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Wine is undoubtedly one of Argentina’s best international calling cards. From the fruity chardonnay to the bold, award-winning Malbec, the colorful South American country is justifiably proud of its impressive achievements in oenology. 
 
Old World know-how and favorable climactic conditions is the classic recipe for success in New World wine making, and Argentina is no different. In Mendoza, Argentina’s most prolific region, where 70% of the country’s wines are produced, the climate is almost perfect. The region’s high altitude of up to 3900 feet above sea level creates a consistently hot and dry climate, allowing for a more leisurely and varied harvest: wine makers can wait to pick grapes when they are perfectly ready, rather than harvesting them all according to fluctuating weather conditions. The cold nights of the Andean altitude also allows for a slow ripening process and thus Argentine grapes are not overly acidic, but rich and complex in their flavor. Poor soil even works in the Argentines’ favor, since the vines naturally react by forming small flavorful clusters of grapes, rather than the luxuriant foliage found in vines growing in better quality soil. These small nuggets create wines that are structured with a firm tannic quality.
 
Wine making in Argentina is as old as the sixteenth century Spanish settlers, and like most South American countries, wine was first produced for ecclesiastic use by Jesuit missionaries. By the mid-eighteenth century, Argentina’s wine makers were looking for markets abroad for their affordable wines. Distribution from Mendoza to Buenos Aires was facilitated by the development of the railway network, and the tragic phylloxera blight, which crippled Europe’s vineyards, brought an influx of Spanish immigrants to Argentina with both passion and know-how about wines. By 1853, Mendoza’s first and best agricultural college, the Quinta Normal had hired an eminent Frenchman, Michel Aime Pouget as its principal. Pouget brought with him from the South of France new techniques and new grape varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and the region’s legendary Malbec. 
 
The challenge at home with Argentine wines in the twentieth-century became how to find a profitable balance between a large domestic market willing to consume low-quality wines and the growing popularity of soft drinks and beer. By focusing on the international market, with its demand for better wines, Argentinian wineries such as Mendoza’s Belasco de Baquedano, Catena Zapata, Escorihuela, and Salatin have taken their rightful place alongside their international competitors.
 
Get to know the wineries and vintages of Mendoza on Alexander + Roberts’ new Chile + Argentina In-Style or as an extension to Five Days in Argentina for a fully-rounded journey to this fascinating South American country.

Posted: 7/18/2016 4:07:09 PM by Alexander + Roberts

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