A couple of weeks ago I left the cold, rainy weather of Spring Mountain, California, hopped a plane, and made my way down south..south of the equator in fact, and all the way to Argentina! My good friend Alison Smith (a.k.a TexaCali Ali) was headed down to Mendoza with a group of Texas wine folk on a tour of wineries and producers represented by Vine Connections, a national importer of fine Argentine Wine and Japanese ginjo Sake. There was room for one more person on the wine bus, so why not come too? Yes!
What followed were 10 very eye-opening and incredibly informative days in Mendoza Argentina. In particular, I traveled through and visited the wine growing regions of Luján de Cuyo, Maipú, and the Uco Valley. Did I mention that I had a lot of fun too?
For the next several weeks I will dive into more specifics, including my winery visits and experiences during my trip. However before we venture down la ruta del vino, lets start off with some key factoids about Mendoza, as well as the wines that are produced throughout the region.
Location: Eastern Argentina, at base of the Andes Mountains. Mendoza city is approximately 650 miles west of Buenos Aires, and 300 miles east of Santiago, Chile.
Latitude: 35.5 degrees south of the Equator
Climate: Moderate-Continental (cold winters, warm-temperate summers, low precipitation)
North Mendoza – Guaymallen, Las Heras, Lavalle San Martin
Central Mendoza- Luján de Cuyo, Maipú
Appellation Control/DOC: Luján de Cuyo, San Rafael
Soil: Alluvial, loamy, grayish sandy based topsoil, along with gravel, limestone and clay substructures.
Altitude: Between 500m (Eastern Mendoza) and 1500m (Uco Valley)
Chief Hazards: Summer hail. aridity (300+ days sunshine w/ 200mm/8 inches). Zonda –powerful early summer storms that blow in from northwest of the region.
-95% vines planted on their own rootstocks
-Desaguadero, Mendoza, Tunuyan, Diamante, Atuel Rivers supply water for flood irrigation practiced via sophisticated reservoirs, irrigation channels.
-flood irrigation and sandier soils keep phylloxera at bay.
Premium red Varieties: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Syrah, Pinot Noir
Premium White Varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Torrontes, Chenin Blanc
Total area under vine: 144,000 hectares –356,000 acres
Vine training/pruning: Guyot, Pergola (a.k.a Parral /Parron)
Styles of wine produced: red, white, rose, sparkling, late harvest wines
Next up: Argentina’s superstar!