The Bacchus Report: The height of wine-making

Argentine wines made it big in Europe before the now more popular Chilean wines. After a certain period of stagnation Argentine wine makers have gotten their second wind.

foto: Věroslav Sixt

Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest wine producer, But at the end of the last century quantity ruled over quality. Huge batches of low-quality wines were imported to Europe in tanks and combined into second-rate table wines. The quality of Argentine wines is improving, thanks to new plantings of noble varietals, the arrival of a new generation of oenologists educated at the most prestigious universities and viticulturists in the world, and investments in production technologies.
Today vineyards are being planted far to the south, in Patagonia, where the harsh climate benefits mainly white wines, but traditional reds also take on extraordinary nuances of flavor. Nowhere but here, in the Andean foothills, will one find such extensive vineyards at such altitudes, with some at altitudes higher than the tallest mountain in the Czech Republic. The world record for a vineyard is 2,400 meters above sea level, close to the equator on Brazil’s border. The extreme height and harsh climate allow high-quality grapes to be grown, even in such geographic locations. The largest vineyards are on the Mendoza province plains. Due to a shortage of precipitation (because most of the vineyards are shielded by the Andes), they are artificially irrigated with water either from mountain glaciers or artesian wells, of which there are about 50,000.
It’s interesting that, unlike in neighboring Chile, in Argentina the most widespread varietals are unknown in Europe. The whites are dominated by Torrontés (see Wine Guide, opposite), and the reds by Bonarda. There are also many other varietals that were brought by immigrants from Italy, Spain, Germany, and Croatia, such as the typical Italian varietal Tempranillo, German Rhine Riesling, or Croatian Malvasia.
Argentine reds, full-bodied, often dark red and even opaque, have earned the greatest reputation abroad. Thanks to the different climate and subsoil on which the vines grow, wines from identical varietals taste different from their European-grown counterparts. For example, Argentina Malbec from Mendoza is far more opulent than wines made from the same varietal grown in traditional French regions. The same holds true for Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The pride of every vintner is coupage, when they use the French model for blending selected red varietals in all sorts of ratios.

The author is the editor of Hospodářské noviny’s IN magazine.


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Available at: Naoko, Revoluční 24, Praha 2

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· Viniční altán pod Gröbeho vilou, Havlíčkovy sady 1369, Praha 2
Nov. 4 – Austrian wines Walek. Information on tel.: 602 736 818

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Torrontés 2003, Michel Torino, Cafayate
Characteristics: Torrontés is the most widespread white varietal in Argentina. The Torino family vineyards lie beneath the Andes at the incredible altitude of 1,700 meters above sea level. Lots of sun and cool nights give it a piquant, spicy aroma and flavor.
Price: 157 Kč (bez DPH / without VAT)

Merlot Rosando 2003, Goyenechea, Mendoza
Characteristics: A pleasant, fresh rosé with a strawberry aroma
Price: 289 Kč

Syrah 2002, Goyenechea, Mendoza
Characteristics: A real surprise for lovers of this very spicy varietal.
Price: 289 Kč

Merlot 1999 Infinitus, Humberto Canale, Rio Negro, Patagonia
Characteristics: A full, markedly fruity, spicy wine with hints of wild strawberries and a chocolaty finish from the southernmost vineyards in the world.
Price: 820 Kč

Malbec 1997, Diego Murillo, Patagonia
Characteristics: A mature, full, smooth wine with a sour-cherry aroma and hints of damson plums.
Price: 320 Kč

Imported by:
Torrontés – Vinicola Břeclav, tel.: 519 236 450.
The four others –
Jana Kadlecová, Argen wine,, fax: 220 920 059
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