Of all the white wine grape varietals, surely the one which has spread the furthest and is most widely appreciated is the Chardonnay. This green skinned grape is now grown all over the Old and New Worlds, from New Zealand to the Americas, from England to Chile, and is one of the first varietals people think of when considering white wine grapes. Perhaps this is because of its huge popularity which reached a peak in the 1990s, thanks to new technologies combining with traditional methods to bring the very best features out of the Chardonnay grape, and allow its unique qualities to shine through. Most fine Chardonnay wines use a process known as malolactic fermentation, wherein the malic acids in the grape juice are converted to lactic acids, allowing a creamier, buttery nature to come forward in the wine. No grape varietal is better suited to this process than Chardonnay, which manages to balance these silky, creamy notes with fresh white fruit flavors beautifully.
The wine region of Salta, found at the extreme north of Argentina, has to be one of the most unique regions for viticulture in the world. With an altitude sometimes exceeding three thousand meters above sea level, and lying only twenty four degrees from the equator, this unusual mix of geographical features manages to provide a landscape and a set of terroirs surprisingly ideal for vineyard cultivation. With exceptional Chardonnay, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat grapes growing here to full ripeness each year, it seems likely that Salta will continue to grow as an important New World wine region, whose wines will continue to win awards and accolades worldwide. Indeed, the two key wine making provinces of Salta - Cafayate and Molinos â€“ have increased their production rates by a considerable margin over the past few decades due to increased demand and interest in Argentinian 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.