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.
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.