South America’s Sexy Wine Country
By Liza B. Zimmerman
Argentina came on the scene primarily as a one-horse pony with Malbec two decades ago. This dusty, tannic and high-alcohol wine was all the rage for a time, before we discovered the country’s other, wine-producing strong points.
This South American standard has long had a leg up on Chile as it was able to easily define its image in the vein of gauchos, great steaks and tannic reds. It is now expanding its frontiers with the production of indigenous Italian grapes like Dolcetto--that resonate with a huge amount of Italian-Argentine immigrants in wine country--and subtly off-dry whites such as the often-floral Torrontes. Argentina also grows Chenin Blanc, Riesling and some Sauvignon Blanc, all of which show some promise as vintners there focus more attention on these grapes
Other major grapes seeing success in this country include Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir: believe it or not. Diverse climatic conditions and a corporate influx of cash for big-name brands—such as Graffina and Navarro Correas-- have helped develop diverse terroirs in this historic wine-producing nation.
The History Behind the Wines
Argentina is among the world’s largest wine producers with an enormous amount of acreage under vine. Grapes are thought to have arrived in this country primarily from Spain in the 1540s. Successful use of irrigation has been partially key to the country’s wine production since then.
Malbec, long the queen of grapes in Cahors in Southern France, as been Argentina’s best-known workhorse grape. Plantings of Syrah, Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon under vine have also been increasing. The country is also known for good-quality sparkling wines. Given the geographically diverse wine regions, Argentina has long produced a great selection of diverse wines.
It doesn’t hurt that the bulk of the country’s Malbecs pair so divinely with the great beef, which is the nation’s showcase dish. Their tannins and alcohol levels can be reminiscent of California Cabernet Sauvignons and some Bordeaux blends, at a much friendlier price point. May of these wines are also favorites of restaurants to serve by the glass--and consumers to enjoy at home--because of how food-friendly and affordable they are.
Food Pairings and Tastings
Argentina’s wines are great to serve at dinner parties and with tapas. Their fruit-forward style tends to appeal to a wide crowd and they accent lots of hearty meat dishes well. The floral and aromatic Torrontes grape is great on a front porch or with light appetizers like cheese and crudités.
The Bonardas and Malbecs of the country deserve a little meat: ideally steak. However you could go crazy with lamb—perhaps burgers or chops—and intensely flavored pork dishes. The Argentine bubbles are always just fantastic for before or after dinner.