Viticulture in Argentina

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Overview of the state of Argentina . The wine-growing regions extend from the north for nearly 70% of the length of the state to the province of Chubut. The wine-growing regions are all in the foothills of the Andes
Wine bottles from well-known Argentine wine suppliers

In Argentina will viticulture since the 16th century operated. In the latest OIV statistics from 2014, Argentina ranks 7th behind Spain , China , France , Italy , Turkey and the USA . The Argentine wine production is thus in the South American ranking even before Chile, the better known wine-growing country in Europe . On nearly 228,000 hectares of vineyards, 15,197,000 hectoliters (2014) of wine are produced annually. This amount corresponds to about 5% of the amount of wine produced worldwide. While the amount of white wines produced has stagnated since 2000, by 2013 the amount of red wines produced had multiplied from just under 4 million to over 15.2 million hectoliters.

Until 20 years ago, only simple wines were produced in large quantities for the local market. Quality wines have also been convincing on the export market since the early 1990s. In 2004 the South American state exported wine worth 431 million US dollars, mainly the Malbec variety .

The heavily fragmented vineyards extend roughly from Salta in the north to the province of Chubut in the south. They form a strip in the west of the country along the foothills of the Andes with a length of 1750 kilometers and a width of 100 kilometers.

History of viticulture in Argentina

The roots of viticulture in Argentina are in Spain . Viticulture has been practiced since the time of the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. The area under vines developed positively for almost 380 years until it reached its preliminary maximum in 1977. For many years, the upward trend was driven by satisfaction in domestic consumption. As a result, the winegrowers, also politically motivated, failed to face international competition. When the domestic market collapsed due to changing consumer habits, Argentine viticulture had to be fundamentally reformed. In Argentina, the area under vines was 228 tha in 2014 and has increased by 6,000 hectares since 2012.

The beginnings

Al Este Bodega y Viñedo. Médanos, Buenos Aires

Viticulture was founded in Argentina by the first European settlers who came to South America from Spain and Portugal . However, it was only conceivable through the preparatory work of the Inca . It is thanks to them that in the semi-arid climate of the region around the province of Mendoza, the soil of the steppe-like Monte was made usable through a sophisticated irrigation system . For these purposes, the watercourses of the rivers Río Mendoza , Río Tunuyán , Río Atuel and Río Diamante (all tributaries of the Río Desaguadero ) were integrated into the system. When the first European settlers in the area came, the irrigation system was from the indigenous tribe of Huarpe used.

The Spanish navigator Juan Díaz de Solís was the first European to reach what is now Argentina in 1516. This area was colonized by the Spaniards from two directions in the 16th century : from Peru they took possession of the north-western parts of the country, while on the other hand, from the Atlantic , Spanish branches were established on the river system of the Río de la Plata.

The settlers in Argentina rarely found wild vines like the well-known Vitis labrusca in North America. The conquistadors therefore only made their first attempts at viticulture from 1541 near the Atlantic coast on the Río de la Plata with imported vines from Europe.

The first winemaker is the Spanish missionary and priest Juan Cidrón, who came to Argentina with soldiers from La Serena in Chile . The citizens of the city of Santiago del Estero in the north , the oldest continuously inhabited city in Argentina, needed a priest and the appropriate mass wine after a church was built . Depending on the written source, Juan Cidrón planted the first vineyards near the church between 1554 and 1556. In all likelihood the vineyard was planted with the grape variety Criolla grande , a variety that is believed to have descended from the grape called Mission in Chile, País, and Mission in California, the true origin of which is still unknown.

A few years later, Juan Cidrón and Juan Jufré planted their first vineyard in the city of Mendoza, founded in 1551 . In 1561 there were officially two vineyards in this town. Over the next 200 years this number rose to more than 100 vineyards. The country's Jesuits and Franciscans found the foothills of the Andes generally to be the most favorable conditions for viticulture. Between 1569 and 1589, the foundations of commercial viticulture were laid in the province of San Juan , north of Mendoza . The community of Jesús María, for example, developed from an estancia that was established in the area from 1576 and was mainly dedicated to viticulture. It belonged to the Jesuits from 1618 until they were expelled in 1767. The lagrimilla , the first American wine to reach the Spanish royal family, came from this estancia.

Already at the beginning of the 18th century, the wine of the Mendoza region was traded in Buenos Aires , almost 1000 kilometers away . In the 1820s, after the founding of an Argentine confederation, there was a first strong wave of immigration , so that the domestic market grew massively. However, it was not until the British inaugurated the railway line between Mendoza and Buenos Aires in 1885 that the transport of wines to this sales market was made much easier, and in the medium term it ensured a considerable upswing in the wine trade.

A document from 1887 shows that the area under vines near Mendoza was an impressive 2700 hectares at that time. One consequence of this sudden upswing was that the winemakers were primarily concerned with high production volumes in order to satisfy the booming domestic consumption. Quantity took precedence over quality and simple table wine dominated, which was developed in such a way that it survived even the longest transport routes in the country in an edible condition.

In his book Las viñas y los vinos en Mendoza (“Vineyards and Wines in Mendoza”), which was published in 1872, Don Eusebio Blanco complained about the poor quality of the wines despite the good conditions . His son-in-law and later governor of the province of Mendoza, Tiburcio Benegas Ortíz (1844-1908), was also convinced of the quality potential of the Mendoza site and founded a 250 hectare winery called El Trapiche in San Vicente in the Godoy Cruz district in 1883 . He is considered to be one of the pioneers in South American quality wine growing. His estate should not be confused with the now well-known Bodega Trapiche. This bodega only bought the rights to use the name and is therefore considered a legitimate successor.

