My first visit to South America was last year and I must say that before the trip (it was to Uruguay), I realized that many American wine consumers think that South America is all Malbec.
Well, pretty much all Malbec.
While it is true that Malbec may be a signature grape in Argentina, it isn’t all that grows there. According to Wines of Argentina data, Malbec runs about 36% of red wine. Next up, with about 16.5%, is Bonarda. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and trickle down from there.
Flip the script to white wines and the biggest cultivar is Torrontés Riojano at about 20% then Chardonnay with 16%. Following are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Torrontés Sanjuanino. Interestingly, the biggest category for white wines is “other”, socking the system at nearly 43%. Wine friends, you know you want to swim around in the “other” category and taste all the unique varieties enmeshed there, right? Me too.
I’m not picking on Malbec here. In fact, when I recently covered Canvas Wine Lodge, a Relais et Châteaux property located in Mendoza, “Malbec brings Argentina to the world,” was one of the themes. Wines of Argentina calls Malbec a flagship, stating that Argentine plantings are the largest in the world.
Readers of L’Occasion are familiar with the variety in native form in South West France, where it has been called Cot and Auxerrois and is tied intimately with Cahors. It’s also a familiar factor in Bordeaux blends. But didn’t I say this wasn’t a story about Malbec, singularly?
Wines To Try
I pulled out a few wines that feature other varieties, Argentine bottles with Malbec as only a portion of the blend or absent entirely.
This bottle has all the right elements to appeal to wine nerds: Sourced from old vines (up to 40 years) on the Santa Rosa estate (2034 ft) in Mendoza, a microclimate in Valle de Uco, where the foot of the Andes is still high-elevation to most of the world. Tempranillo accounts for around 5% of Argentine plantings. Pair with: Argentine Beef Smoked Short Ribs
Grown in the microregion of Salta, this bottle is crafted to be an ideal expression of the variety, grown in vineyards along the foothills of the Andes. Torrentés is the emblematic white wine of Argentina and is cultivated in three types: Torrontés from Mendoza and from San Juan and Torrontés Riojano, which is selected for more premium wines than the other incarnations. Salta vineyards grow at 9,840 feet above sea level and are making an international name for this grape. Pair with: Spicy Cashew Peanut Bar Mix
This bottle is made by Bodega Trivento and is sourced from their vineyards in Mendoza. Though this is a mainly-Malbec bottle, I’m including it to show how Malbec does in a blend (decidedly well) and with a smidge of two of the other top varieties in the region, Bonarda and Syrah. Bonarda is traced to Piedmont, Italy, and was previously the most widely planted grape in Argentina…then came Malbec. Pair with: Carne Guisada
It feels funny to see a bottle from 2018 already, right? That is a reminder of the Southern Hemisphere, already in the middle of summer. Santa Julia uses all organic grapes in its wines—this Chardonnay is from Santa Rosa vineyards, a distinct microclimate. Chardonnay is a big player in the Argentine white wine scene. Pair with: Gaucho-Style Butterflied Chicken with Argentine Sauce
Another one that is primarily Malbec but with a generous amount of Cabernet Franc and this is something to pay attention to. In a recent story I wrote for Forbes covering 2019 wine trends, Cabernet Franc from high altitudes in the Valle de Uco is a movement to watch. Pair with: Argentine Beef Empanadas
Domaine Bousquet works with all organic grapes grown in the Gualtallary Valley in Tupungato, which is situated in Valle de Uco. At 4,000 feet elevation, this is a cool climate setting. Domaine Bousquet welcomes visitors for tours, tastings and a seat at their restaurant, Gaia, where all the ingredients are organic. Pair with: Argentine Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Domaine Bousquet Reserve Chardonnay 2017 ($18)
Another example of hand-picked organic grapes from Domaine Bousquet grown at 4,000 feet. What’s the deal with the elevation? It’s cooler than the valley floor and the diurnal swing appeals to the vineyard. According to proprietor Anne Bousquet, “Vines—like humans—prefer cooler nights for better sleep and a nice warm sunny day. Think of lovely summer holidays in the mountains.” Pair with: Argentine-Style Fish With Caponata & Chimichurri
Wine Pairing Weekend
On January 12, 2019 our Wine Pairing Weekend group rallies around Twitter to have a chat about wine and food from Argentina. And, YOU are invited. Find our hashtag, #WinePW and please do say hello and join in.
Here’s what we’ve got lined up to discuss:
Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen presents ”Spicy Thai Basil Chicken + Torrontes”
Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “A Taste of Argentina”
On L’Occasion we are rolling out “All The Range: Not Just Malbec From Argentina“
Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Carbonada Criolla + Zuccardi Q 2013 Tempranillo”
David at Cooking Chat presents “Roasted Chimichurri Steak and Wines from Argentina”
Cindy at Grape Experiences shares “Wine and Dine with Bodega Trivento Winemaker German di Cesare”
Sarah at Curious Cuisiniere presents “Ñoqui con Tuco (Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce) paired with Argentinian Wine”
Michelle at Rockin Red Blog shares “Exploring Argentinian Wine with the Zuccardi Family”
Jane at Always Ravenous presents “How to Pair Vegetarian Food with Argentine Wines”
Jennifer at Vino Travels shares “Argentina Wines with Familia Zuccardi”
Kat at Bacchus Travel and Tours presents “Exploring Argentina: Warm Wines for Cold Nights”
Nicole at Somms Table shares “Catena Lunlunta Malbec and Steak with Chimichurri for Two“
Nancy at Pull That Cork presents “Domaine Bousquet Reserve Wines & Savory Tray Bake“
Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Cross-Cultural Food And Wine Pairing with Amado Sur”
Rupal at Syrah Queen presents “Wines of Zuccardi – Malbec and Beyond”
Steve at Steven’s Wine and Food Blog shares “Argentine Torrontes and Romesco Sauce”
Gwen at Wine Predator shares “Go Organic in 2019 With Argentina’s Domaine Bousquet and Santa Julia“
Jeff is our host at Food Wine Click! presents “Party Guaranteed: Pulled Pork and Argentine Wine”. Thanks to Jeff for pulling the event together!
Please be aware that some (many) of the wines featured on L’Occasion are media samples. This means that they were provided to us on a complimentary basis, to taste and hopefully include in a story or review. We are never paid anything here on L’Occasion and we are never obligated to present wine to readers in any way.