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More and more Argentine Provinces are producing top quality Wines

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The wine industry is having a new revolution in Argentina, this time more linked to its geographical expansion than to the explosion of a flagship strain or to the reconversion of the industry;  driven by the repeal of a law that circumscribed its production to certain regions, more and more provinces are now housing wine production.

The limitation had begun in 1934, when then-President Agustín P. Justo promulgated the National Wine Law, which banned all commercialisation of wine from any region that was not in Cuyo and the provinces of the Cordilleranas. This dismantled farms in several places, such as Entre Rios (where wine was produced since the late nineteenth century).

In 1998 the law was repealed and this is how the rediscovery of Terroirs began in much of the country. Today the map begins to colour again with the nuances of the different strains 18 provinces already producing wine, according to the National Institute of Viticulture (INV);  Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Salta and Catamarca were joined by Neuquén, Río Negro, Córdoba, La Pampa, Buenos Aires, Tucumán, San Luis, Chubut, Entre Rios, Santiago del Estero, Misiones, Jujuy and Santa Fe.

The sommelier José Iuliano says that all Argentine provinces are suitable for producing wine. “The main niche of production is the Cordillera de los Andes, from north to south but on the other hand, we recently discovered that in Buenos Aires, with different conditions, you can also produce a very good product,” he explains.

Of course, each province is different with individual features that can make them more or less attractive. “It is not the same in Rioja and Catamarca, which are emerging from a long lethargy, than Salta, which is already quite developed.  As well, Chubut is slowly producing a little wine compared to that of Neuquén and Rio Negro, which has long been producing wine. The secret is to find the strain that best expresses each region, not because Malbec is the flagship strain, we have to make Malbec everywhere, ” says Iuliano.

A review of the INV’s statistics gives signs of the new trend. Neuquén had 179 hectares planted with vineyards in 2000, while in 2017 it already had 1758; La Pampa planted only 8 and now has 275. Something similar happened with Buenos Aires (2 before and 275 today), Tucumán (12 and 112), Chubut (0 and 67), San Luis (12 and 103), Entre Rios (0 and 47), Jujuy (0 and 26) and Misiones (0 and 18).

A pioneering case in Buenos Aires was that of Trapiche Costa & Pampa, one of the bodegas of Grupo Peñaflor, which produced from 2009 its wines in Chapadmalal. Ezequiel Ortego, their winemaker, says that many countries have had vineyards in coastal areas for some time, something that was missing here. “We were missing a part of the movie. That’s why we settled here, which also allows us to expand the production frontier, “he says.

With rainfalls of 1000 millimeters a year (four times more than in Mendoza), Costa & Pampa became the country’s first rain-fed vineyard (which does not need artificial irrigation). “We were surprised by the quality we achieved and at the moment, we have for sale Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Albariño, Riesling and Gewürztraminer”, details Ortego.

In the south-east of La Pampa, meanwhile, stands Bodega del Desierto. Maria Loson, managing director, says that this area was chosen because it met all the essential conditions of climate and soil. “In addition, in 2000, when we started, the province offered good prospects for agro-industrial enterprises. But very soon we realised that we were located in an exceptional place “he says.

In Pampeano soil this winery found extreme desert, sunny, windy, very dry and with huge differences in temperature between day and night. “This ensures a naturally healthy vineyard and a period of gradual maturity that allows to slowly generate the best colors, aromas, and flavors in grapes and wines,” notes Loson.

When looking for other latitudes in the Pampa province where viticulture can be developed, Loson points out that there are not many options. “The big problem for our region is the access to water for irrigation. That is why we believe that only on the banks of the Colorado River (the most important in the province and its southern boundary) viticulture can be developed on a certain scale, “says the executive.

A random tour of the map leads to the Calchaquí Valleys. There, among many others, is Bodega El Esteco, which has two wineries (one in Cafayate and another in Chañar Punco) which encompasses three provinces; Salta, Tucumán, and Catamarca. “In our particular case, what is special is the altitude, because these valleys are between 1700 and 3000 meters above sea level. That positions them among the highest wine valleys in the world, “emphasizes Alejandro Pepa, winemaker.

According to Pepa, each place is gaining a different space in viticulture. “In the Esteco we have a wide range of wines: with white wines, our main grape is Torrontés, then there is Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc; while with red wine, the four main grapes are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tannat, “.

This winemaker confirms that there was a growth in wine-growing activity in this area of the country, especially in small wineries and boutiques. “What this valley did was to flip over to high-end wines. This positions the region in a very good wine category. But it must be taken into account that it represents only 2% of Argentina’s viticulture, “he clarifies.

Rioja also has its own. Andrew Noble, commercial manager of the Valle de la Puerta Winery, says that they chose the region because they thought they would plant olive trees (the land is ideal for that), but soon they realized that wine would yield fruit faster. “So, in 2001, we decided to invest more and we built the warehouse with capacity for one million liters, which we then expanded in 2005, using the latest technology,” he says.

When talking about the differential of Rioja wines, Noble believes that the main character is the fruit. “They exhibit aromas and fruit flavors that are expressed without limits in each glass. This is due to the characteristics of our terroir, semi-desert arid zones of Franco-arenosos soils and a hot climate of intense sunshine with little rain, “describes the executive.

Beyond the key factor of the repeal of the law of Justo, Noble underlines another characteristic of the industry itself that is this expansion between provinces. “In my opinion, the winemaking production is intimately related to the adventure and the challenge of producing quality wine in inhospitable areas, and so many entrepreneurs explore new areas”, he founded.

In the upper valley of Rio Negro meanwhile, is Bodega Humberto Canale. Its president, Guillermo Barzi, says it is the coldest area of the country, ideal for medium and short cycle varieties. “Merlot and Pinot Noir are beautifully demonstrated, as are Semillon, Sauvignon, and Riesling.” They are all fresh wines, balanced in alcohol and acidity, “concludes Barzi.

This is just a sample of the country’s wine diversity, which, as was said, was cut by law in 1934. Now, after a dark period that lasted 64 years, you can taste Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and Chardonnay from Córdoba; Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Chardonnay from La Pampa; Malbec and Torrontés from Tucumán, and Chardonnay, Syrah, Malbec and Merlot from Entre Rios. These are just some of the more than 20 strains that are produced in 18 Argentine provinces, each with its own particular strengths.

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