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.
Cabernet Franc is not simply an important grape varietal for the fact that it is one of the most widely grown strains of vine in the world, but also because it is a vital grape in the production of many of the finest wines the world has ever seen. For centuries in its native France, it has been a varietal synonymous with elegance and high quality, and has become a key fruit in the production of the Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blended wines which have gone down in history thanks to their magnificent flavors, aromas and levels of aged complexity. However, Cabernet Franc is also a wine grape varietal for use in single variety, unblended wines, and has plenty to offer on its own. Most commonly, it is renowned for its wide bouquet, which often includes fascinating notes of tobacco, violets or bell pepper over a beautifully pale and decadent liquid.
When it comes to Argentinian wines, one region stands head and shoulders above the rest. The high altitude wine region of Mendoza has been producing high quality wines for some time now, and has established itself as one of the premier homes of New World viticulture, thanks to its combination of bold, Latin American approaches to winemaking coupled with a European flair for excellence and finesse.
Today, the Mendoza accounts for almost two-thirds of the Argentinian wine output, making it a dominating force in the country’s industry, and wines from Mendoza are exported all over the world. Its success comes from several factors - not least for the fact that it is one of the oldest and most well established New World wine regions, having been planted in the mid 19th century and allowed to develop from heritage vines of the finest European specimens. The altitude is certainly a key factor when it comes to Mendoza. The average elevation of vineyards in this region is 1000 metres above sea level, a factor which creates almost unparalleled consistency in climatic conditions, allowing the vintners to regulate their growing and harvesting for optimum effect.
Mendoza is primarily a Malbec producer, although Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Chardonnay varietal grapes are also grown here to great effect. The Malbec grapes of Argentina tend to have a higher level of expression and flavor than those in its native France, because Mendoza Malbec grows in smaller bunches, with smaller, more intensely charactered berries.