Today, Malbec stands as the flagship of national viticulture, covering 50,000 hectares.
Since 2010, November 24 has been Argentine Wine Day. On this day, Decree No. 1800 was signed, which would later become law on July 3, 2013, declaring wine as Argentina's 'national drink.' Clearly, this was more of a political act, but it represented significant institutional support for viticulture, reinforcing the concept of Argentine wine as part of the national identity and culture.
However, like all fields, the wine-related sphere has seen its share of ups and downs over these past 13 years. It's essential to remember that wine has been made in Argentina for almost 500 years, boasting a long history and great experience. However, for the first 350 years since 1556, the production was artisanal, focusing solely on regional consumption.
It was Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, in the mid-19th century, who implemented the necessary changes to transform this production into an industry. He hired professionals from France and imported key vines from that era, including Malbec. Thanks to these changes, by the end of that century, a large number of Italian and Spanish immigrants arrived in the country through the port of Buenos Aires, heading directly to the Cuyo region to engage in viticulture.
Wine is important for Argentines, even for those who don't drink, because in every family story, the national drink has been present.
By the 1930s, Argentina boasted a significant consumption market, reflecting the prosperity of the era. However, successive crises shook an industry that was burgeoning with prosperity and sustained growth. Of course, these wines were entirely consumed domestically, mirroring European wines. This led not only to overproduction but also to a severe neglect of quality, causing consumers to switch their daily wine for beer at one point. Back then, the per capita beer consumption was almost nil, while wine consumption was 90 liters per capita, the highest in the world.
This reflected two things: that wine was part of the Argentine customs, but also that the industry would do anything to sell one more bottle. As a result, many large wineries, including some of the world's largest, had to close. Fortunately, there were exceptions. In this case, they were the producers who defended those vineyards they had seen grow with so much effort, saving Malbec in the process. From 60,000 hectares planted, only 15,000 remained, as most vintners preferred to replace the "French grape" with a more productive one. Today, Malbec is the flagship of national viticulture, with 50,000 hectares.
Bodega Monteviejo, Vista Flores, Tunuyan, Mendoza, Argentina
The Importance of Argentine Wine for the Country
What followed is well-known. With the convertibility of the '90s, wineries could modernize and begin to produce wines for more demanding markets. Exports began, varietals emerged, and Argentine wine regained prominence. However, it's still far from where it should be. While it continues in the "top ten" of producing countries, it's no longer among the top ten exporters. Moreover, domestic consumption remains around 22 liters per year per person, a low figure for what this drink represents culturally. The same is true when looking at Argentina's trade balance. Wine, with its $800 million in foreign sales, doesn't significantly impact it. Nevertheless, it is the country's highest-value-added agricultural product, both produced and exported. The highest-priced wine is a thousand times more valuable than the cheapest one.
Additionally, the diversity of national wine is such that there are over 6,000 labels in all price segments. Of course, most of these wines, both produced and consumed, do not have many attributes. However, they are correct and increasingly well-made, like all others. The constant improvement in quality over the last thirty years has not stopped. It's precisely the value-added wines that illuminate the path. Regardless of consumers' purchasing power, everyone has access to good wines to enjoy.
The labels and back labels contain a lot of information, and provide great pleasure to global consumers, many of whom, after enjoying an Argentine wine in their own places, decide to visit Argentina, either for pleasure or for business.
The industry has evolved so much that quality is no longer an added value but a necessity. In high-end wines, it's the small details that make a big difference. For many, it's incredible that a bottle of wine can cost 100 euros, while for others, it seems logical. Wines are not measured by what one can pay, but by their value. And if someone can afford them, it's because they're worth it.
And that's the importance of Argentine wine, as it's an agricultural product with no limits. Today, many winemakers have found special places that, due to soil and climate, stand out from the rest. But it's not just a geo-climatic matter; much has to do with human participation, observing and interpreting to intervene as little as possible in nature. Each one, with a concept and following the dream of making unique wines, because the places allow it. And at the same time, that the culture of wine continues to spread, because it's useless for them to make the effort and achieve great wines if there are no consumers to enjoy and value them at the same height.
Wine is important for Argentines, even for those who don't drink, because in every family story, the national drink has been present. Today, winemakers assure that they are making the best Argentine wines in history, and there are concrete things that confirm this: international awards, outstanding scores, massive events with wine as the protagonist, etc.
Wine is part of the popular culture of this country and as such must be promoted, regardless of each one's level of consumption, like mate, dulce de leche, and meats. Because the pride of knowing that something "ours" is done very well transcends personal taste. Lastly, an Argentine wine bottle makes the country look very good worldwide because it reflects many of the natural virtues. The labels and back labels have a lot of information and provide much pleasure to global consumers, many of whom, after enjoying an Argentine wine in their places, decide to visit Argentina, either for pleasure or business. And that is something no other agricultural product achieves, as most are exported as commodities. Additionally, thanks to wine, other complementary products have begun to add value to their proposals; meat is the best example of this. And between the two, meats and wines, they propose one of the best pairings in the world.
To celebrate wine on its day, here is a selection of 10 of the most popular wines we have at CriadoWines.ie