Independence time

The immigration policy of Nicolás Avellaneda had a decisive influence on the Argentine viticulture

The years from 1880 to 1912 were marked by the second massive wave of immigration, mainly from Italians and Spaniards. Immigration was stimulated by a law by Nicolás Avellaneda , which made it much easier to obtain a residence permit. As a result, the economy was heavily geared towards the export of raw materials and the import of industrial products. These years brought Argentina economic boom, but the period ended with the Great Depression .

The government of Julio Argentino Roca and the following governments under Miguel Juárez Celman (1886–1890), Carlos Pellegrini (1890–1892), Luis Sáenz Peña (1892–1895), José Evaristo Uriburu (1895–1898) and again Roca were oligarchic aligned, with great influence from the big landowners . With this basic political attitude, the course for today's structure of Argentine viticulture was laid. Many of the wine-growing companies founded at that time still dominate the market and are among the largest in the world.

The immigrants settled in the cities and in so-called "colonies" in the countryside. This wave reinforced the dominance of the littoral and especially of the city and province of Buenos Aires, as the majority of immigrants settled in this area. These settlers not only brought with them knowledge of viticulture, but also had different tastes than the previous local population. It didn't take long before new European vines were introduced to Argentina.

The Frenchman Aimé Pouget is considered to be the pioneer of this import movement, who began importing the French grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec as early as 1850 . He had previously been encouraged by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento , later governor of the Cuyo region (Mendoza - San Juan) and president of Argentina.

The expansion of wines from the grape variety is relatively early Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir) occupied. However, this import from Europe was interrupted from 1870 due to the phylloxera invasion raging in Europe . At the beginning of the 20th century, the oenologist Leopoldo Suarez , who trained in Conegliano , Italy, imported around 600 grape varieties after visiting the main growing areas in France, Spain, Greece , Algeria , Tunisia , Egypt and Hungary .

Juan Perón won the elections in 1946 and dominated political life with his wife Eva (called Evita , † 1952) until 1955. Part of the Peronist politics were the nationalization of important branches of industry and the expansion of the import substitution model to the consumer goods industry. Especially in its first reign, Argentina experienced the industrialization of large parts of the previously agricultural country and a subsequent economic boom with a level of prosperity that was never reached again. It was from this period that Perón said that what one Argentine family threw in the trash would allow five European families to survive. From 1920 to the 1950s, Argentina was in fact far more prosperous than the European countries suffering the consequences of the war, and at times ranked eighth among the wealthiest nations in the world. The domestic consumption followed the standard of living, and the vineyards of Argentina rose in that period by nearly 100,000 hectares to over 190,000 hectares. The resulting increase in wine production was completely absorbed by the domestic market.

The nationalization of part of the economy, industrialization and social policy, all of which were promoted at the same time, however, quickly melted Argentina's financial reserves. There was high inflation and many Argentines lost their savings during this period. The social measures led to growing tensions with the traditional big landowner oligarchy, the military and the Catholic Church .

Viticulture today

After Perón was deposed, various military governments continued to sideline the country. An escalating bureaucracy and the widespread corruption that resulted from it led Argentina increasingly into isolation between the 1960s and the early 1980s.

The decline was also reflected in viticulture. At first, impressively high production figures distorted the picture, as the wine was intended exclusively for domestic consumption. Despite the poor conditions of the simple population, the annual consumption in the early 1970s was 90 liters of wine per capita. The domestic market was supplied with cheap vino de mesa . Wine was a natural part of Argentine cuisine . There was no tiered pricing as an expression of different qualities.

The wine producers instead invested in mass production and neglected quality due to a lack of demand. This policy led to overproduction , which reached its temporary peak in 1977 with 350,680 hectares of vines. Yields of 250-400 hectoliters / hectare were not uncommon.

At the same time, domestic consumption began to decline dramatically. At the beginning of the 1990s, per capita consumption fell to below 50 liters / year, only to level off five years later at around 39 liters / year. In 2003, the OIV led the country Argentina with 32.1 liters / person and year to ninth place in the ranking list: The front runner was Luxembourg with 55.8 liters, closely followed by France (55.4 liters) and Portugal (52.6 liters ) and Italy (51.1 liters).

In view of this development, the first far-sighted wine producers in the late 1980s seriously considered the possibilities of export. Before that, it was hard to imagine an export business, as Argentina suffered from hyperinflation of up to 1000 percent per year.

Under President Carlos Menem , the people's trust in the country increased. From 1989 he privatized the state companies and the state television broadcasters. He deregulated the economy and released prices. During the tenure of the Minister of Economy Domingo Cavallo , the Convertibility was enacted that the value of the Argentine peso 1: 1 to the dollar of the United States coupled. The positive development of the country enabled extensive investments in viticulture. This was absolutely necessary in order to be able to produce high-quality and thus also products in the high-price segment.

The switch in favor of better quality wines did not take place as quickly as in neighboring Chile. In addition to the belated positive economic data, viticulture suffered some severe setbacks in the mid-1980s. The Bodega Arizu , the hitherto largest wine-growing company, Grupo Greco into bankruptcy was torn by financial difficulties. The preserved production units are now part of Argentina's cultural heritage.

In 1988 the state-owned company Giol had to file for bankruptcy. Giol was founded at the time to stabilize the market through huge purchase quantities.

In order to sustainably consolidate the market, the winegrowers were urged to clear large vineyards by means of financial incentives. The farmers accepted this offer with thanks because the wine prices no longer made it possible to cover costs. In particular, the area of ​​red grape varieties shrank by almost a third as the Argentine middle class discovered their preference for white wine in the 1980s.

