 31,71%

83.684,00

Pedro Gimenez 28,04% 29.559,00

Bonarda 17,42%

45.966,00

Torrontes Riojano 18,36% 19.352,00

Cabernet Sauvignon 15,15%

39.979,00

Chardonnay 15,16% 15.986,00

Syrah 12,12%

31.992,00

Chenin 5,68% 5.985,00

Merlot 5,82%

15.366,00

Torrontés Sanjuanino 4,78% 5.036,00

Tempranillo 5,85%

15.434,00

Sauvignon 5,39% 5.677,00

Sangiovese 1,83%

4.837,00

Semillon 1,97% 2.072,00

Pinot Noir 1,76%

4.652,00

Viognier 0.9% 2.031,00

Otras 6,53%

17.238,00

Others 18,70% 19.714,00


*based frozen at the end of harvest 2012

Source: National Wine Institute


For further information:

Record 2012 of INV Vineyards

4.153

Reports prepared for
Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura

Source: INV Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura

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