Patagonia, despite being something of a cold and desolate region of south-South America, has over the past few decades really begun to establish itself as an important wine region of the New World. Although the climate is generally considered to be far too cold for successful vineyard cultivation, it is greatly helped by the warming effect of 'La Zonda', an unusual warm winter wind which blows down through the continent and provides both heat and moisture, something which helps wineries produce their characterful wines. The wineries of Patagonia are clearly inspired by their eclectic European origins, and it is widely regarded that Patagonia has far more in common with the Old World than the New. Although the red wines of Patagonia are often very successful, it is the white wines of the region particularly stand out from the crowd, with grapes such as Riesling and Chardonnay doing very well indeed.
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.