Development towards more quality

The classic espalier wire frame education, as it is often seen in Germany

Early 20th century brought the immigrants from Europe, the Espaldera-vertical Training system with. The vines are raised in the trellis on three horizontal wires. From the 1950s onwards, a high system of education, the Parral-cuyuno-Trellis , was introduced. Instead of the usual 6,000–8,000 vines per hectare, only 1,600–2,000 vines per hectare are grown in the Parral culture. This gives each vine five to six square meters of stand space. Shoots and grapes are located on a horizontal wire mesh at a height of 2 m.

The advantages of Parral training are the possibility of mechanical harvesting by fruit harvesters , due to the wide rows of vines, easy control of weeds, good ventilation of the rows and protection against frost and heat. Since the increased focus on more quality, high yields are only considered an advantage to a limited extent. Today only the mass carriers Criolla grande, Criolla Chica and Cereza are trained in the Parral system.

Vine training systems used per province in hectares
province Espaldera alta (high trellis wire frame) Espaldera baja (low trellis wire frame) Parral Various
Buenos Aires 29.52 0.00 0.00 0.00
Catamarca 237.56 443.21 1660.72 36.09
Chubut 0.00 20.00 0.00 0.00
Cordoba 18.07 231.76 46.02 0.00
Entre Ríos 0.00 0.00 0.00 4.73
La Pampa 43.25 162.68 11.85 0.00
La Rioja 969.03 4.53 6,963.71 467.23
Mendoza 50,126.44 25,359.86 77,100.52 339.83
Misiones 0.00 0.00 2.25 0.00
Neuquén 179.14 1,185.53 7.69 0.08
Río Negro 1,123.61 636.94 1,071.60 60.07
Santiago del Estero 0.00 0.00 8.80 0.00
Salta 291.82 322.13 1,332.20 2.77
San Juan 4,972.53 1,846.95 41,172.87 46.55
San Luis 5.00 0.00 1.00 0.00
Tucuman 11.80 21.45 10.05 0.00
total 69,007.77 30,235.04 129,389.28 957.35

In 1959 the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (INV for short) was founded. The most important tasks of the INV are the definition of the guidelines for quality viticulture and the control of compliance.

In a first phase of legislation, the wines were divided into three categories. The range ranged from the simple Viños de Corte intended for blending, through the mostly light Viños Communes , which are intended for daily use without any information on the vintage or origin, to the Viños Finos . The latter category is subject to precise regulations with regard to the vintage, origin, grape variety and bottle aging .

The current system is based on the designation of origin and is divided into the Indicaciones de Procedencia (IP) (currently practically congruent with the respective province), the Indicaciones Geográficas (IG) (the IG are currently based almost exclusively on the departments of a province) and the high quality Denominación de Origen Controlada .

Denominación de Origen Controlada ( DOC ) is a designation of origin for wine, similar to the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in France or Denominación de Origen Controlada (DOC) in Spain. The criterion also includes an upper limit on the harvest weight per unit area, i.e. quintals per hectare .

This legally regulated and controlled designation of origin was introduced with the aim of achieving a sustainable improvement in the quality of the wines produced. In addition to the permitted yield per hectare, the statutory regulation also includes the permitted, narrowly defined cultivation areas and permitted grape varieties.

The first DOC to be classified was Luján de Cuyo in Mendoza with the 1992/1993 vintage. So far Maipú, Río Negro, San Rafael and Valle de Calchaqui have followed.

Compliance with certain control provisions is a prerequisite for the issue of the DOC certificate:

  • Manufacturing must be done in a traditional way throughout.
  • The grapes must come from a certain geographical area and the wine must be produced in this region and at least partially ripened.
  • The properties of the product must be approximately constant and meet clearly defined quality standards.
  • The production is strictly monitored and regulated by a control commission.

The structure of the Argentine viticulture

The extreme spread of the qualities from anonymous cheap products to the highest quality wines is due, among other things, to the current structure of Argentine viticulture. On the one hand, a few large companies dominate the export market and, thanks to their financial strength, can also produce wines in the premium segment. On the other hand, a number of vintners still cultivate small areas as a sideline. The following table shows the breakdown of the farm sizes.

Breakdown of the farm structure in the country according to cultivated area
Cultivated area Number of establishments Area in hectares Establishments in% Area in%
0.0001 to 0.5 hectares 2,102 676.2 8.1% 0.3%
0.5001 to 1.0 hectares 2,626 2171.1 10.1% 1.0%
1,0001 to 2.5 hectares 5,315 9487.7 20.5% 4.3%
2.5001 to 5.0 hectares 5,962 22414.6 23.0% 10.3%
5,0001 to 7.5 hectares 2,749 17077.4 10.6% 7.8%
7.5001 to 10.0 hectares 1.919 16955.7 7.4% 7.8%
10,0001 to 15.0 hectares 1,772 21845.2 6.8% 10.0%
15,0001 to 25.0 hectares 1,707 33090.7 6.6% 15.1%
25,0001 to 50.0 hectares 1,127 39063.5 4.4% 17.9%
50.0001 to 100.0 hectares 453 30803.0 1.8% 14.1%
over 100.0 hectares 150 25004.6 0.6% 11.4%
total 25,882 218590 100.0% 100.0%

It is noticeable that the 5 to 15 hectare segment, which is important in Europe, is poorly occupied. The proportion of farms with an area of ​​over 100 hectares is very high. This structure can be explained by the class of large landowners that predominated in the past. There are also significant investments from abroad.

