Over the past 10 years, the Argentinian wine industry has evolved more than ever before. Progress has been made not just in terms of quality. Diversity has exploded in a country that most wine drinkers still regard as being synonymous with Malbec.
A number of factors have contributed to these changes. These include greater understanding of the country’s terroirs and expansion into ever more extreme regions, including southerly Patagonia. Better, more precise, oenology is a factor and more adventurous winemakers are now far more willing to take chances on new ideas.
This article offers an expert guide to the newly diverse wine scene in Argentina. I have selected 10 varied and rewarding wines that showcase the latest trends and developments.
The fascinating diversity that can now be seen in Argentina also applies within the Malbec category itself. In fact, it’s probably the variety that best reflects the differences between the new styles, trends and expressions of terroir.
1. Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2020
The evolution of this Malbec has been compelling to observe. When it first appeared, early on during the boom in exports from Argentina, it was a ripe, markedly oaky wine. Today, however, it shows that a Malbec from Luján de Cuyo can be easy to drink without sacrificing complexity. How? Earlier harvests, the selection of grapes from cooler regions (such as Las Compuertas and Vistalba) and an ageing process that doesn’t compete with the wine itself. This is what has been achieved here by winemakers Germán Di Césare and Magdalena Viani.
2. A Lisa 2021
This ‘village’ Malbec from Mainqué – a venerable wine producing region in Río Negro (Patagonia) – is an excellent introduction to the world of the most widely cultivated grape in Argentina. Admired for its freshness and delicacy, it’s a young Malbec, although it also contains a 9% dash of Merlot and 1% drop of Cabernet Franc. It’s made using an approach based around minimal intervention with no added sulphites, before 20% was aged for nine months in used barrels. A Malbec in its purest state.
3. Piedra Negra L’Esprit de Chacayes 2021
The Uco Valley in Mendoza was key to the transformation of Malbec, especially regions such as Chacayes – known for its stony soils and fresh climate – which lend the wine a distinctive, wild character. Keeping this in mind, Thibault Lepoutre makes this version – which is 70% Malbec and 30% Cot – unaged with no added sulphites. The result is a stimulating freshness and potent energy backed up by excellent juice and flavour. A revelatory wine for curious palates.
Better reds than ever
If you’re looking for a wine likely to surprise you with its class and refinement, many other Argentinian reds can deliver.
4. Luigi Bosca de Sangre Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Historically, the variety most often chosen by Argentinians up until the mid-1990s wasn’t Malbec but Cabernet Sauvignon. It should come as no surprise, then, that the country has produced a number of world-class wines with the variety, such as this one from Luigi Bosca. Free-flowing, fleshy and crisp, it is made with a combination of grapes from the Uco Valley and Luján de Cuyo. It delivers a modern character while maintaining the variety’s traditional qualities.
5. El Enemigo Cabernet Franc 2018
The recent rise in Argentinian Cabernet Francs has a lot to do with this red from Gualtallary. It demonstrated the potential of Cab Francs from Argentina, especially when grown in high altitude vineyards, a factor that ensures freshness in high end reds. This original Cabernet Franc has a captivating fruity character, complex herbal flavours and spice in the nose, but it comes into its own in the mouth, where it is energetic and juicy but elegantly harmonious.
6. Norton Lote Negro 2019
‘Right now, blends of Malbec and Cabernet Franc – or vice versa – are the mixes of choice in the Uco Valley,’ says David Bonomi of Bodega Norton, the creator of this wine made with Malbec from Chacayes and Cabernet Franc from Paraje Altamira. It’s a red that takes full advantage of the concentration and aromatic richness found in these regions, producing an intense but refined wine that promises to age extraordinarily well, setting a new benchmark for Argentine blends.
7. Cara Sur Criolla 2021
In Argentina, many winemakers are now working hard on restoring and reinterpreting vineyards with native varieties. They include Francisco Bugallo and Sebastián Zuccardi, who pioneered the use of the Criolla Chica variety (also known as Mission in California). Together they rescued an 80-year-old vineyard in Calingasta (San Juan), fermenting the grapes in concrete with native yeast to produce a fresh, alluringly rustic wine with a seductive, fragrant character.
Until recently, no one was paying much attention to whites from Argentina, either as single varietals or blends. But right now they’re becoming increasingly popular.
8. Salentein Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2020
The extreme fine-tuning now seen in vineyards across the Uco Valley has demonstrated the potential of the region’s high-altitude areas to produce top class Chardonnay. This version from Salentein is a good example and has won acclaim from critics and wine lovers alike. It is sourced from a vineyard planted at a height of 1,250m in San Pablo. With 60% of the wine aged for six months in used barrels, this is an unctuous Chardonnay with an electric core and refined character.
9. Colomé Estate Torrontés 2021
‘We wanted to achieve a fresh and elegantly expressive Torrontés, one that was subtle and harmonious,’ says Thibaut Delmotte about this white from vineyards set at between 1,700m and 2,290m above sea level in Salta, in the Calchaquí Valleys. To achieve this, Delmotte brought the harvest forward almost 20 days – to mid-February – to ensure good natural freshness. That freshness is a key factor in achieving a refined style with appreciable body and no bitterness – a style that places it in similar territory to some of the great European whites.
10. Matías Riccitelli Blanco de la Casa 2021
In addition to good vineyards, Argentina also boasts innovative minds who are always ready to try out new things. This creative approach has produced memorable wines such as this white blend – and indeed the whole White Blend trend. Matías Riccitteli combines Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from different regions of the Uco Valley, fermented and aged in concrete eggs. The result is an expressive, taut and vibrant white.