As the world's fifth largest producer of wine, after France, Italy, Spain and the United States, Argentina has plenty to offer the international wine market in regards to both quantity and quality. Despite this being the case for several decades now, it has only been since the end of the twentieth century that the Argentinian wine industry has really begun to up their game when it comes to the methods and techniques required to produce world class wines, which are both representative of their country and region of origin, and which stand alone as complex, interesting and delicious wines to drink. As Argentina became a serious contender in the international wine market, wineries previously concerned primarily with high volumes began to change their priorities, and formerly struggling small bodegas and independent wineries began to find success. Nowadays, well crafted wines from smaller vineyards in Argentina are being lauded as some of the finest in the world, and the country is starting to reap the benefits of its heritage, which include some very old vines, and up to four centuries of experience in wine production. Undoubtedly the most important viticultural region of the country of Argentina is Cuyo, the arid and red-soiled area within central-west Argentina which produces over eighty percent of the nation's wine each year. Cuyo represents the finest aspects of Argentinian wine making, with wineries in the region celebrating their traditions which stretch back to the sacramental wines first introduced to the country by Spanish settlers hundreds of years ago. As with much of Argentina, Cuyo is most famous for the production of Malbec wines, with Malbec grapes thriving prodigiously in the hot climate of the region, reaching full ripeness in ways they rarely could in their native France, and producing wines of exceptional flavor and quality. The Desaguadero River is the key water source in this otherwise dry and dusty region, and successful irrigation projects have helped bring water to even the driest vineyards within Cuyo.
In the world of fine wine, Argentina is like a small town actress. Playing to local tastes has kept her from expressing her full potential, but with the right material (and good management), she may knock your socks off when she finally gets a chance on the big stage.
Argentina has produced great quantities of wine for a long time, and fine wine consumption here has traditionally been one of the highest in the world. Attitudes and tastes are changing, though, and domestic consumption has fallen to 41 liters per person per year (from a historic high of over 90 liters), and continues to fall. With massive production facilities already in place, Argentina already has much of the necessary infrastructure to make an international impact. The main challenge lies in adapting wine styles to more sophisticated tastes while keeping bottle prices very reasonable. At the same time, winemakers hope to create memorable wines with a modern, recognizably Argentinian stamp. If successful, these efforts promise terrific wines as well as the novelty interest to attract a profitable export trade.
Perhaps because Chile, its neighbor to the west, has moved so explosively into the modern wine scene (and been so visible in restaurants) in the last twenty years, Argentina wine is usually compared to its western neighbor, but the comparison can be misleading. Argentina has its own fascinating cultural identity, a distinct history, and a pair of promising varietals, the red Malbec and white Torront's, that make it unique among wine producers. Considering its grape-growing and winemaking resources, its potential is enormous.