With around 3,400 hectares of its own vineyards, the Peñaflor group is one of the largest wine-growing companies in the world. This area corresponds to almost the entire forested area of ​​the Rheingau . The group produces more than a million hectoliters annually. The wines are marketed through the group's own wineries Andean Vineyards, Michel Torino, Santa Ana and Trapiche. In 2002, the Credit Suisse banking institute took over the majority of shares in Peñaflor through a fund of the former investment bank DLJ (Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette).

The group LVMH Moet Hennessy has the Bodega Chandon about 1333 hectares of land in Argentina, as the winemakers of Champagne , the excellent quality of Argentine potential very early sparkling wines was known. Some of the bodega's wines are marketed under the name Terrazas de los Andes.

The Bodegas y Viñedos López call their own almost 1,100 hectares of vineyards, almost twice as much as the area of ​​the Ahr wine-growing region . Twelve wineries operate under the name of the bodega, founded in 1898. Nine of them are in Maipú, two in Tupungato and one in Luján de Cuyo.

In 1996 the Chilean group Concha y Toro appeared as an investor. The wines of Bodegas y Viñedos Trivento are produced in seven different places in the country . The bodega now cultivates 965 hectares of its own vineyards with an upward trend.

With around 680 hectares of vineyards, Bodega Norton in the Mendoza region is one of the really big ones. The company, which was founded in 1895, still focuses on the important domestic market.

In Patagonia , Establecimiento Humberto Canale is also growing into a global company. Humberto Canale currently has over 500 hectares of its own land.

The well-known French oenologist Michel Rolland is in joint venture partnerships with Val de Flores, Yacochuya and Clos de la Siete.

The champagne houses Mumm, Deutz and Piper-Heidsieck appear as further foreign investors . The Bacardi Group has been investing in Argentina for some time through the Italian vermouth producer Martini & Rossi . The Portuguese group Sogrape owns the 500 hectare Finca Flichman .

Following an international trend, the high-quality red wines and some of the non-aromatic white wines are matured in barriques . The barrels are made from French or American oak . In France, depending on its origin, it is mostly English oak or sessile oak , while American barrels are made from American white oak .


The Quebrada de Cafayate in the province of Salta clearly shows that the vegetation only thrives near watercourses or through artificial irrigation.

The growing areas for wine are located in western Argentina between the Cafayate Valley in the tropical north and Patagonia in the south and extend from the 25th to the 40th parallel of the southern hemisphere. They are located at an altitude of 600–1700 m (and with almost 2500 m in some cases significantly higher; the highest vineyards in Europe are located at 1150 m in the municipality of Visperterminen in Valais and up to 1500 m on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus ). The heat of the day is mitigated by the altitude and proximity to the Andes. The location also ensures a sufficient temperature difference between day and night temperatures, which is essential for the production of quality products. In winter the temperature can drop to freezing ; However, frost in the vineyard is extremely rare. The clear breakdown of the seasons ensures that the vines are in hibernation.

Rainfall is extremely low in this region of Argentina and the humidity is low. Most of the precipitation falls during the summer months. However, there is an acute risk of hail . This can currently only be countered by two strategies: The vineyards

  • protected by a net stretched over the vines or
  • Distributed as widely as possible within the cultivation area in order to statistically minimize the risk of hail in this way, since hail is always a local phenomenon.

Previous attempts with hail rockets have not proven successful.

The semi-arid climate requires irrigation of the vineyards. The Andes meltwater was channeled into the vineyards and they were flooded. This practice was one of the factors that led to overproduction in the 1970s. Quality-oriented farms switched the system to metered drip irrigation . There is also the furrow irrigation system ; the water is channeled into furrows between the rows of vines.

Grape varieties

By the beginning of the 1990s, more than half of total production was accounted for by the very high-yielding varieties Criolla grande , Criolla Chica and Cereza , all of which fall into Argentina’s own category of bright red varieties. Since then, quality varieties have been promoted, so that their share has increased from almost 26% to over 52% in the last 15 years. The tendency still speaks for a conversion of the Argentine grape variety table in favor of quality.

The crop varieties are usually grown on deep, fertile soils in flat fields. Better varieties usually only show their potential on the barren soils of the Andes foothills.

Due to the various waves of immigration, the grape varieties grown are of diverse origins. The vines did not always come into the country with the correct name, as it was sometimes confused. A prominent example is the Argentine Sauvignon Blanc , which is usually the Tocai Friulano . In addition, many immigrants brought the vines with them under synonym names , so that in Argentina there was an almost Babylonian variety of vine names and suggested an equally large variety.

The Argentine ampelographer Alberto Alcade from INTA (Institute for Agricultural Technology) in Mendoza has done a lot to standardize the names and improve the quality of the plant material with his systematic survey of the vine material as well as the mass selection of suitable clones .

With the prominent support of the renowned viticulture schools in Bordeaux , Davis , the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon (with the well-known Institut Jules Guyot ) and the Université 1 in Montpellier (in collaboration with the Institut National de la Recherche en Agronomie ), the suitable varieties were put into operation determined by soil, climate and more general growing conditions.

The state control authority INV (Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura) sets the beginning of the harvest based on ongoing observations of the grape ripeness. The harvest usually begins in mid-February and, depending on the geographical location and grape variety, can drag on until April.

A special feature of the Argentine wine is that quite a lot of vines above average old are. Due to the sandy soil and the flooding technique used for irrigation, phylloxera has so far hardly played a role. Most of the vines still grew without roots and did not have to be grafted onto phylloxera-resistant substrates . However, the transition to drip irrigation raises concerns that phylloxera will become more active. Therefore, many new plantings have been converted to grafted vines for about 10 years. In the 2005 survey, 51 percent of all vines were older than 25 years.

