As in Chile, it was the Spanish who introduced the vine in the sixteenth century but did little with it. It was not until the nineteenth century, when immigration from all over Europe began, that wine was produced on a meaningful scale. The French, the Spanish and the Italians all brought their grapes and their liking for wine with them.
The most significant arrival has proved to be Malbec. Known as Cot in its native Bordeaux, and all but wiped out by the phylloxera plague of the late 1800s, Malbec has hit heights in Argentina that France has never seen.
Climate and Conditions
Winemaking in Argentina has come to resemble the race to climb Everest: it is all about altitude. The trend is for ever higher vineyards and some of the country's finest wines list height above sea level as a mark of distinction. This is not mere macho posturing.
As long as frost can be avoided, the low night-time temperatures at altitude allow a long growing season and maximisation of flavours. Meltwater can also be channelled to water the vines. Extremes of altitude, however, are not a prerequisite for the production of quality wine.
The Wines of Today
Malbec will remain the bedrock of Argentina's growth in exports, and it is increasingly being blended with other red grapes to enhance its appeal. White wine has traditionally failed to excel, but with foreign expertise and investment it has improved immeasurably along with the reds. Torrontés, probably a native of Galicia in Spain, is of particular interest, though the ever adaptable Chardonnay has so far yielded the most impressive results. Argentina is emerging and promises much.
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