For most people, the Chardonnay grape varietal is one of the quintessential white wine grapes. It isn't difficult to understand why; Chardonnay may well have started off in regions of France (where it is still used widely today in both single variety white wines as well as sparkling Champagne wines) but it is now grown in every wine producing country in the world. Indeed, it was the New World that took Chardonnay to some exciting new extremes â€“ this relatively neutral grape has the fantastic ability to carry much of its terroir in the bottle, resulting in a fascinating range of flavors and styles. Furthermore, Chardonnay is one of the few white wine grapes which is well suited to aging, as can be seen in some of the excellent produce consistently coming out of Burgundy, and elsewhere in the world. With everything from buttery, creamy characteristics to vibrant tropical fruit notes, Chardonnay will never cease to surprise and impress.
For lovers of New World wine, the region of Salta is generally regarded as being amongst the finest and most geographically interesting in the world. Situated at the extreme north of Argentina, Salta is a wine region which is both at an impressively high altitude, as well as an extremely low latitude, being a mere twenty four degrees from the equator. However, these two factors cancel each other out when it comes to viticulture, producing a superbly warm and fertile environment for the cultivation of vineyards. The mountainous landscape of Salta reaches elevations of up to 3,000 meters above sea level, an astonishing figure which demonstrates just how unique the region is. Within the main wine provinces of Cafayate and Molinos, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes (the region's flagship varietals) grow to full ripeness in the blazing sunshine, and produce exceptionally flavorful wines.
It is said that the first Argentinian vines were planted in the Mendoza more than four hundred years ago by European settlers, and despite these early wines being used primarily for religious purposes, the fervor for wine making never left the area. Today, Argentina is keen to demonstrate its technological prowess when it comes to vineyard cultivation, by combining traditional methods of irrigation left over from the Huarpes Indians with modern techniques in order to make the dry, arid desert an ideal environment for growing grapes. Indeed, these ancient irrigation channels, dug hundreds of years ago and still in use today, bring mineral-rich melt water from the Andes via the Mendoza river, something which gives the grapes grown in this region some of their character. The primary grape of this and other regions of Argentina is the Malbec, which is highly susceptible to rot in its native France, but which thrives in the dry and hot climate of South America, producing rich and plummy wines which are highly drinkable especially when young.