Vine varieties: Red

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Malbec, the dominant red wine grape that accounts for 16% of all plantings, seems more at home in Argentina than in its cahors homeland. From a total of 36,125 ha/89,266 acres of vines come deep-coloured, robust, fruity wines with enough alcohol, weight, and structure to benefit from oak ageing, with different expressions in each wine region. Cabernet Sauvignon is popular with Argentine growers, having increased enormously, from under 2,500 ha/6,200 acres in 1990 to 15,982 ha/39,492 acres by 2013. It is making better and better varietal wines, and is typically blended with Malbec in the country’s most celebrated bottlings. The second most planted red wine variety in Argentina, with 18,882 ha/46,658 ac, is the increasingly fashionable variety called Bonarda in Argentina (see charbono). Total plantings of Syrah shot up from under 700 ha/1,730 acres in 1990 to 12,992 ha/32,103 acres by 2013, making it Argentina’s fourth most planted European variety after Malbec, Bonarda, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It performs best in the hot San Juan province north of Mendoza. A wide range of Italian and Spanish varieties, including Tempranillo, Corvina, and Ancellota, were presumably brought to the country by the many European immigrants, but it is the French Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Tannat that are currently making waves. Other red wine varieties apart from Merlot, often blended with Cabernet, include Pinot Noir, which seems to have found its home in Patagonia and the high-elevation vineyards of the Uco Valley.