Unpolished Grape 101: Introduction to Argentinian Wine

Major Wine Regions

La Rioja
San Juan

Principal Grape Varieties

White Black
Sauvignon Blanc

Cabernet Sauvignon
Pinot Noir
The above list is not exhaustive

Argentina at a Glance

When we think of Argentina, we think of Malbec. But this region is also known for Torrontés, Bonarda, and an array of international varieties. Argentina is home to some of the highest vineyards in the world! Situated to the east of the Andes mountains on elevated land, the vineyards receive high amounts of sunshine, dry air, and enough cool air required to have successful viticulture.

The Highest Vineyards

The elevated areas of land by the Andes Mountains are viable vineyard options for hot places where viticulture could be otherwise be impossible. Salta in the North is known for producing the aromatic and floral grape Torrontés – Argentina’s white flagship variety. In this region, some of the mountains reach 3,000 meters above sea level! In fact, the vineyards are so high that the grapes have to be shielded from damaging sun rays. Vines are often trained in a pergola system where the grapes hang low, allowing the leaves to protect the berries from damaging light. However, most Argentinian vineyards are situated between 600 and 1,500 meters above sea level.


Most of Argentina’s production happens in Mendoza. In this region, vineyards are planted in desert-like conditions, as the Andes Mountains protect the region from rain. In fact, much of the region must depend on rivers for irrigation. Maipu in central Mendoza is known for producing high volumes of inexpensive wine. Grapes from this region include grown are Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Torrontés.

Premium Wines

Lujan de Cuyo, about 1,000 meters of above sea level, has an outstanding history for producing premium wines. In this region, Old Vine Malbec grapes are grown in the foothills, making soft, rounded and decadent expressions of the variety. Uco Valley is situation between 900-1,500 meters above sea level, producing outstanding expressions of both red and white wines with high acidity and notable floral characteristics.


Although we usually associate Malbec with Argentina, it is indeed a black grape from France. The grape was originally referred to as “black wine” because of its intense, dark hue and powerful black fruit flavors. French Malbec is known for being rustic, complex, tannic, and for having the ability to age for a very long time in the bottle. When Malbec was planted in Argentina around the mid 1800s, it experienced such great viticulture success that it quickly became its flagship grape. Today we associate the wine with Mendoza, Argentina and appreciate its riper and richer flavor characteristics produced in this hot region.

Argentinian Malbec tends to be riper and richer than its French counterpart, with noted black fruit flavors. Here, it produces a wide range of styles depending on vineyard elevation. Grapes grown at lower altitudes (hotter growing environments) tend to be riper, fuller and less structured than the those grown at higher elevations (cooler growing environments). New-oak barrel maturation is common, producing the addition of spicy flavors and aromas.

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