Home' A Plus Magazine : August 2013 Contents 62 August 2013
Wine regions produce
distinctive and diverse
flavours, writes Aloysius Tse
Few wine aficionados are aware that
Argentina ranks among the five
largest wine producers in the world.
Indeed, the Argentinian government declared
wine as the country’s national liquor in 2010.
The allure of Argentinian wine is perhaps
due to the country’s Hispanic history. Like
most South American wine producing coun-
tries, Argentina depended on Spanish colo-
nizers for imported European vines. The first
vineyard, planted by Jesuits from Chile at the
Andean foothill town of Santiago del Estero in
1557, produced wine for local consumption.
Since then, the wine industry in Argentina
closely followed the economic development
of the country, reaching peak production in
the early 1920s when A rgentina became the
eighth wealthiest country in the world. Sub-
sequent hyperinflation and economic and
political turmoil prevented investment in the
1980s and nearly harmed the industry.
Before the early 1990s, A rgentina was
the biggest wine producing country outside
Europe, with 90 percent of the wine being
quaffed by locals. This changed when oil
prices rocketed and Argentina became afflu-
ent again in the late 1990s. Since then, the
industry has grown to be a serious player in
the international wine market.
Argentina’s leading vineyards stretch
across the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan
and La Rioja. Mendoza alone produces
more than 60 percent of Argentine wine and
accounts for the bulk of the country’s export
volume. Given the country’s geographic loca-
tion, the relatively arid climate and the high
altitude of its wine producing regions, Argen-
tine vineyards are virtually pest free. This has
resulted in the easy and common production
of organic wines.
Various varieties of grapes grow in Argen-
tina, including Malbec – the country ’s signa-
ture red wine grape and one of the five major
red Bordeaux grape varieties. This grape
was first brought to Argentina from south-
ern France by agricultural engineer Michel
Pouget in 1868. Wines made from this grape
are inky and dark in colour and can range
from soft and fruity to a more structured and
sophisticated style. Flavours commonly asso-
ciated with Malbec include plum, cherry, cur-
rant and raspberry, with hints of gamey and
Malbec wines, which are generally aged
in oak, tend to age well and can also be con-
sumed when young. Their high alcohol, acid-
ity and tannin make them an exceptional pair-
ing with red meat and spicy sauces.
Malbec is not, however, the most widely
planted. That accolade goes to the local vari-
ety, the pink Cirolla Grande, which makes up
the bulk of Argentina’s everyday table wine.
Another red grape worth noting is Bonarda
(known as Douce Noir in France), which
produces good value, lighter bodied, fruity
wines with flavors of cherry and plum. With
the expansion of the export market, other
international varieties have been successfully
planted, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Sangiovese and Tempranillo. Their introduc-
tion into Argentina is a reflection of the migra-
tion that took place over the centuries.
Along with its red wine varietals, A rgen-
tina is also known for notable plantings of
white grapes, particularly Torrontes and
Chardonnay. The Torrontes variety covers
a family of three indigenous white grapes in
Argentina: Torrontes Mendocino, Torrontes
Riojano and Torrontes Sanjuanino.
Torrontes Riojano is responsible for the
highly aromatic and emblematic white wine
of Argentina. It has medium to large sized
bunches of berries with thick skins and grows
well in the cooler vineyards of the northern
part of the country. The wine is generally
fresh, highly aromatic, moderately acidic,
floral and muscat-like, w ith noticeable peach
and apricot aromas. These distinct flavours
make Torrontes Riojano a useful component
to blend with more neutral varieties, such as
Pinot Gris. It pairs well with seafood, smoked
meats and spicy Thai dishes.
The other t wo members of the Torrontes
family produce less aromatic wines. Chardon-
nay is the second most widely planted white
grape in A rgentina and is mainly produced
in Mendoza. As a result of the high altitude,
Argentine Chardonnay tends to convey crisp-
ness, finesse and elegance.
There is no doubt that producers in A rgen-
tina and the Argentine government intend
to make its wine a force to be reckoned with
in the international market. Argentinian
wines have increasingly attracted foreign
investments, joining the likes of Rothschild-
Dassault, Cordoniu, Pernod Ricard and Sea-
gram, which have been establishing them-
Despite the growing number of large
industry players such as Concha y Toro, Mon-
tes and Viña San Pedro from neighbouring
Chile, Argentine producers will continue to
challenge for the top position as South Amer-
ica’s leading wine producer and innovator.
Aloysius Tse is chairman of Bacchu s Fine
Wines Group and a past president of the Hong
Kong Institute of CPAs.
Grape pickers harvest Malbec grapes at a family-owned vineyard in Mendoza.
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