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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.
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.