This Episode's Region

Mendoza

Mendoza

The province of Mendoza, in the Cuyo region of Argentina, is the center of the country’s booming wine industry. Approximately 75% of Argentinean wines come from Mendoza, and of those wines, most are Malbecs derived from the region’s signature Malbec grape.  This varietal was brought from Bordeaux in France to the far western mountain region of South America in the mid-nineteenth century by Europeans who settled there.

The Mendoza wine region is located two hours by plane from Buenos Aires.  Mendoza’s unique climate is due to its location east of and abutting the Andes Mountains.  The province lies in the Andean rain shadow.  The mountains shield the area from rain, drastically cutting down humidity that can cause fungal diseases in the fragile grapes during the growing season.  In addition, consistently warm, dry weather at harvest time affords growers the luxury of picking the grapes at the moment of optimal ripeness.  Since bad weather is not a factor, winemakers of Mendoza benefit tremendously from the predictable climate in terms of control over their product.  Although there is much variation and choice in the taste of individual wines from Mendoza vintners, Malbecs from this region are almost guaranteed to be of high quality year after year.

Mendozan vineyards exist at very high elevations, often at more than 3,000 feet above sea level.  Among the premium varietals produced here are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvingnon and Chardonnay.  Malbec dominates, however, and not just in planted acreage, but in worldwide popularity.   Malbecs from Argentina are medium to full-bodied red wines, ideally paired with red meat—a specialty in Argentinean and other South American cuisines—or with spicy or tomato-based recipes such as those frequently found in Italian, Cajun, Indian and Mexican dishes.

For more on Mendoza Malbec, click here.

Photo of Mendoza by Carlos Calise, courtesy of  Wines of Argentina

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Tasting Notes From This Episode

•Wine production in Argentina dates back to the early 16th century when the first specimens of “vitis vinifera” were brought to America by the Spaniards. Catholic priests planted vineyards around their monasteries to ensure wine to celebrate holy mass was available.  To learn more visit www.winesofargentina.org.

• Argentina is among the top wine producing countries in the world. It has seven grape growing regions with distinct latitudes, altitudes and soils.  Malbec wines—especially those of Argentina’s Mendoza region—are highly regarded and in great demand internationally. 

•The Malbec is a small, dark-purple, tannin-rich grape, designated in France as one of six permitted in the blending of Bordeaux wine.  The grape is almost always called “Malbec” in Bordeaux, except in the village of Saint-Emilion within Bordeaux, where it is called “Pressac.”  In and around the town of Cahors in France, the same grape is called “Auxerrois,” “Cot Noir,” or simply “Cot.”

•French agronomist Michel Pouget brought Malbec grapevines from Bordeaux, France to Argentina in 1868, planting them in the province of Mendoza.  They flourished as the region has an ideal climate for the delicate Malbec grape.  Argentina now grows about 70% of the world’s Malbec grapes

•Severe frost in France in 1956 killed about 75% of Bordeaux’s Malbec crop, contributing greatly to this variety’s decline in use (and therefore in popularity) in French winemaking.