Mention Argentinian wine and conversation invariably leads to Malbec. Mention Malbec and it’s difficult not to speak of Mendoza – the birthplace of the country’s most influential grape variety.
In the last 25 years, Mendoza wine has edged its way from humble beginnings into wine lists around the world – accompanied by international acclaim and an avalanche of awards.
The first vineyards in Mendoza were planted by Catholic priests in the 16th century, with Malbec introduced around this time by French agronomist Miguel Aimé Pouget. However, it wasn’t until 1885 that Mendoza wines became commercially available following the completion of a railway link to the country’s capital Buenos Aires.
For most of the 20th century, local pink skin grape varieties such as Cereza and Criolla dominated the region, settled in the foothills of the Andes on the western side of Argentina. These low-grade grapes are still produced, although they are typically used for making grape concentrate or cheap wines sold in cardboard cartons around the country – while Mendoza turned its attention to the export of premium wine varietals.
Other grapes are grown in Argentina’s largest wine producing region, which provides more than 70% of the country’s entire crop, but it is difficult to separate Mendoza wine from Malbec.
Originally a Bordeaux variety brought to South America by French immigrants, Malbec has flourished in its adopted country. The high and dry continental climate and several associated environmental factors have combined to create distinctively bright and intense reds defined by floral aromas and dark fruit flavours.
Malbec may be the leading star of Argentina Mendoza wine, but a strong supporting cast has been vying for the limelight in recent years.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Shiraz and Bonarda red wines have also been successfully produced in Mendoza, while white varietals include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even Torrontes – the only white grape unique to Argentina.
The majority of Mendoza wines are produced in the Maipu and Lujan De Cuyo departments, while the Uco Valley and Tupungato also make notable wines.
Lujan de Cuyo was the first sub-region in Mendoza to be given its own destination of origin and is generally regarded as the land of Malbec, although that is not the only wine from Mendoza produced there.
The Uco Valley is home to the newest vineyards, as well as some of the Argentina’s most breathtaking scenery. The region burst onto the international wine scene in 2012 and has been producing premium wines for over a decade – with award winning Malbecs being accompanied by quality white wine varietals.
At Wine Paths, our local experts can organise private Mendoza wine tastings at some of the region’s most exclusive wineries as well as luxury stays and unique experiences in the heart of the country’s wine making region.
Among these is the opportunity to sample wine from Mendoza while gazing at stars from moonlit vineyards. Our wine astronomy tour of Mendoza includes enjoying food and wine pairings while an expert explains the constellations in the galaxy above.
For those feeling more active, you can explore the Mendoza wine vineyards on two wheels as part of a bicycle tour that takes you through boutique and premium wineries accompanied by a professional guide to talk you through tastings of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz paired with a traditional lunch.
Alternatively, for the more creatively inclined, our art and wine tour of Mendoza vineyards takes you to different scenarios in the region – from a traditional winery to an exclusive estancia in the heart of the mountains – where you will be shown how to paint before enjoying a lunch with wine pairings.
Visit our Argentina destination page for more information before planning a wine tour to discover there is more to Mendoza than simply Malbec.