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In Argentina, wine is the National Drink (decree of November 24, 2010, ratified by National Law in 2013) but nowadays, this New World country is associated with red wine only. However, was it always like that?
Until the 90s arrived, the average Argentine used to consume much more white wine than red. According to the statistics of the National Institute of Viticulture, in 1996 the dispatch of white wines to the market represented 60% of the total, while the rosé and red wine took the remaining 40%.
In Argentina, which is the largest producer of wine in Latin America and the fifth in the world, the industry went through a revolution from the 90s to 2010s in which the main victim was white wine.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the low and middle classes of the country used to consume popular wines such as pink and white which were soft on the palate contained relatively low alcohol levels, in large volume. However, in the need to respond to that huge demand, the wineries forgot to take care of the production conditions. Precisely when other beverages were coming up, and the quality would have been an ally to win the battle.
At the end of the 90s, led by the Malbec star, the Argentine Wine brand raised its value significantly, but surprisingly, this did not affect white wines at all.
Currently, the mix in terms of consumption is 24% white and 76% colored, far from European countries’ numbers, such as France and Spain, or America such as USA and Canada, where the share is much more equilibrated. Majority of the population in these countries prefers white wine, with Chardonnay as flag bearer and Sauvignon Blanc as an escort along with other successful grapes such as Moscatel or Pinot Grigio.
However, is there a revival of white in Argentina?
Yes, the revolution towards quality that began in the 90s with the reds, is now reaching white wine. The most restless consumer – medium and high range – shows a renewed interest in white wine. And that is not just random… Several Argentine producers are working hard to get the very best of this kind of wine in local terroirs.
In that sense, the wineries that lead this upturn, seek to strengthen the future of the whites, betting on a wider spectrum of styles and of course, on quality.
Some are focused on the revival and recovery of classic and abandoned strains that used to be the production basis of the popular generic whites of the seventies (mostly blends). However, nowadays, with all the care needed to get premium quality wine, they are being elaborated as single varietals. For example, Semillón, Viognier and Pedro Giménez,
Others choose to look for different styles and expressions for the white strains consecrated in the world, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Producing at great heights (above 4000 feet), planting vineyards in areas with maritime influence at the East coast of Argentina, or just looking for different expressions of varieties, like more elegant or friendlier Torrontés, the iconic white grape of Argentina.
There are also those who focus on unusual white varieties for Argentina, like Pinot Grigio, Riesling or Gruner Veltliner.
One of the features which I left for the end is the Blends, because they are the ones that excite me the most! Some extraordinary wines that combine the virtues of varieties, like Marsanne, Roussanne, Gewürztraminer, Tocai or White Moscato.
Do yourself a favor and taste some Argentine white wine!
In the summers, as a child, I went all over a small vineyard of white grapes in Patagonia (Río Negro), with my grandfather and my uncle. I saw them elaborating homemade wine using an old press. All memories that kept alive the flame of the interest that made me devour all the texts related to wine that fell into my hands. I felt included among the “serfs of the wine” named by Miguel Brascó in his column in La Nacion magazine. Almost without realizing it, I became an oenophile. I enjoy wine, I taste it, I research and I relate to the people of the world of wine. I tweet and I write a blog called “El Angel del Vino” (the angel of wine) where I reflect these experiences: I spread the word about Argentinian wine and I stand up for it.