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Argentina wine law focuses on terroir

Argentinian winemakers are welcoming the implementation of the 1999 law which allows much more exact geographical labelling.

Although consumers are likely to see little difference on labels, producers feel that wines can now be more closely identified with their terroir.

Under the law (No. 25.163 concerning geographical specification) the National Institute of Viticulture (INV) has tighter control of geographic indications (IGs) on labels, which can now be taken to the level of sub-region within a department.

For example the NIV can now demand weather, climate, soil and topographical assessments to identify a sub-region, such as Pedril or Agrelo, within a department such as Lujan de Cuyo, within a province – Mendoza. The system will be very similar to the American Viticultural Area system, under which AVA status is applied for with an exhaustive assessment of the region in question.

Under the law there are three levels of quality: IP (Indicacion de Procedencia) – table wines which contain at least 80% of grapes from the IP region, IG (Indicacion Geografica) – higher quality wines grown, vinified and bottled in a designated area, and DOC – top quality wines.

The INV has recognised the following areas as IGs: Valle de Uco (South of Mendoza), Alto Valle de Rio Negro, Patagonia, Calles Calchaquies (Cafayate and sorroundings), and Cuyo

Most producers are in favour of the law, although there is some scepticism. Roberto Gonzalez of Nieto y Senetiner said it ‘reinforces our concept of grape origin and terroir’, and Rodrigo Valdez of Bianchi in San Rafael said they could now display ‘clearer and more accurate information’ on the labels. He added they were already working on new label designs for several lines.

Luis Steindl of Bodega Norton – who sits on one of the steering committees in charge of implementing the law – told decanter.com, ‘There is now a reassurance that what goes on the label is in the bottle. The consumer will see little difference but it is now much easier to ensure quality. We are all very positive about it.’

But Leandro Juarez at Bodega Catena Zapata, one of Argentina’s biggest wineries, said he felt that the new law changed little.

‘I feel it’s something that is not going to be important in the long term,’ he said. ‘This is basically just an extension of the DOC. It will be relevant for the domestic market but not for exports.’

The successful implementation of the law depends largely on the area where wineries are based. Some northern provinces, for instance, are waiting for some extra support from the local government.

‘Only then will we implement the change in the labels,’ said Oscar Urtado, manager of Michel Torino winery in Cafayete.

The INV is still working on various issues still to be resolved such as how controls can be implemented, what sort of penalties can be levied for non-compliance, and how compliance can be made as simple as possible.

Written by Jaquelina Jimena and Adam Lechmere

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