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In this extensive report, I take a look at the current state of the wine scene in Argentina, a country where creativity is necessary for survival. Malbecs have grown increasingly diverse and reflect the range of terroirs, while a number of new trends are developing. From Cabernet Franc to Pinot Noir, high altitude vineyards are lending real energy and quality to a host of different reds.
Precise management of high-altitude vineyards has resulted in new, attractive, balanced reds with excellent cellar potential that draw on Argentina’s long winemaking heritage. Some négociants from Bordeaux are already selling a few of them across the world, paving Argentina’s way into the fine wine market. In this report, I present an overview of the latest cellar-worthy wines.
The 2021 season in Argentina undermined the long-held idea that nothing much changes year by year. With higher than average rainfall and lower temperatures, those who interpreted the conditions well are celebrating a sublime equilibrium in their wines. Producers also reported substantial differences between the various regions up and down the Andes. Early indications are that 2021 was an excellent year for Cabernet Sauvignon, the best of the past eight, and for reds in general.
Chile’s 2021 harvest was unusual to say the least: more than 90% of the area under vine was struck by an abnormal weather phenomenon in the middle of summer, with almost unheard-of levels of rainfall in January. Only the northern and southern extremes were lucky enough to be left out. This was followed by a cool February that only served to exacerbate already frayed nerves and keep growers guessing. As it turned out, Bordeaux varieties fared rather well with far more favorable conditions in March producing very exciting Cabernet Sauvignons. This is an overview of a cool, rainy rollercoaster of a season, unlike any seen in recent memory.
Captivating. That’s the word for many of the white wines being produced in Argentina today. A new kind of Chardonnay is being crafted in the mountain vineyards of Argentina based on lively freshness and pure, ripe fruity flavors. The interpretations of these extreme terroirs being developed by an insightful group of producers are raising the bar for the variety in a country best known for its Malbec. Meanwhile, old Sémillon vines are being rediscovered in the more traditional regions and some excellent sparkling wines are popping up all over the country.
Chilean wine producers are developing new styles, using grapes from vineyards planted in the far south of the country and the granite rich soils of the coastal mountain ridge known as the Cordillera de la Costa. Meanwhile, in Maipo, the Cabernet Sauvignons are growing ever more precise. This report provides an overview of these trends and what the changes mean for lovers of Chilean wine.
In the northwest of Argentina, there is a chain of magical valleys, weird and wonderful landscapes where the air at high altitude is so thin it can leave you gasping for breath. The endless deserts and ravines are, remarkably, producing wines of such extraordinary power that they rarely fail to seduce visitors to the area and connoisseurs much farther afield.
All serious drinkers collect wine. Some to commemorate significant moments, others, especially those with access to a cellar, because the vintages are of such quality that their value will accrue over time. Whatever the reason, it’s a significant and prestigious feather in the cap for a producer to make it onto a collector’s rack. No one would dare to question the merit of output from hallowed ground such as Pomerol or Barolo, and this is reflected in the wines' desirability and price tags. But what about other regions in the world? It’s often the case that collectors are skeptical about wines whose credentials seem to lack historical precedent. Generally, Argentina falls into this category although in many ways it is also a unique case unto itself.
Mendoza Malbec is synonymous with easygoing reliability. The enormous constituency of US consumers, which ranges from New Haven to Houston, Phoenix to Milwaukee, drank 82 million bottles of Argentine wine in 2019 and sees Malbec as something you can slip into like a comfortable pair of old slippers. For these fans, I have both good and bad news.
Argentina, Chile, featured
By the end of March 2020, almost every winery in Chile and Argentina had finished picking. Apart from a few small pockets, on both sides of the Andes the harvest was completed in record time. With ripening accelerated by a combination of climatic factors, and the looming threat of COVID-19 exerting pressure on work teams, we were presented with the unprecedented sight of bare vineyards at the end of March – generally not something you’d see until late April or early May.