Argentine Wine History
Historically, Argentine winemakers were traditionally more interested in quantity than quality, with the country consuming 90% of the wine it produces. Only in the early 1990s did Argentina make more wine than any other country outside Europe, though most of it was considered unexportable. However, the desire to increase exports fueled significant advances in quality. Argentine wines started being exported during the 1990s and are growing in popularity, making them the most influential wine exporter in South America. The devaluation of the Argentine peso in 2002 further fueled the industry as production costs decreased and tourism significantly increased, giving way to a whole new concept of wine tourism in Argentina. The past years have seen the birth of numerous tourist-friendly wineries with free tours and tastings. The Mendoza Province is now one of Argentina's top tourist destinations and whose economy has grown the most in the past years.
The most important wine regions of the country are located in the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja. Salta, Catamarca, Río Negro and more recently Southern Buenos Aires are also wine-producing regions. The Mendoza province produces more than 60% of Argentine wine and is the source of an even higher percentage of the total exports. Due to the high altitude and low humidity of the leading wine-producing regions, Argentine vineyards rarely face the problems of insects, fungi, moulds and other grape diseases that affect vineyards in other countries. This allows cultivating with little or no pesticides, enabling even organic wines to be easily produced.
Many varieties of grapes are cultivated in Argentina, reflecting her many immigrant groups. The French brought Malbec, which makes most of Argentina's best-known wines. The Italians brought vines that they called Bonarda, although Argentine Bonarda appears to be the Corbeau of Savoie, also known as Charbono in California, which may be related to Dolcetto. It has nothing in common with the light fruity wines from Bonarda Piemontese in Piedmont. Torrontés is another typically Argentine grape and is mostly found in the provinces of La Rioja, San Juan, and Salta. It is a member of the Malvasia group that makes aromatic white wines. It has recently been grown in Spain. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and other international varieties are becoming more widely planted, but some varieties are cultivated characteristically in certain areas.
In November 2010, the Argentine government declared wine as Argentina's national liquor.