The South American wine industry seems like it has been with us forever, but this is far from the truth as even back only a few decades nobody outside Argentina had heard of Argentinian wine. It was simply labeled as New World wine and lumped together with Chile, Patagonia and other wine producing areas of this part of the world. But an interesting fact tells us that Argentinians were well into their wine before their American counterparts.
Going back fifty or sixty years ago, the average wine consumption per person in Argentina was ten times that of an American. Over the years the Argentinian consumption has tailored off where there is more wine consumed in America today than ever before. Today many Americans love Argentinian wine and exports from Argentina have rapidly increased.
In the Beginning
Vines actually came to Argentina from four distinct paths, but the most common story is that the Spanish missionaries brought vines over from Spain in the 16th Century. Not all the vines stayed in Argentina and some of them ended up in America, Chile, and Peru. These vines produced high yields, but the quality suffered because of it. One of the most used varietals was Criolla which is well known for producing crude wine but despite this it has been a building block of the Argentinian wine industry for centuries.
Today’s Argentinian Wine Industry
If you sample Argentinian wines today, they do not resemble the past wines of another era whatsoever. So, what was the catalyst for the change? Surprisingly we have to look at Chile for the answer. Decades before Argentina decided to improve its wine industry Chile had already done so. The modern wine industry in Chile is based on many influences from the U.S wine industry, and they had the foresight to change their wines to suit American and British palettes, then they started to export in large volumes.
But by the time Argentina decided to follow Chile’s lead the timing could not have been more wrong. There was political and civil unrest in the country which sort of scuppered the progress of redeveloping the wine industry. Finally, things began to get on track and the first job was to increase the quality of the wine. Both Europeans and Americans wanted a part of this and started to invest in Argentina, which gave funds to provide experts in wine growing technologies and upscale the production processes. Finally, Argentinian wines started to get the international acclaim that they deserved.
Any wine producing country depends heavily on the local conditions and the terroir. The simple ethos is that good wine is produced from good grapes and good grapes can only be grown if the conditions are right. But this statement has a caveat that the highest quality wines comes from conditions that are stressed. And in Argentina there are many such conditions such as this which produce stunning wines of high quality which are exported in high volumes all over the world.