In 2005 a total of 218,589 hectares of vineyards were collected. Of these, 9812 hectares were planted with pure table grapes for fresh consumption, and the material from 3497 hectares was used to produce dried grapes in the form of raisins or currants. The remaining 205,021 hectares are divided into red, white and pink (or light red) grape varieties. The following table shows the development of the various shares over 15 years.

Planted area according to the color of the grape variety
colour Vineyards in 1990 Vineyards 2000 Vineyards 2005
Red grape variety 42,381 hectares 70,048 hectares 92,993 hectares
White grape variety 60,398 hectares 49,432 hectares 47,640 hectares
Pink grape variety 99,367 hectares 68,918 hectares 64,389 hectares
TOTAL 202,146 hectares 188,398 hectares 205,022 hectares

Red varieties

The increase in the proportion of red grape varieties, which has persisted since 1990, primarily benefits the classic grape varieties from Europe. In particular, the varieties Bonarda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and Syrah are preferred for new plants. The amount of available wines in the premium segment increased significantly as a result.

  • Bonarda is planted on around 18,000 hectares (as of 2005). Their exact identity is still controversial among ampelographers. While many representatives take it for the Californian Charbono (= Dolcetto ), some believe that it is the Croatina variety : Pierre Galet , one of the most prominent grape variety determinants of our time, is convinced that it is the Italian Bonarda Piemontese variety . This thesis is supported by the fact that both Dolcetto and Croatina are still listed as independent varieties in the Argentine grape variety index.
  • Malbec can be found on almost 43,400 hectares (2019). At the time of the white wine boom in the 1980s, many of their formerly 50,000 hectares of vineyards were cleared and replaced by white wine varieties. In the meantime their value has been recognized and new plantings have begun. It produces wines with an intensely dark color; they can be stored well in barriques . In the south-west of France , their home country, the variety has never achieved such great importance. Although it has always been valued for its qualities in Bordeaux , it was almost completely displaced in France first by phylloxera and then by the spring frosts of 1956. With the Malbec grape, Argentina has a unique selling point on the world market that can be marketed very well. A similar situation arose in Chile with the Carménère grape variety .
  • Cabernet Sauvignon , the variety known from Bordeaux, is grown on almost 16,900 hectares. The classic Bordeaux grape often lacks fruit, structure and finesse in Argentina. The blends with Malbec or Syrah, which are unusual for Europeans, are particularly promising.
  • Merlot , a variety that also began its triumphal march around the world from Bordeaux, occupies 7,370 hectares. Merlot is now the most widely grown red wine variety in France and gives the great Bordeaux wines fullness, fruit and smoothness. In Argentina, the variety is used in blends for the development of bordeaux-like wines.
  • Syrah , a typical variety of the Rhône , currently occupies 11,670 hectares. The boom around the Syrah grape has been unbroken for 15 years. The planted area has since increased by 11,000 hectares. It is also known in Argentina under the names balsemina and balsamina .
  • Barbera , imported by Italian immigrants, is only found on about 910 hectares. The grape imported from the Italian Piedmont does not (yet) live up to the great hopes placed in it and therefore only occupies a small niche in the ranks of quality grape varieties.

The following list of varieties approved for commercial cultivation provides a more complete overview. This also includes the varieties selected only for trial cultivation.

Approved red grape varieties

In addition, the red varieties CG 2539, CG 4113, CG 4253, CG 14260, CG 14951, CG 26189 and CG 34047 are being grown in trial cultivation.

White varieties

The great demand for white wine in the late 1980s was often met by the mass carrier Ugni Blanc (known in Italy as Trebbiano). Today the vines are only 2603 hectares (as of 2005), because the variety has been replaced by higher quality varieties as part of the general improvement in quality.

  • Torrontés Riojano occupies just over 8,100 hectares. This Argentinean variety produces fresh, floral wines with a strong muscat aroma. Originally the variety was grown exclusively in the province of Salta. The Calchaquies Valley around Cafayate was the most important cultivation region. Today it can be found in numerous provinces of Argentina. Since this variety requires a cool climate, the vineyards are planted in the warm regions in higher and higher areas.
  • The forested area of ​​the Chenin is 3030 hectares. Chenin blanc is often used for sparkling wines or in blends. However, since the wines have not yet come close to the quality of comparable products in California or the Loire , the trend in the area under vines is falling.
  • Chardonnay stands on almost 5150 hectares of vineyards. The Chardonnay grape is widely used in sparkling wine production. The still wines are often quite neutral, as the ideal locations have not yet been found everywhere. However, the better wines show that excellent Chardonnay wines can also be expected in the future. The University of Davis in California developed a clone especially suitable for the typical climate. The clone named 1A or Mendoza clone is very small berries. This small berry is valued by winemakers in the New World, including Australia and New Zealand , as a sign of high quality.

The following list provides a complete overview of the varieties approved for commercial cultivation. This also includes the varieties selected only for trial cultivation.

Approved white grape varieties

In addition, cultivars from the national INTA institute are being grown in experimental cultivation. Examples are the white varieties CG 1730, CG 13668, CG 26879 and CG 45803.

Pink varieties

The so-called pink varieties are a specialty of Argentine viticulture. Their skins are neither white nor deep red when fully ripe. In Europe, the varieties are therefore assigned to the end product. Therefore, the Gewürztraminer (assigned to the white grape varieties in Europe) and the Grenache variety (assigned to the red varieties in Europe) are part of the pink or light red varieties in Argentina.

Despite the quality offensive in Argentine viticulture, the pink varieties still occupy almost 30% of the total area with 64,389 hectares of vineyards. The most important grape varieties are Criolla grande, Criolla Chica and Cereza. They are extremely productive: individual grapes can weigh up to 4 kg.

