The first vineyards were established in the San Juan and Mendoza regions using the Mission grape (Popular for use as sacramental wine). Most of the wine made was sold and consumed in Argentina and the overall quality was not high. The early 1900’s saw a massive influx of foreign winemakers escaping the phylloxera scourge ravaging Europe at the time, and they brought technical expertise and knowledge with them.
Argentina was consuming a significant amount of wine per capita during this early period. However in the early 1970’s domestic consumption decreased because of an influx of beer and drink imports, so Argentina followed the example of several countries and focused on the export market. The winemakers began to focus on quality instead of quantity and began using more modern techniques for viticulture and vinification. This increase in quality has allowed Argentina to become the fifth largest wine-producing nation.
Argentinean success has been based on the Malbec grape. Originally from Southwest France this grape has found a classic home in the Mendoza region; the popularity of Malbec has allowed Argentina to explore other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and the floral Torrontés grape.
The major wine growing regions of Argentina are located in the foothills of the Andes. Here the climate is unique and supports the development of the thicker skinned Malbec grape. Most of the wine-regions are arid and have a massive diurnal shift induced by the altitude. Daytime temperatures often exceed 95°F, yet the night can drop the temperature to 50°F. This extreme difference of temperature allows for a ripe grape with excellent acidity, and gives Argentinean wines a unique flavor.
Traditionally the grapes are watered using run-off from the Andes. This flood type of irrigation is slowly being replaced by more modern drip-irrigation techniques which allow for more yield control and therefore a higher quality of wine.