Regions: San Juan

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Argentina’s second biggest wine-producing region had 47,741 ha/117,970 acres of vineyards in 2013. The capital of the province, San Juan, is 150 km/90 miles north of Mendoza. The climate at these lower elevations and latitudes is much hotter than that of Mendoza, with summer temperatures of 42 °C/107 °F not uncommon and with rainfall averaging only 150 mm/6 in per annum. temperature variation is also much lower.

For long the home of high-yielding pink varieties, especially Cereza, whose high sugar content made them ideal for wine blending, concentrating, or for selling as fresh table grapes or raisins, San Juan has been developed as a producer of better quality wine since the late 1990s. A rapid reduction in the volume of wine produced has already taken place and is likely to continue, especially for red-skinned grapes such as bonarda and syrah, which has become the province’s emblematic red, with 3,032 ha/7,492 acres planted (50% more than Malbec). Good-value basic reds are made with these two varieties. The region also produces smaller quantities of perfectly acceptable sherry-style wines, interesting Viognier, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris in whites, and Petit Verdot and Tannat in reds. It also provides the base for most of Argentina’s brandy and vermouths. The vast majority of San Juan’s wine comes from Tulum Valley at an elevation of 650 m/2,132 ft just south of the capital city. Better quality wines can be found, as in Mendoza, further west at higher elevations, where the Ullum-Zonda Valley at 850 m/2,788 ft is producing good Reserva-level wines. Even higher, Pedernal (1,100 m/3608 ft) and Calingasta (1,500 m/4,921 ft) valleys in the south west of the province are starting to produce world-class wines and have the potential to take San Juan to the next level.