As a rule, all varieties produce a wine that is often quite sweet, for which low production costs are a priority. The white and rosé wines are marketed as everyday drinks by the open bar or in large containers such as liter bottles or cardboard boxes.

Approved pink grape varieties

Wine-growing regions

The Argentine wine-growing regions at a glance

Argentina is politically divided into large regions. The wine-growing regions are usually assigned the names of the provinces. Within the extensive wine-growing regions, individual wine-growing areas are defined that are assigned to the system of a specific designation of origin of a DOC or IG.

Planted area and number of wine-growing businesses per province
province Vineyards Vineyards for viticulture Wineries
Buenos Aires 29.52 hectares 29.52 hectares 4th
Catamarca 2,377.59 hectares 2,217.59 hectares 1,155
Chubut 20.00 hectares 20.00 hectares 1
Cordoba 295.85 hectares 221.64 hectares 178
Entre Ríos 4.73 hectares 4.73 hectares 2
La Pampa 217.78 hectares 217.78 hectares 14th
La Rioja 8,404.52 hectares 7,682.07 hectares 1,397
Mendoza 152,926.76 hectares 150,979.89 hectares 16,880
Misiones 2.25 hectares 0.00 hectares 4th
Neuquén 1,372.72 hectares 1,370.89 hectares 56
Río Negro 2,892.23 hectares 2,548.11 hectares 440
Santiago del Estero 8.80 hectares 0.00 hectares 1
Salta 1,948.91 hectares 1,945.77 hectares 254
San Juan 48,038.90 hectares 37,734.56 hectares 5,471
San Luis 6.00 hectares 6.00 hectares 2
Tucuman 43.30 hectares 42.91 hectares 23

Greater Cuyo Region

The Argentine greater region Cuyo (official name: Región del Nuevo Cuyo ) includes the central west of the country, the so-called Cuyo. It was founded by contract in 1988. The following provinces belong to the region:

San Luis has not played a role in Argentine viticulture so far, La Rioja is often counted in the literature as part of the Argentine northwest and is therefore also described there. The Cuyo region combines almost 92 percent of Argentina's viticulture.


Location of the province of Mendoza within Argentina

Mendoza is the largest and most important wine-growing region in Argentina and is therefore a member of the Great Wine Capitals network . With 152,926 hectares (as of 2005), the province of Mendoza alone accounts for a little more than 70 percent of Argentina's wine production.

Most of the province is covered by a dry steppe, the Monte , which is partially interrupted by sandy deserts. The largest sandy desert can be found in the Lavalle department in the northeast of the province. There are three large oases: the northern one around the provincial capital Mendoza, a middle one around the cities of San Rafael and General Alvear and a southern one around Malargüe . The western part of the province is determined by the Andes , which have their highest elevation here, the Aconcagua .

Climate diagram Mendoza

The success of the province of Mendoza can be attributed to the overall good conditions in terms of climate and soil quality. The climate in the entire provincial territory is dry, sunny and continental, with warm summers and relatively cold winters and large temperature differences between day and night. The continental climate is rather moderate due to its geographical location near the 33rd parallel. Despite clearly defined seasons, the differences between summer and winter are not extreme.

The sun shines almost 300 days a year. The annual rainfall is between 100 and 350 millimeters. The rain mostly falls in the summer months. The hail in early summer is the only significant restriction on viticulture. Damage from frost is rarely reported, but, as in 1992, can lead to crop failures of the order of 25 to 35 percent. The missing water is transported from the Andes to the plains by the Río Atuel, Río Diamante and Río Tunuyan. The water is abundantly available, especially during the growing season after the glacial melt. More recently, the canals have been fed by more than 17,000 deep wells. At peak times, up to 250 cubic meters of water per hour can be pumped from a depth of 60 to 120 m.

For reasons of irrigation, the wine-growing areas are always close to larger rivers. The upper soil layers lie on a clayey and stony subsoil and consist of loose, lime-rich and sandy alluvial land (see also the article Fluviatile sediment ).

Vineyard in front of the Andes in Mendoza

The vineyards are on average at an altitude of 500 to 800 m above sea level. NN , in rare cases up to 1200 m above sea level. NN.

Mendoza's example is an impressive way of documenting the rise and decline of Argentine viticulture. The vineyards were in 1980 with almost 255,000 hectares, their largest extent to date. Due to the massive clearing of the Criolla Grande variety, the area fell to 141,000 hectares in 2000. Thanks to the success of the government's quality offensive and the associated opening of the export market, viticulture gradually recovered. The area has increased by eight percent in the last five years.

San Juan

Location of the province of San Juan within Argentina

San Juan is a province in western Argentina . The province is surrounded by the provinces of La Rioja in the north, San Luis in the southeast and Mendoza in the south. In addition, San Juan borders Chile in the west .

With 48,040 hectares of vineyards, San Juan is the second largest wine-growing region in Argentina after Mendoza; the area used for cultivation corresponds to almost 22 percent of the total cultivation area in the country.

Climatic data for the city of San Juan

The capital of the province, San Juan , is about 150 km north of the city of Mendoza. Compared to the local wine-growing region, the climate is overall hotter and even drier. The average rainfall is a very low 150 mm / year.

Because of the dry, steppe-like character of the greater part of the province, the majority of the population lives concentrated in a few oasis valleys. Over 80% live in the metropolitan area of ​​the provincial capital San Juan (approx. 450,000 inhabitants), which is located in the oasis of Tulum . Other important cities are Caucete in the east of the province (35,000 inhabitants) and San José de Jáchal (21,000 inhabitants) in the north. The water, which is important for irrigation, is supplied by the Río San Juan and, to a lesser extent, from the Río Jáchal . Deep wells also support the water supply in San Juan.

