South America's Star

By the 1990s Argentina was politically and economically stable for the first time in decades; however, the wineries, like other businesses, found themselves in dire need of capital and new markets. Argentina found its blueprint across the Andes -- in Chile who had reinvented its wine industry by improving the quality of its wines, refining them to fit international tastes, pricing them higher and exporting them to the United States and Great Britain. Four years ago, the U. S. imported 50 percent more wine from Argentina than Chile, a big change from the year 2000 when Chile exported almost five times as much wine to the U. S. as Argentina did.

In addition to modernizing winemaking techniques and viticultural practices, the top wineries in Argentina are focusing more heavily on certain grape varieties to produce wines for exporting. The real star is malbec; a variety that in Bordeaux was one of the classic blending grapes but now is best known as a stand-alone varietal. In Bordeaux, malbec ranks well below cabernet sauvignon and merlot in quality but in Argentina malbec can broach magic.

There are four major wine regions in Argentina, with Mendoza being the leading region. It is the heartbeat of the Argentinian wine industry. Mendoza has 360,000 acres of grapes and is equal to a bit less than half of all the vineyard land in the U.S. The most famous grape in Mendoza is malbec, which offers grip, structure and density of dark color with spicy blackberry, herbal intensity in a medium weight package. Malbec is meant for food -- especially beef, which is celebrated as part of daily life. The beef in Argentina is lean with a pronounced flavor that Argentinians say is the true beef flavor. The cattle feed on grasses as they roam over enormous expanses of land rather than being fattened in feedlots and fed growth hormones. And what do the Argentinians drink with their national culinary treasure? Their national vinous treasure: malbec. Malbec is easy to drink and quite smooth with a juicy underpinning and a clean finish. So pick one or two up to try with your beef or flavorful vegetable dish.


Durella DeGrasse
Certified Wine Professional

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