The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2014

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Page 88 of 108

SOUTH AMERICA Going to Extremes LOOK TO ARGENTINA'S SOUTHERNMOST REGIONS FOR DYNAMIC WINE STYLES story and photos by Deborah Parker Wong O n the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere, a cold, dry Zonda or rain shadow wind swept down the eastern slopes of the Andes and dropped a blanket of snow over the vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina. "It's a beautiful sight but devastating to budding vines and fruit trees when followed by a frost," said Andrés Rosberg, President of the Association of Argentine Sommeliers. Early-budding Chardonnay (and the stone fruit trees) in the Valle de Uco and San Rafael suffered this vintage, but frost and hail storms are the exceptions in Mendoza, where winegrowing conditions are considered less than extreme. Argentina's most rigorous winegrowing conditions are found at the country's extremes: from remote 10,000-foot sites in Salta to the north and the cold, arid steppes of Patagonia to the south. But the country's wine culture traces its roots to more hospitable sites. Vines first arrived in the northern province of Santiago del Estero and were brought from Chile to the San Juan and Mendoza regions in the mid-16th century. The arrival of European immigrants in the mid 19th century created what Rosberg describes as a "bottom up" wine culture: "Wine is as integral to daily life in Argentina as the asado, the open-air barbecue that is the country's national dish." How does Malbec—clearly established as Argentina's signature variety—fare at the extremes? In Rosberg's words, it's synonymous with both quality for value and for wines that have the expressiveness Winemaker Nicolas Navio explains that site selection is the key to ripening Cabernet Sauvignon in the sandy, limestone soils at Bodega Patritti in Patagonia. The snow-covered Andes provide a stunning backdrop and plenty of irrigation water at O. Fournier in the El Cepillo/ Altamira region of the Uco Valley. 88  /  the tasting panel  /  january 2014 TP0114_66-108.indd 88 12/19/13 9:48 PM

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