In general, San Juan is still regarded as a supplier of inexpensive country wines for the local market. The province has not yet made the consistent step towards producing high-quality products. San Juan is still home to the high-yielding bright red varieties Criolla grande, Criolla Chica and Cereza, which are driven to maximum yields with the Parral training system. In addition, the expansion of table grapes and the production of dried grapes (raisins and currants) still play an important role.

A considerable part of the lower wines is used for the production of rectified grape must concentrate , as the grapes are not lacking in high Oechsle grades . In particular, the wineries of the Peñaflor group are showing the way to the near future with the most modern cellar technology.

San Juan supplies a large part of the base wines for the production of vermouth and brandy . In addition, large quantities of blended wines rich in alcohol and fortified liqueur wines are produced.

San Juan is home to the Torrontés Sanjuanino grape variety .

The areas in the Ullum, Zonda and Tulum valleys have potential for the production of quality wines.

Greater Noroeste region

The Región Noroeste Argentino (NOA) is a large region in the northwest of the country.

For geographical reasons, the province of La Rioja is included in the north-west region in some sources , but it does not take part in the integration process in the Región Norte Grande.

The following provinces are assigned to the region:

Although the cradle of Argentine viticulture was in Santiago del Estero, the province no longer plays a role from today's perspective. The same goes for Tucumán. Jujuy Province has some extremely high altitude vineyards and the first results are promising.


Location of the province of Salta within Argentina

Capital of the province of Salta is the same place Salta at Río Arenales, a source river of the Rio Salado .

The province is mountainous in the west with a portion of the Atacama Desert , is crossed by four parallel mountain ranges, the Cordilleras with the Valles Calchaquíes , and is flat in the east (western part of the Gran Chaco ). The headwaters and tributaries of the Río Bermejo and Río Salado irrigate the west , and the valleys are fertile. In the northeast, the Río Pilcomayo , which comes from Bolivia , forms the border with Paraguay .

Climate data for the city of Salta

The vineyards are at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,400 m above sea level. NN. The vineyards of Finca Colomé are probably the highest commercially used vineyards in the world.

The deep, sandy soils have good drainage properties with their good water permeability . The heavy rainfall between December and February comes down in few but heavy showers. Therefore, in the province of Salta, too, artificial irrigation is necessary despite the high amounts of precipitation.

The vineyard area is 1949 hectares. In Cafayate Department nearly 70% of the area are concentrated. Cafayate's economic activities are characterized by viticulture and tourism , which are closely related. The trademark are award-winning white wines from the Torrontés Riojano grape, which are becoming increasingly popular both nationally and internationally.

La Rioja

Location of the province of La Rioja within Argentina

La Rioja is a province in western Argentina . The capital of the province is the city of the same name, La Rioja . The province is surrounded by the province of Catamarca in the north, the province of Cordoba in the east, the province of San Luis in the south and the province of San Juan in the west . In addition, La Rioja borders Chile in the west . The entire west of the province belongs to the Andes . The central part is characterized by several mountain ranges of the Sierras Pampeanas , which run in a north-south direction. In the east one finds wide plains that belong to the dry pampas .

Climate data for the city of La Rioja

The climate of the province is very dry, in the south there are some deserts and salt pans, otherwise it is characterized by the Monte . La Rioja is the historically oldest wine-growing region in Argentina, but with 8,404 hectares it is only in third place. Viticulture is concentrated in the irrigated valleys of the Sierras Pampeanas between the Sierra de Famatina in the west and the Sierra de Velasco in the east. Almost without exception, they stretch in a north-south direction and form their own climatic zone with dry winters and humid summers. Most of the vineyards are in the Chilecito department .

The most important grape varieties are Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Muscat d'Alexandrie, which are often developed into lovely white wines. The largest winery in the province is the Cooperativa La Rioja.


Location of the province of Catamarca within Argentina

Catamarca borders the province of Salta in the north, the provinces of Tucumán , Santiago del Estero and Córdoba in the east, the province of La Rioja in the south and Chile in the west . The capital is San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca , which is often referred to as Catamarca for short .

The province is largely in mountainous terrain, with the exception of the southeast, which still belongs to the grass steppe of the pampas, and the desert plateau of Campo de Belén in the center of the province. The mountain ranges to the east of this plain belong to the Sierras Pampeanas, to the west of which are the higher mountain ranges of the Andes. Since all mountain ranges run in a north-south direction, the provincial area is divided into three separate parts, between which there are two road connections today, but otherwise communication was relatively difficult, which hampered the province's economic development for a long time. The northwest part of the province belongs to the Puna plateau , it is extremely sparsely populated.

Climate data for the city of San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca

With the exception of the extreme northeast, the climate is dry and subtropical throughout the province. The vegetation is steppe-like, subtropical jungle areas can only be found in the northeast.

Two thirds of the approximately 2,370 hectares of vineyards are around Tinogasta . The economy around Tinogasta is characterized by vineyards , olive groves and the cultivation of alfalfa for cattle. In addition, the agricultural products are processed into wine, raisins, olive oil and dried fruits.

In the western El Valle, the white variety Torrontés Riojano is mainly grown, from which very aromatic white wines are made. In the east the light red Cereza dominates, which is used as the basis for rose-colored wines for mass consumption and for the production of grape must concentrate.

Greater Patagonia region

The Patagonia Argentina region covers the entire south of the country and thus also areas outside the geographic region of Patagonia .

The following provinces belong to the Patagonia region:

Only the provinces of Neuquén and Río Negro have significant plantings.

