Hi, wine lovers! How are you doing? I’m even happier than usual. Why? Well, for two reasons: first because it’s fall in Argentina and I love the different shades of the leaves on the trees and how they carpet the streets.
Second, because yesterday I was talking to some friends in the States and they reminded me of something I’m going to share with you.
Every year, May 25 is celebrated as National Wine Day, an event in which Americans celebrate their wine industry. Before getting back on the road to further my education about the wineries and wines of Argentina, I’d like to hop back up to the northern hemisphere for a moment to tell you a little more about this special day.
National Wine Day: the history of wine in the United States
As a New World wine producer, the US’s history is similar to that of Argentina. The first vines were planted by Spanish missionaries in California in the early 1800s and several different family enterprises soon began to prosper.
However, it was only in 1839 that Ohio saw the foundation of what is considered the first American winery. Since then, the industry has grown hugely: now the USA is one of the world’s leading producers.
The revolution came in the 1970s, when US wines began to match European ones for excellence. This was a significant leap in terms of both quantity and quality, producing the boom we’re seeing today.
One fact just to illustrate what I’m talking about: today there are more than 4000 wineries in California, the largest wine producing state in the United States and largest wine region in the Americas, alone. Mendoza comes in second.
4 billion bottles
Although there is no official date, 2009 is generally regarded as the first during which National Wine Day was celebrated. It was seen as an opportunity to get to know more about wine, learn about its benefits and encourage responsible consumption.
Today, Americans buy about 33 million hectoliters of wine a year. To give an idea, that works out to 4 billion bottles! Yes, we consume the most wine in the world.
Like I said before, California is the big star and accounts for 90% of output, although wine is produced in 45 different states.
Oh! And the varieties the main regions specialize in are Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.
My plans for National Wine Day this year
Taking advantage of the fact that I’ll be in Mendoza and here May 25 is when they celebrate the May Revolution, the beginning of Argentine Independence, I suggested to my friends that we hold a dual celebration with local wines. I also sent a list of Argentine wines to my American friends for them to enjoy. Which made the list? They know that Malbec is the specialty here, but I also told them there are some amazing Argentine Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays worth looking out for.
In fact, I promised to organize a virtual tasting, where I’ll tell them that Cabernet Sauvignon is the third most grown grape in Argentina with a surface area under vine of 14,129.2 hectares and this is one of the few places in the world where it’s grown under continental conditions: far from the sea.
They’ll also be surprised when they find out that in Argentina Cabs are grown at altitude from Mendoza, where heights range from 1900 to 4600 feet, to Jujuy where some vineyards are 8500 feet above sea level. This is why Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon is very different to the kind you find in California, more intense and ruby red with an aromatic profile in which dark fruit dominates along with the herbal, balsamic aromas from the mountain terroirs. On the palate, they’re opulent but vibrant and flavorful.
For whites, I suggested they look out for a Chardonnay from Mendoza, especially those from the Uco Valley, and also a few from Patagonia. The variety behaves similarly to Cabernet Sauvignon: because in Argentina it’s grown far from the ocean, the cool conditions needed for it to be at its best are sought at high altitude. That’s why Chardonnays from the Uco Valley are bright yellow, expressive and fragrant with plenty of light fruit, floral, citrus and syrupy flavors. In the mouth, they’re vibrant, almost electric, as I like to say, thanks to the freshness provided by the mountain climate. It’s undoubtedly a very different profile to what we’re used to drinking in the US.
So, you see, it doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, it’s always a good idea to celebrate National Wine Day with excellent Argentine wines. What are your plans for the celebration?
See you for my next adventure!