Guide to Patagonian Wine
One glance at the map and you can see why Chile is able to produce such amazing wines. This narrow strip of land, sandwiched between the warm, moist South Pacific Ocean on one side and the cool mountains of the Andes on the other, makes for perfect vine growing conditions. The sun-drenched days and chilly evenings allow the vines to flourish.
The best wines in Chile can be found in three distinct regions: Aconcagua, Central Valley and South. Most of the vineyards can be found in the Central Valley region, in and around the capital, Santiago.
Chile's signature grape is Carmenere, mistakenly importing cuttings from Bordeaux in the 1800's. It also produces world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and of course, Malbec.
Chile continues to invest in new viticultural practices and modern wine making technologies to keep with changing trends and to sustain the industry longer term.
The extraordinarily diverse landscapes of Argentina produce wines capable of competing with it's traditional rival, Chile, which historically has dominated South American wine production. Vines tend to grow best along the foothills of the Andes - the high and dry conditions has a beneficial effect on grape acidity and colour. The locals established an efficient irrigation system, channelling melting snow and glacial waters from the high Andes, down to the plains and steppes of western Argentina.
Best known for its world-beating Malbec, a Bordeaux variety brought over in the 19th century, Argentina also produces fine Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The best wines can be found in the Mendoza region, nestled at the base of the Andes, which accounts for roughly 80% of the countries total production. The city itself lives and breathes wine, and it boasts an equally lively nightlife to match its wine's reputation. The region nurtures fine wines in the higher vineyards and good value wine in the well-managed vineyards on the plains.
Other important regions include San Juan and La Rioja to the north of Mendoza where the slightly harsher conditions are better suited to pink-skinned varieties such as Criolla and Cereza. The cooler climates to the south around Rio Negro also produce some notable varieties.
Argentina is quickly becoming a major player as one of the New World's fastest growing exporter of wines.