The province of Mendoza sits on the eastern edge of the Andes. It is without doubt the most important wine producing area of Argentina. Mendoza borders onto Chile to the west and with Santiago to the south west.
Mendoza vineyards account for approximately 66 per cent of all Argentinian wine production. Situated close to Mount Aconagua (literally mountain with water) and at altitudes of 600-1100 metres above sea level, vineyards are planted with a number of grape varieties. The most prolific being Malbec, whilst Criolla Grande and Cereza (literally cherry) produce around 25 per cent of wines. This is followed by Chardonnay, Tempranillo and Sauvignon varieties.
There are two main areas of production in the Mendoza region, namely Maipu and Lujan. As Rioja is in Spain and Burgundy in France, Mendoza is considered in Argentina as the heart of the wine producing regions where there are more wineries in Mendoza than anywhere else the country.
Historically Mendoza was named “Cuyo” and comprised the territories of Argentine provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and San Luis. As with many industries, business in these wine producing areas were given an immense opportunity to prosper with the building of the railways in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mendoza was no exception, experiencing an amazing increase in production becoming the fifth largest wine producer in the world and the first in Latin America. The railroads derailed the outmoded transport mechanism of horse drawn carts, and brought extensive demand due to immigration arriving from France, Spain and Portugal. Immigration brought with it new technology which in turn benefitted Argentina due to economies of scale creating vineyards which covered 45,000 hectares compared to only 1000 in 1830. Previously Chile had the largest planted area, but by 1910 Chile had been left way behind the Mendoza region.
80 per cent of vineyards were planted with French wines, mostly Malbec. It is possible that these vines were originally French using Texan root stock. The vines from France married with the Texan rootstock protected the product after the plague phylloxera in the 1800s which caused vineyards to be devastated and wiped out.
Climate and Geography
Low rainfall and desert like expanses make irrigation an absolute necessity in these western vast areas of Argentina. There is no shortage of water however and mountain rivers provide this in abundance. The rivers of Desaguadero (literally “the drain”), Mendoza, Diamante (diamond) Tunuyan and Atuel bring glacial waters to the region. There is rarely frost, the main concern for vines is heavy hailstorms in the summer called “La Piedra” (the stone). Many wells, some 17,000, provide additional irrigation to the area, some of the irrigation channels and canals date back to the 1500s.
Malbec wines and famous vineyards
The prized Malbec wines of Mendoza come from Lujan de Cuvo and the Uco valley. There are many other varieties, but Malbec is now a world-wide favourite as well as in Argentina. Mendoza is the main wine-making province of Argentina, producing more than 80% of all domestic wine With more than 395,000 acres of vineyards is undoubtedly a centre of reference for the wine industry in Argentina and indeed South America.
The province of San Juan ranks second among the wine-producing provinces of Argentina, with an area of 116,700 acres of cultivated land. With rich fertile valleys, and a warm, sunny climate the majority of the year, San Juan is known for growing rich grapes yielding full-bodied wines with intense, fruity flavours.
Famous vineyards include:
- Bodega Caterna Zapata
- Dominio del Plata Winery
- Sir Edmund James Palmer Norton winery
- Trapiche winery
The Argentinians love their wine to accompany their “Asados” where huge amounts of Argentinian beef is consumed.
Argentian beef, Malbec wine, an “Asado” in the Pampas, Gauchos performing, dancing the Argentinian Tango – that’s the flavour of Argentina. A magic mix of tradition and romance.
Don Gaucho is proud to offer a delicious San Juan 2012 Malbec red wine which complements the full range of products – perfect for a sensational barbeque!