Out of the ordinary reds and whites are attracting consumers looking for something innovative and new. Valeria Gamper, Best Sommelier in Argentina, shares her favorites among the most original wines of Argentina.
There are as many different tastes as there are people, and in Argentina that seems especially true for wine. Thanks to dynamic and innovative producers experimenting with non-traditional varieties and old-fashioned techniques, the Argentine wine scene is looking more varied than ever.
Until not so long ago, the very idea of an Argentine white might have sounded strange. But the country has now proven itself in the field with its Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs and White Blends. Today, many of its wines are regarded as treasures in the world of whites while some labels are producing varieties that very few know can even be found in Argentina.
One of the most unique among these is Norton Special Edition Grüner Veltliner. Yes, Austria’s iconic grape is indeed being grown in Mendoza having been introduced by the Halstrick-Swarovsky family, the current owners of the old winery. Norton are currently the first and only producers making the wine in Argentina and produce still and sparkling versions from vineyards in the Uco Valley and Patagonia.
Albariño is one of the few Spanish whites that has achieved global fame. Beyond its native Galicia and northern Portugal, it has been cultivated successfully in Uruguay, the USA and even Bordeaux. In Argentina, only eight hectares are under vine with only a few wineries producing it successfully. Viña Las Perdices was the pioneer, having produced the wine since 2011 with grapes from Agrelo, Mendoza, at 980 masl. Costa & Pampa, meanwhile, is an experimental winery owned by Trapiche located 6 km from the sea in Chapadmalal, Buenos Aires. There, the grape takes on a distinctive acidity, moderate alcohol and clearly discernible oceanic flavours. Blended with Riesling y Savagnin it can also be found Tiara, an unusual but very elegant wine from Viña Alicia.
Slightly more widespread, Gewürztraminer has had great success in the higher, cooler areas of Mendoza and also in Patagonia, San Juan and Buenos Aires. It was introduced by Rutini and Luigi Bosca, the former producing the first dry variety in 1994 and the latter a sweet wine under the name Luigi Bosca Selección de Granos Nobles.
Bienconvino Aperitivos y Postres Gewürztraminer was the first off-dry white on the market, part of a line being developed by the sommeliers Valeria Mortara and Mariana Achával designed to accompany certain styles of dishes.
Although it is widely grown in Argentina, the Spanish grape Pedro Ximénez has traditionally been used in blends and to add volume to generic table wines. It is considered to be a member of the family of ‘criolla’ varieties and has rarely been made into a wine in its own right. However, Mariana Onofri is rehabilitating its reputation with the still white Alma Gemela Pedro Ximénez from old vineyards on her farm in Lavalle.
Bequignol is a variety from the southwest of France that is currently more common in Mendoza than in its homeland and a protagonic grape among the most original wines of Argentina. Surprisingly, Argentina has more than 500 hectares under vine although only one winery has put it on the label. Reintroduced by Germán Masera, it has become highly sought after by sommeliers. Using low-intervention techniques, he bottles the wine under the brand Livverá: a fresh, light red from the vineyards of Zampal, Tupungato.
Garnacha is a drought-resistant grape from the Mediterranean that can survive extreme climates and generally takes its time to ripen. So it’s not a big surprise that it’s adapted to warm areas of Argentina such as the Calchaquí Valleys and some regions of Mendoza. The first Garnacha from Salta was produced by Estancia Los Cardones Tigerstone, grown in a rocky vineyard in Tolombón; a flowing, refreshing wine. Mendozan versions include Ver Sacrum Garnacha and the Provençal style ‘Padma’ from Corazón del Sol.
Another interesting variety is Cordisco, originally from Italy and more precisely from Abruzzo, where it is generally known as Montepulciano. The Durigutti brothers planted it in 2012 in Luján de Cuyo and in 2017 launched a varietal that is intriguing wine lovers. Made in concrete eggs with native yeasts, it is produced as part of the Proyecto Las Compuertas line.
Mountain wines Sous voile
Although it has strong roots in Spanish culture, in Argentina biologically aged wines are quite rare. The few being produced in the country include Pedrito Vino de Flor from Finca Las Moras, made in San Juan from Pedro Ximénez grapes. In Mendoza, meanwhile, there are two examples that have become cult wines among aficionados of the style. Volare de Flor from Bodega Per Se is a blend of Chardonnay vintages, while Altar Uco Edad Antigua Vino en Flor from Juan Pablo Michelini is a Sauvignon Blanc from Gualtallary, Uco Valley.
Driven on by the curiosity and innovative approaches of the country’s winemakers, today Argentina is producing excellent quality wines in categories that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago some of which have become firm favourites among those looking for exotic and original flavours.