“A cursory view of Argentina gives the impression that this nation has a thriving wine culture. In one way it does. A lot of wine is made and drunk here. You see vast vineyards surrounding Mendoza, hard by the Andes—east, north, and especially south. Bill boards speak of great local wines and the scores they’ve achieved in the press,” commented Dan Berger, at the beginning of his article.
In relation to the growth experienced, he maintained that “one of the first to see Argentina as a place to make great wine was Paul Hobbs. Soon after, another Sonoma County wine maker, Patrick Campbell, shifted his allegiance from Chile to Mendoza and began to ship a number of Malbecs to the United States. More recently, well-known French wine consultant Michel Rolland, and French brothers Francois and Jacques Lurton, opened wineries in the cooler Uco Valley, south of Mendoza city. One major Uco project, Finca el Origen, is owned by the large, highly successful Chilean wine firm Santa Carolina. And east of the city, in an area called Maipu, two stellar projects exist. One is Trivento, owned by huge Concha y Toro, and the other is family-owned Zuccardi”.
According to the journalist, “these projects were in development when the economy collapsed a decade ago, kicking off an inflationary spiral that forced winery costs to leap and the devaluing of the peso. The government says inflation today is 10% per year. Were it only true. Local writers, tour guides, hotel owners, and others who know the truth say inflation is at least 25%. The currency is so unstable that the official exchange rate is just over 4.50 pesos to the U.S. dollar, but on Florida Street, mobile money changers offer well over 6 pesos in buyer-beware situations.”
Dan Berger highlighted: “The reality is, however, that USD 20 will get you a very good wine; there is little need to spend a lot more. Not even for an aged wine. Few restaurant wine lists list vintages and most everything is young. We found more 2011 Malbecs than 2010s, very few 2009s, and only one 2008. And prices were astoundingly fair. You can get a decent quaffing red wine for 45 pesos (USD 9) in a restaurant. We tried one of the more expensive wines (140 pesos, about USD28) and it was not much better than the cheaper wines.”
Argentine White Wines
Most great wine-making nations find a way to offer both deep red wines as well as whites of distinction. In this case, according to Dan Berger, Argentina still has a long way to go. However, he underlined: “the most obvious candidate for the attention of wine lovers is the hugely aromatic Torrontés. The problem is that the best (supposedly from Salta, well to the north of Mendoza) comes from an area that has rather warm days, thus often leaving its white wines with near 14% alcohol or more. Though Salta has cool nights, it’s hard to retain sufficient acidity to make for a dry version of Torrontés.”