In Argentina, top-quality, amazing-value wines made in remote, sky-high vineyards are the order of the day. You might say winemakers here go to the ends of the earth in their quest for greatness.
The conditions for growing wine in Argentina involve some of the most extreme terroirs and dizzying altitudes in the world and, largely as a result, produce some truly exceptional wines. We’ve collected a dozen examples of why sometimes, it pays to go to extremes.
Stretching east-west from the Atlantic to the Andes and north-south from the tropics to the penguin-populated tip of South America, Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world and home to a range of intense climates and terrains. In the vast southern desert of Patagonia, vineyards are planted along streams where meltwater from the Andes provides irrigation. Meanwhile, vineyards in the rugged northerly peaks of Salta are among the most elevated on the planet, with some reaching spectacular heights of over three kilometres above sea level.
“With the exception of Patagonia in the south, Argentina’s wine regions form a strip running down the spine of the Andes in the west of the country and, remarkably, have an average altitude of 900 metres, which makes Argentina unique as a wine-growing country.”– Jamie Goode, wineanorak.com
Sitting as they do in the foothills of the Andes, many of Argentina’s wine regions feature soaring elevations. While this can create challenges with machine harvesting or easy road access, the benefits are many. Higher altitudes mean cooler temperatures ideal for coaxing out complex flavours and retaining natural acidity in the grapes, while proximity to a mountain range makes for dynamic soil types, good drainage and brisk, vineyard-cleansing breezes.
The dynamic, picture-perfect climatic conditions of Argentine vineyards means they’re poised to produce great wines, but in practice, that only happens with skillful growers and winemakers. Thankfully, Argentina’s got those, too. After the quality revolution sparked by the Catena family and a handful of others, the Argentine wine scene has swiftly and steadily ascended the quality ladder and impressed the world with its ever-growing portfolio of fine wines.
While mountain vineyards and certain signature grape varieties may draw comparisons to California or Bordeaux, Argentina’s wines haven’t (yet) attained the same level of global demand. This is good news for wine lovers, who can enjoy extraordinary wines at affordable prices that would be impossible in places where acreage is pricier. In terms of price for quality, Argentina offers some of the wine world’s smartest buys.
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