DIVERSE WINES

Thanks to Argentina's many altitudes and temperatures that create numerous distinct climates, the country can successfully grow a range of grape varieties used to make red, white and sparkling wines.

When it comes to exports to the United States, most wines are red and most are Malbec. Based on numbers supplied by Caucasia, Cabernet Sauvignon is a distant second, followed by Chardonnay, Syrah-Malbec blends and Torrontés with the other local red, Bonarda, farther down the list.

Malbec is Argentina's star in both quality and exports, but each of these varietals –along with a few others—can make uniquely Argentine wines that are worth seeking out and trying.

STYLES

Lower Regions: For both reds and whites, warmer regions at lower altitudes make for riper, rounder, fleshier wines with up-front fruit and softer tannins. They tend to be cheerful, easy-going wines.

Higher Regions: Wines from cooler altitudes can be quite ripe and fleshy, thanks to abundant sunshine. At the same time, the cooler temperatures make for firmer wines with more crisp acidity and a gentle grip from tannins. The extended hang time also means the grapes have more time to accumulate layers of flavor, concentration and complexity.

These wines tend to show the best that Argentina has to offer; they are completely ripe, with rich, concentrated fruit balanced by fresh acidity, but the wines aren't heavy, and in red wines the tannins are soft and velvety rather than dry or bitter.

MALBEC, MALBEC, MALBEC

Although Malbec's origins are in Bordeaux's illustrious vineyards, the grape variety is at its pinnacle of quality in Argentina. Fortunately for wine lovers, Malbec is the most-planted grape in Argentina.

Argentina's Malbec Style

  • Juicy, ripe and fruit-driven red wine
  • Blueberry, boysenberry, raspberry, blackberry, currant and mineral flavors along with cocoa and chocolate hints
  • Racy, refreshing acidity
  • Velvety, ripe, sweet tannins
  • Big and powerful, but not heavy
  • Medium-bodied
  • Top wines are pure, focused
Although it is a very strong and concentrated red, the Malbec is very smooth on the palate and it has what we call sweet tannins. It is very different from the classical Bordeaux style Cabernet we produce.
—Nicolas Catena

Drink now, drink later

Different styles of Malbec in different price ranges have different abilities to age well over time.

  • Unoaked or inexpensive Malbecs are ready to drink as soon as they appear in stores and on wine lists.
  • Moderately priced Malbecs that may have been aged in oak barrels for a few month can gain complexity for a couple years after harvest.
  • When it comes to top wines, they can mature for 10 years.

TORRONTÉS

Torrontés is unique to Argentina; this white grape isn't grown anywhere else in the world. The wines provide a nice change of pace.

Describing Torrontés

  • Aromatic
  • Tantalizing tangerine, apricot, orange, white peach and floral flavors such as chamomile, rose and honeysuckle, with a hint of spice
  • Honeyed aroma, but dry and crisp with bright acidity
  • Light- to medium-bodied
The top versions come from the northern region of Salta, whose cool nights seem well-suited to maintaining acidity in this fragile variety.
—James Molesworth,
Wine Spectator

Drink now

Torrontés is best enjoyed fresh and young.

 

BONARDA

This red grape has relatives in Bonarda from Piedmont in Northwestern Italy and in Charbono from California. Wherever it's grown, this grape needs additional warmth to ripen properly.

In Argentina, Bonarda is the second most-planted red grape, mostly found in lower, warmer altitudes. It is Argentina's most traditional red variety.

Describing Bonarda

  • Dark color
  • Dark plum, fig and currant aromas with cocoa, chocolate and hints of licorice
  • Juicy acidity
  • Soft tannins
  • Medium-bodied
Bonarda is typically a source for excellent value.
—James Molesworth,
Wine Spectator

Drink now

Most Bonarda is in the “drink now” range, especially when bottled on its own. Occasionally it can have a few years of aging potential when matured in oak or blended with other red grapes such as Syrah and Merlot; the Bonarda adds color and dark fruit flavors.

INTERNATIONAL BLUE CHIPS

In addition to the varietals that may be considered typically Argentine (Torrontés, Malbec and Bonarda), the world's most-recognized grapes are on the rise. Look for:

  • Round and ripe Chardonnay
  • Cabernet Sauvignon with dark fruit flavors
  • Silky Syrah (regularly blended with Malbec, as is Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Aromatic Pinot Noir from Patagonia with bright acidity along with cherry, spice and mineral notes

New French and American oak barrels are used to make many of the best Malbecs. The barrels can add vanilla, spice and toast flavors.

Argentina produces many different wines, from sparkling to white to rosé and red, from quaffing wine to luxurious boutique bottlings.