Plot and rule: join us on a journey into the terroirs of Argentina

Featured / News / NL / Trends / 8 July, 2015

By: Joaquín Hidalgo

Fifteen years or so ago, the hot topic was regions. Today it is terroir. Tomorrow it’ll be vineyards. That seems to be the key for the next decade. It’s a matter of looking: changing the long-term vision of the landscape by portioning up the vineyards is a radical move which is beginning to happen in Argentina, and is promising to have very positive long-term benefits.

Let us explain. A vineyard, as advanced as soil and plant population surveys are today, is a group of different vineyards. On one side, for example, clay is predominant and plants grow in abundance; where once there was a dry river today, there are many stones and sand, and the plants grow poorly; and in another part of the same farm where the soil profile is thin due to erosion and the plants become dehydrated quickly. From the point of view of the grape producer, the vineyards are heterogeneous. From an oenological point of view, there is potential for three different wines.

To give you an example,; if in each of these parcels, Malbec had been planted it would result in three different types of Malbec: if they are produced together, they will have the identity of the vineyard, but produce them separately and they will offer the character of each parcel. If after a few vintages, there is one which offers a unique gustatory profile, what you have is a declassification of a vineyard from the point of flavour.

That is precisely what is happening today in the Argentine wine industry. Wineries such as Catena Zapata, with its Adrianna Vineyard have been working seriously on the delimitation of parcels from gustatory profiles. And the first result of that research are two Chardonnay’s: White Bones and White Stones, made from parcels originating from different soil types within the same vineyard, one with marine fossils and the other with stones. They are not alone, Bodega Trapiche, Norton, Andeluna and Terrazas have all started working in this direction. Catena, however, is the furthest along in this concept and has resulted in a line of wines that will soon expand to other varietals.

Plot and rule

This business with plots or parcels is not a new invention. On the contrary: it is the heart of the wines of Bordeaux and Pomerol where there is no official classification of its vineyards. There, a red wine like Pétrus can reach extraordinary prices on the market (the 2014 vintage was sold in London for $2,000), while its neighbour, Château L’Evangile, cultivating the same varieties only a few feet away, does not come close to that price (the same vintage, $130, according to

Pétrus is sitting on a secret. Its vineyards is on a patch of blue clay, which offers the Merlot ideal vegetal conditions. To reach that level of detail is the current mission of Argentine wine.

To achieve this goal, wineries have been investing considerable sums of money in exploring their soils and in discovering what can distinguish one vineyard from another to obtain special wines. In short, what is currently taking place in the Argentine market is a journey to the land of terroir with much emphasis on parcels, where attention to detail will allow for the declassification of vineyards and wines and ultimately, the best and unique to be produced from a micro-terroir.

The interesting case of France is that they do not associate the taste of wine with a specific type of soil, but argue that the particular balance of a vineyard depends on the soil and that this condition is unique. It is no less subtle to project the possibility of a singular type of wine onto a place and its plants.

As far as the topic of parcels is concerned, Argentina is still a step behind. It is common to find wine descriptions like “A calcareous soil provides minerality and makes this Malbec special” which is not only unverifiable but is also a fatal error: anywhere with calcareous soil has the ability to make special wine. Without going any further, in Mendoza calcareous soils are in abundance.

So, the fragmentation of large areas of vineyards, represents the first step on a long road from the glass to the vineyard and the parcel. That road is now being researched in Argentina: with technology that monitors the differences in soil (measured by electrical conductivity) or the ability of plants to vegetate in equilibrium (measured by leaf activity), in order to catch up with the centuries of observation which France has done. After all, as a result of cross referencing this analysis, it should expand the diversity of top-flight wines and at the same time generate a natural market segmentation regarding the best vineyards and their wines.

This is the keyhole through which we can get a glimpse of the future of Argentine wine. And, in turn, the parcel is the key that opens the door to a universe of details and new tastes.

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Joaquín Hidalgo
Joaquín Hidalgo
Mendocino de nacimiento (1978), se recibió en el Liceo Agrícola como enólogo en la promoción 1996. Al año siguiente, se inscribió en periodismo en la Universidad Nacional de La Plata, de donde egresó en 2002. Desde entonces vive en Buenos Aires donde construyó una lar- ga carrera combinando sus dos pasiones: la escritura y los vinos. Ha trabajado en casi todos los medios que le dieron co- bertura al tema. Desde el Country Herald a la Revista del Club del Vino, en los que escribió sus primeras notas firmadas, a Playboy, Revista JOY y La Mañana de Neu- quén, diario del que sigue siendo columnista dominical desde 2007. Colaboró como catador y cronista para Aus- tral Spectator relevando Chile y Perú en la edición 2005 y luego coeditando la guía entre 2011 y 2012. A contar de 2014 escribe semanalmente para el diario La Nación, donde actualmente tiene una columna llamada Sin Filtrar los días viernes en el puntocom. A principios de septiembre de 2019 fue contratado por la plataforma Vinous para reportar Argentina y Chile. Joaquín Hidalgo Born in Mendoza in 1978, Joaquin received his Certificate in Winemaking from the Liceo Agrícola in 1996. The following year, he took Journalism at the Universidad Nacional de la Plata, graduating in 2002. Since then he has lived in Buenos Aires, where he has built up an extensive career combining his two passions: writing and wine. He has worked for almost every media outlet that covers the area from the Country Herald to the Revista del Club de Vino, where he published his first signed articles, Playboy, Revista JOY, and La Mañana de Neuquen, for whom he has been a columnist since 2007. He has been a taster and correspondent for the Austral Spectator, covering Chile and Peru in 2005 and then co-editing the guide in 2011 and 2012. Since 2014, he has written a weekly column for the La Nación newspaper for whom he also writes a weekly blog called Sin Filtrar on their website. In September 2019, he was hired by the Vinous platform to cover Argentina and Chile.

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on 3 August, 2015

Muito instrutivo este site, mas eu gostaria de solicitar um favor adicional. Como estamos viajando no final do ano para Mendoza, se possível peço que me enviem um mapa com roteiro, para que eu possa planejar uma visita às principais vinícolas da província. Antecipadamente agradeço, Raul

on 31 December, 2015

Very nice post. I definitely love this website. Stick with it!

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