Río Negro

Location of the province of Río Negro within Argentina

Río Negro is surrounded by the province of Neuquén in the west, the provinces of Mendoza and La Pampa in the north, the province of Buenos Aires in the northeast and the province of Chubut in the south. In addition, Río Negro borders Chile in the west and the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast .

On the huge provincial terrain you can find a variety of different landscapes. In the east and south, the Patagonian plain, a windy dry steppe, covers wide areas. In the north you will find the temperate valley landscapes of the Río Negro and the Río Colorado . The cold and humid extreme southwest of the province belongs to the southern Andes and is the wettest area in Argentina.

Climate data for the city of Viedma

Río Negro is the center of a large area in which mainly fruit is grown. Apples in particular are grown in square fields that are surrounded by a double row of poplars to protect them from the wind. The comparatively cool climate and the chalky soil predestine the area for the production of good white wines from the grape varieties Torrontés Riojano and Sémillon.

Although the province presumably has great quality potential in viticulture, there were no major investments, so that the vineyard area stagnated at a modest 2,890 hectares. In the meantime, however, wineries with high investments are also setting up more and more test vineyards, so it can be assumed that the area under vines will increase significantly in the near future.


Location of the province of Neuquén within Argentina

The province of Neuquén is located on the northern edge of Patagonia . Neuquén borders the province of Mendoza in the north, the province of Río Negro in the southeast, and Chile in the west. In addition, the province in the northeast has a point of contact with the province of La Pampa .

Climate data for the city of Neuquén

The situation in Neuquén is essentially similar to that in Río Negro. Due to a climate similar to Central Europe, the conditions for quality wine cultivation are given. Compared to the neighboring province, however, significantly more investors have already been found. The investments (in particular by the Grupo La Inversora ) are concentrated in an area on the Río Neuquén north of the city of Neuquén. The municipality of San Patricio del Chañar is considered a small center of viticulture . As almost everywhere in Argentina, one is dependent on the water of the rivers for irrigation.

85 percent of the 1,373 hectares of vineyards are planted with red grape varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. However, the region has a high potential for good red wines from Merlot and Pinot Noir as well as excellent sparkling wines.


  • André Dominé (editor) in collaboration with Armin Faber and Thomas Pothmann: Wein . Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft 2000, ISBN 3-8290-2765-6 .
  • Christopher Foulkes, Michael Broadbent : Wine Encyclopedia. The world's wine regions. Eco, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-934519-28-8 . Unfortunately, this encyclopedia offers only very superficial information on wines from the so-called New World.
  • Jancis Robinson : The Oxford Wine Lexicon. Gräfe and Unzer, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7742-0914-6 . Excellent lexicon that comes up with a wealth of information in a compact form.
  • Jens Priewe: Wine. The new world. Argentina, Chile, South Africa, California, Australia, New Zealand . 3. Edition; Zabert Sandmann, Munich 2001.

Web links

Commons : Viticulture in Argentina  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Turkey has more vineyards than Argentina. The grape material is not used to make wine or wine-like products, but is marketed in the form of table grapes or dried grapes such as raisins or currants .
  2. Worldwide viticulture statistics - Table 5, accessed on April 7, 2020
  3. See Pierre Galet, Cépages et Vignobles de France , Tome 1, Les Vignes américaines, page 36. Coming from the north, the Vitacae family is only found sporadically up to the level of the Río de la Plata. Argentina and Chile are practically free from wild vines
  4. Blanchard, Olivier and Pérez Enrri, Daniel: Macroeconomía. Prentice Hall Iberia, Buenos Aires, 2002. Pages 479 to 481. ISBN 987-97892-4-5 .
  5. See Jancis Robinson, Das Oxford - Weinlexikon . For comparison: high-quality wines are produced with yields of 40–50 hl / ha or less. Depending on the grape variety, a good average quality can still be achieved with yields of 70–85 hl / ha. In addition, only neutral, watery wines can be produced.
  6. Luxembourg repeatedly challenges these statistics and argues that, due to the low tax rates, a large proportion of the wines sold are illegally exported to Germany, Belgium and France.
  7. Mendoza expropia y recupera la Bodega Arizu, un patrimonio vitivinícola, accessed on April 7, 2020 (es)
  8. Concurso de Anteproyectos Ex-Bodegas Giol, accessed on April 7, 2020 (es)
  9. Cf. Registro de viñedos y superficie - año 2005. The management report of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura breaks down the educational systems used per province.
  10. ¿Qué es la DOC argentina Luján de Cuyo?, accessed April 7, 2020 (es)
  11. Cf. Registro de viñedos y superficie - año 2005. The management report of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura breaks down the size of the farm by area.
  12. Grupo Peñaflor website - Who we are, accessed April 7, 2020 (en)
  13. PeÑaflor: Investments in the home, accessed on April 7, 2020
  14. Chandon Argentina integra la filial local del grupo LVMH, accessed April 7, 2020 (es)
  15. FROM ANDALUCÍA TO AMÉRICA, accessed on April 7, 2020 (en)
  16. Nosotros, accessed April 7, 2020 (es)
  17. Cf. Registro de viñedos y superficie - año 2005. The management report of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura breaks down the most important parameters of the vineyards.
  18. Argentine grape varieties for red wine, accessed on April 7, 2020
  19. Cf. Pierre Galet Dictionnaire encyclopédique des cépages , page 124. It is particularly noticeable in Galet that the physiology of Bonarda Piemontese , Croatina and Dolcetto can be easily distinguished with a trained eye. Characteristics are differences in the shoot tip, the leaf shape, the perforation of the leaf and the autumn color of the leaves.
  20. Cf. Registro de viñedos y superficie - año 2005. The management report of the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura breaks down the vineyards per province.