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Mendoza Valley
By far the best example of what the country is capable of can be found in the Mendoza valley. Vineyards here are planted from 500 metres up to 1500 metres, meaning that there is something to suit all pallets (not to mention wallets). The incredible diversity of Mendoza’s production means that whether you are looking to create an exciting portfolio with world-famous, award-winning Malbecs, or just simple vino patero (foot-pressed wine) for summer barbeques, with the right guidance and advice your wishes will be answered.

Undoubtedly the country’s main wine region, Mendoza nestles comfortably next to the Andes, about 1000 kilometres west of Buenos Aires but on 350 east of Santiago, Chile’s wine and administrative capital, and is roughly the size of the state of New York. The key to understanding this vast and varied region is its high altitude, with many wine producer specifying the vineyard’s elevation on the labels (Catena and Moët & Chandon subsidiary Terrazas de los Andes to name just two). This badge of honour is down to the fact that the highest vineyards have the coolest nights which positively affects the acidity and colour of the grape (ergo wine). Wine producers have been quick to understand this and vineyards have sprung up everywhere from the foot of the andres to the Uco Valley in the past 20 years. Elevation can reach up to 1,600 metres in some places and means that producers can decide when to harvest according to their own schedules, rather than those of Mother Nature. The dry summers and cool winters also lead to a lack of vintage variation, so if you are looking for a consistent fine wine year in, year out, Mendoza could be your valley.

The results are some very fine wines, notably with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. This may seem surprising seeing as Argentina is Malbec magic (70% of the region is planted to it), but it is due to producers ripping out their Malbec vines in the late 1990s in order to make way for more fashionable grape varieties. However, Argentine wine producers and exporters now understand that smooth, velvety Malbecs are Argentina’s calling card so have reverted of late.

We say reverted as Mendoza has an long history of Malbec. Records show that the region had vines in the mid-16th century, while Inca and Huarpes scholar argue that vines were present on the terroir long before that. However, the grape as we know it today was introduced by Frenchman Miguel Pouget, who had fled to Argentina to escape the phylloxera virus was destroying vines across Europe. Pouget had a modest production that took off when the railway opened in 1885. Mendoza saw its popularity rise (both for tourism and wine production), as wealthy families were now able to make the trip from Buenos Aires and return with the region’s star product.