Wines with altitude
With the world’s highest-elevation vineyards, Argentina has produced wines with truly unique flavor profiles and unparalleled freshness.
The popularity of Argentinian wines has skyrocketed in the last 10 years. Now, almost everyone who sips wine has heard of Argentina’s main red grape, Malbec, and begun to add it to their wine rack. What many people don’t know is that Argentina has the highest-elevation vineyards in the world, contributing to the quality of its wines. It is the only area in the world that can grow grapes such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Chardonnay and Torrontes at ultra-high elevations.
Argentina’s most important and largest region for making wine is Mendoza, with vineyard elevation averaging around 900 meters. In other wine regions of the world, grape growing stops at around 1,000 meters. Higher than this, grapes grown outside of Argentina can’t ripen sufficiently because of the cold temperatures. The highest vineyards in Argentina are found in Salta at just over 3,000 meters. So, the obvious question arises: What benefit does high altitude give to Argentinian wines?
High altitudes in grape growing make for overall lower temperatures. There also is a large difference in day and nighttime temperatures, referred to as diurnal temperature changes (cold at night and warmer during the day). These temperature extremes, as in Argentina’s higher-altitude vineyards, enhance color and aroma intensity in the wines produced. Low temperatures also will allow for more natural grape acidity and a vibrant freshness to the resulting wines. Ironically, grapes actually stay on the vine for a longer period of time, and this longer “hang time” adds to ripeness in the grapes, which is balanced with higher natural acidity.
Sunlight intensity is another attribute of Argentina’s high-altitude effect on grapes, contributing to bountiful aromas in the wines, especially Malbec. It also affects the tannin composition in the grapes so that high-altitude Malbec grapes are thicker, generating more tannins, concentration and structure, yet at the same time are soft and round in mouthfeel.
Let’s get high on some snappy wines from Argentina. Better yet, let’s go to Argentina and try some firsthand.