Regions: Río Negro, Neuquén, and Chubut

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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This southern area of Patagonia is much cooler than the higher-yielding areas to the north and, although there were some 3,398 ha/8,396 acres under vine in 2013 split roughly equally between Río Negro and Neuquén, they may not yet have reached their full potential. Neuquén is the result of 21st-century central planning while Río Negro has historically been Argentina’s principal fruit-growing district, producing apples and pears in particular, as well as grapes. The cooler climate and heavier soils of the valley, combined with a long, warm ripening season under clear skies, make it ideal for the production of good-quality white wine (notably Torrontés Riojano, Sémillon and, in more recent times, a fairly decent Riesling), a fragrant, less concentrated version of Malbec, and great Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Unlike most Argentine wine regions that are high and relatively close to the Andes, Río Negro province has a quite different topography. The valley is shaped by a river that runs from the west into the Atlantic, forming a green canyon surrounded by arid desert on both sides. Humidity and rainfall are markedly higher than further north. These growing conditions, together with some seriously old vineyards, attracted both Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and Piero Incisa della Rochetta, from the family that owns sassicaia, who respectively established their Noemía (with Hans Vinding-Diers) and Bodega Chacra projects in the province some years ago. Both are now farmed biodynamically, with exciting results.