“By the year 2015, the greatness of Argentinean wines made from the Malbec grape will be understood as a given.” – Robert Parker Jr. (American wine critic and author)
The Culture Bazaar had the opportunity to visit a few renowned vineyards in South America. Here, we connected directly with local wine connoisseurs about some of South American’s most well-established wine labels such as Trapiche in Mendoza, Argentina and Terranoble in Casablanca Valley, Chile. The start of the new year has been tremendously rewarding as we dig deeper in to the great things to come in the world of Argentinean wines.
Wine Profile: Argentina
Top Grapes: Torrontes (W) and Malbec and Cab Sauvignon (R)
Wine Regions: Salta, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, Rio Negro, Neuquen
Fact: 5th Largest wine producing country in the world
At the winery Bodegas Trapiche, our host Gastón Re discussed the state of the wine industry as well as the history in Argentina.
Argentina’s viticulture has a long tradition credited to its strong French, Italian, and Spanish influence. These are the components that make the culture so distinct compared to other South American countries. A popular saying here in Argentina is “Mexicans are from the Aztecs, Peruvians are from Incas but Argentinians are from the Boats.” The perception from the Argentinian people on the countries’ large European influence can be followed with mixed views. The indigenous people of Argentina gained a large amount of appreciation for gastronomy and wine from their foreign influencers.
Other countries in South America have a large indigenous population inherently making them less subject to the cultural influences. As children, you are given water with wine in the bottle to help develop your palate. This tradition was developed from the country’s strong Italian influence. There was such a large amount of Italians migrating to Argentina that the wine market did not have to rely on exporting most wine made was produced for local consumption, it is not until the 1990s that the world was given access to get a taste of Argentina. Currently, consumption of wine was very high at 25 liters per person a year, making Argentina one of the top 10 countries by consumption of wine in the world in comparison to in the 1970s 92 liters per person a year. At this point, the wine culture was changing according to our host, Gaston, due to the decline of ‘lunch breaks at home’ declined the opportunity to consume wine during the day. There was also a change in the wine production from the light table wine to more variations of more oaky and the introduction of barrels.
Foreigners began starting businesses and expats from Korea, United States, France, Italy, and Brazil are now investing in the growth of the Argentina wine industry. Many expats come to Mendoza and fall in love with the area and recognize the opportunity here and have decided to relocate. One example of a successful expat entrepreneur is Michael Evans from the United States who started his company, The Vines of Mendoza. Evan’s three week vacation turned into the growth of a new wine cooperative business, hotel and villas available for winemakers who own real estate on their vineyard.
Wine Profile: Chile
Top Grapes: Chardonnay (W), Cabernet Sauvignon (R), and Carmenere (R)
Wine Regions: Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley, Rapel Valley, Curico Valley, Maule Valley, Itata Valley, Bio Bio Valley
Fact: Chile is known for having the most consistent wine in Latin America
At the winery Bodegas Terra Noble, our host Francisco Matte discussed the development of the Chilean wine industry.
As the cool mountain breeze meets the crisp air, TCB enjoyed our time chilling in Chile, in the wine region of Casablanca Valley. One of the original homes to Chile’s most popular grape, Carmenere, where its vines have been growing at Terranoble before it was in style, literally. Our host Francisco explains the tale of the Carmenere, which is one the first stories you will learn about Chilean wine when visiting the Bodegas. Originating from Bordeaux, France, the Carmenere grape was often mistaken for Merlot and when the taste did not match it was often trashed. It wasn’t until the 90’s that Chileans recognized the grapes were different and now, Chile has become one of the most popular country’s’ to produce this varietal to date, however, Cabernet Sauvignon remains the king red wine of Chile.
The 1990’s development of the Casablanca wine region located Chile’s Central Valley, has led to a rapid development in this area. Bodegas have the advantage of costal marine breezes forming an overcast of fog and low clouds as well as receiving the air from the high Andes. Chile is one of the most secluded countries surrounded by ocean, mountains, desert, and ice. Chilean wine is known for its good quality due to its favorable weather and isolated location. Chilean premium wines do not have a costumer in foreign market. You can find many of the wines at the supermarket level at good quality. Spanish monks are considered the importers of the first vines to Chile in 1500s, however most of the wine influence are from the French.
The Chilean wine laws are a good example of its very artistic wine culture. Wine making seems to have very loose laws in order to allow winemakers to have the freedom of expression. It may be hard to recognize top quality wines simply from its labels, however, it has inspired groups of passionate winemakers such as Movimento de Vinateros Independientes, MOVI, (Movement Of Independent Winemakers). Their ethos is for small vineyard owners to keep wine personal. They are not following the rules of the Chilean bureaucrat culture instead they are allowing their wine speak for its quality and innovation.
After exploring two major wine regions of the world and speaking with sommeliers, all connoisseurs would be in paradise here in South America. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently released The Wine Lover’s Guide to South America, which explores the wine regions that have been labeled as “powerhouses” over the past two decades. Argentina and Chile are within the top seven countries in the world for total wine production. Neighboring countries Brazil and Uruguay are looking for ways to break in to this global wine attraction. Chile and Argentina are both exhibiting the sophistication and quality needed to compete in their own way. Foreign exporting has only increased as they develop their place in the market confirming that there is a New World Order for wine from South America.