Mendoza, lying in the foothills of the Andes, is one of Argentina’s top tourism spots for foreigners. It also attracts Argentines looking for a get-away close to home. It offers beautiful landscapes, excellent rafting and glorious skiing,  and that is before you even taste the wine.
Mendoza is booming. particularly the wine industry. Every year 15 new wineries open and a new winemaking family arrives regularly from France, Italy, Spain or Portugal. This old world expertise is backed up with new world innovation and experimentation to create a hot bed of growth and some really interesting wines.

Why Mendoza you may ask? It offers some unique features when it comes to growing grapes. There is the varying altitude, from 700m to 1800m above sea level. This gives a variation of temperatures that is particularly good for red grapes. By having high temperatures during the day and low at night the skins of the grapes have to grow thicker to protect themselves, and it is these thick skins that give color, flavor and tannins to the wines.

Another one of Mendoza’s great advantages is that it is a desert. On first sight this might not seem an ideal grape growing location, but one of Europe’s biggest viticultural problems is excess water. This means that up to 7 sprays have to be administered to the vines to keep off disease induced by humidity. Here in Mendoza we have none of these problems. An all-year snow run off into the Mendoza River enables the enologist to irrigate without the uncertainty of mother nature. This is particularly important just before the harvest (March and April) as too much water can dilute the concentration of the grapes.

It is not all plain sailing however; Mendoza’s biggest threat is hail, sometimes as big as golf balls. The damage it does to cars gives you some idea of what it can do to a vine. Knocking the grapes off and stripping the leaves can leave you with no crop for up to 2 years and in extreme cases kill the vine. Mendoza wine makers get around this problem by spreading the risk. By buying plots of land in different wine producing areas in Mendoza. If you are unlucky enough to get hit, only one of your plots will be affected. This strategy is backed up with hail nets, so no need to worry about your favorite vineyard not having any bottles to sell.

Another endearing factor of  Mendoza wine is the price. With the pesos linked to the dollar prices have changed very little during the past 10 years but quality has undoubtedly gone up. In the past Argentine wine was aimed at local consumers with big volumes of low quality wine. Now with international marketing and investment the complexity, minerality and elegance of many Argentine wines has dramatically improved. This is being backed by Wines of Argentina promoting Argentine wine as a global brand. In 2002 Argentina had1% of the global market, in 2006, 3% and their aim is that by 2020 they will have 10%. Bold stuff but with such a fantastic product I would not bet against it.


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