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Jul 15, 2019

Mendoza is Argentina’s most important and prolific wine region, representing two-thirds of the nation’s wine production. We talk about the effect of altitude and other geographical features that make this area so unique. Then we break down sub regions and discuss the incredible diversity that guarantees there is a wine style for every palate out of this beautiful, mountainous wine region.


Here are the show notes:

First we tackle the stats and some history on the region:

  • High altitude vineyards in the Andes Mountains that range from 430-1610 M/ 1,411 – 5,282 feet
  • Latitude: 32˚ - 34˚ south
  • 151K hectares/373K acres
  • 5 large sub-regions: Valle de Uco, Primera Zona, North, East and South Mendoza Zones
  • Mendoza wine blossomed with the railroad coming through in 1885 and industrial wine production reigned for many decades. International markets weren’t a priority until the financial crisis of the late 1990s.


Next, we discuss the unique geography and terrain of the region:

  • We delve into the intense climate, the desert-like conditions, and how irrigation happens thanks to the inventions of the Huarapes and Incas
  • We discuss the altitude for a long time (sorry if it’s too dorky!) – and why it is the most important thing Mendoza has going for it.
    • Most vineyards are 3,000 -5,000 feet above sea level – big diurnals mean grapes can maintain acidity despite intense sunlight
  • Soils: Alluvial with loose sand over clay – areas differ based on what runs down the mountain…
  • Sandy areas – lighter, more aromatic elegance (red fruit)
  • Clay-based soils with lime: Dark, powerful Malbec


We chat about grapes and wine colors of Mendoza

  • Red: 61.2% with the main grapes:
    • Malbec – 40%
    • Bonarda – 17%
    • Cabernet Sauvignon – 12%
    • Syrah – 9%
    • Tempranillo – 6%
  • White: 15.8%:
    • Chardonnay – 21%
    • Torrontés Riojano – 15%
    • Chenin Blanc – 7%
    • Sauvignon Blac 6.5%
  • Rose: 23%



Then we riff on sub regions for the rest of the show!

 I. South Mendoza:

  • San Rafael: Malbec, Bordeaux blends – Cab, Syrah, Bonnarda, Chard, Semillon, Torrontés

II. East Mendoza

  • San Martin: Lots of coops, lots of Criolla Grande, Cereza, now moving to better wines
  • Lower altitude, a bit warmer, flabbier


III. North Mendoza: also warmer, can be very soft/low tannin and low acid wines


IV. Primera Zona: Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo – 40% of Argentina’s wineries, 881 inn total

Maipu –12 districts, 6% of Argentine wine

  • Familia Zuccardi, Rutini and Trapiche have vineyards here
  • Maipu is not quite as highly regarded as Lujan de Cuyo or Uco Valley

 Important Subareas:

  • Lulunta: East of Mendoza city, altitude is around 900-930m/ 3000 ft
    • Rich style of Malbec
  • Barrancas: 115 miles/185 km south of Mendoza city.Centered around the small township of the same name. Old region – started in 1880s
    • Slightly warmer climate here and lower lower altitude – 2500 ft/750 m- softer and riper than those from other parts of Mendoza
    • Cab, Syrah, Malbec 


Luján de Cuyo –14 districts, 8% of Argentine wine production

  • Just south of the city of Mendoza and on higher ground to the west of Maipú
  • Vistalba and Compuertas north of the river and Perdriel and Agrelo south of it
  • Grapes: Malbec with Cab, Chard, Torrontes
  • Hot, dry, desert-like but moderated by high altitude – average is 3300 ft/1000 m
  • Alluvial soils are the big thing here – rocky, sandy, poor soils, mountain soils – lots of stress on the vine
  • Catena Zapata, Bodega Septima, Cheval des Andes


Important Subareas:


  • Complex Malbec – long-lasting, powerful wines
  • Also Cab, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc
  • In Center of Lujan de Cuyo: Bodega Septima, Pulenta Estate, Catena Zapata, Susana Bilbao


Las Compuertas

  • At opening of the Mendoza River as it emerges from the mountains -- Las Compuertasmeans "the floodgates"
  • Malbec vines are some of the oldest in Mendoza, up to 100 years old. Other grapes: Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay
  • Famous winery: Cheval des Andes



  • Small sub-region (20 kilometers/ 13 miles) south of Mendoza
  • Some of the oldest vineyardsof Malbec and Cab
  • Wines are subtler and more refined, floral notes


Vistalba (means "view of the dawn" in Spanish)

  • Southwest of Mendoza
  • Malbec, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir Cabernet, Sauv Blanc, Bonarda
  • Slightly higher than the surrounding regions -- better air circulation
  • Wines are often elegant in style Trapiche. Bodega Vistalba



V. Uco Valley (Valle de Uco)-- 14% of all Argentinean wine

  • Hour's drive south from the city of Mendoza, famed wineries
  • Since 2006, cultivated area grown by 65%, double the size of Luján de Cuyo
  • Grapes: 50% Malbec, Cab Franc has potential, Chard, Torrontés
    • Each zone offers a different profile of Malbec and other wines.
  • European investment here – from Bordeaux in particular:Lurton, Rothschild and Rolland
  • Soils: alluvial and fairly uniform: a clay and rock base with a stony, sandy surface
  • Cooler climate, slower ripening, Slightly higher above sea level Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo


Important Sub areas:


  • Vineyards planted nearly 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) above sea level – way cooler here than farther north
  • Northern end of the Valle de Uco southwest of Mendoza.
  • Best -- Gualtallary, a precious corner
  • Violet scented Malbec: earthy, herbal and balsamic Cabernet Franc: elegant Pinot Noir


  • All about sub-appellations:
    • Chacayes: High vineyards, full but minerally wines
    • Los Árboles: Coolest area, borders Tupungato – Chardonnay is best here
    • Vista Flores: Prized property – (Clos de los Siete – Michel Rolland’s property is here)

San Carlos

  • Tunuyán river helps influence vineyards -- sandy alluvial soils with rocks and calcareous stones are irregular and that gives a lot of diversity in style
  • Two important subregions:
    • Paraje Altamira: Fruity, earthy reds with minerality, dusty note. Excellent Semillons (Check out Finca Suárez or Mendel)
    • La Consulta: Many old vines with intense and concentrated reds


Please shop around, try all the different styles and let us know what you like! I promise we will be doing the same!


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