The world is awash with examples of inter-continental agricultural meddling, whereby opportunistically minded entrepreneurs and traders have transplanted plant species in the pursuit of profit and convenience, sustenance and sales. Of course vines are no different, with thirsty European immigrants taking them to almost every feasible corner of the world where they might successfully adapt and produce decent grapes for wine.
The term “New World” is a pretty intriguing concept when it comes to Argentine winemaking given that its history stretches back some four and a half centuries. As with much of the Americas, it’s a story that involves Spanish conquistadors, Catholic missionaries, European migrants and, more latterly, the coming of the railway. To put this into perspective, the English Tudor monarch King Henry VIII had only just died when the first vitis vinifera cuttings (the wine grape vine) were planted in what was to become Argentine soil.
As the second biggest wine region in Argentina, San Juan is the source of one in five bottles of Argentine wine and has around 50,000 hectares (120,000 acres) of vineyards. The first plantings were made by the Spanish soon after the city of San Juan de la Frontera was founded in 1562, and probably a few decades before vines spread further south. Its longest surviving winery…
Mention Argentina to the average wine drinker and Malbec is the variety that everyone knows. Argentina’s vignerons have managed the neat trick of taking this relatively obscure French variety and, in their high altitude, sun-blessed vineyards, creating a new world-class style of wine.
Question: how did Argentinian wine, so recently the object of pitying amusement from wine buffs, become profitable, fashionable and, more to the point, drinkable? Matt Chesterton talks to Ian Mount to find out.