Chile and Argentina: The two most famous South American Wine Regions

New World Wines

When we talk about New World wines and especially South American wines, Chile and Argentina are the countries that come to mind. Viticulture, as in other South American countries, was introduced by the Spanish when they arrived in the sixteenth century. Successive waves of European immigrants arrived from Italy, Spain, and France during the 19th and 20th centuries. These immigrants brought with them centuries of winemaking experience. They modernized viticulture and developed new winemaking techniques using the European grape varieties that they brought with them as well as discovering local grape varietals.

Chile Wines

The natural terrain of Chile makes it a winemaking paradise. The Andes to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, Patagonia to the south, and the Pacific Ocean's cool breezes are beneficial to viticulture, creating an environment that helps to eradicate pests and vineyard diseases. Chile’s vineyards make up a narrow strip of about 2671 miles from north to south and 217 miles from west to east.  The bulk of wine production concentrated to the south of Santiago, the country's capital. North of Santiago are the Valle de Aconcagua and the Limari Valley. To the south, in the Central Valley region, are located the best-known sub-regions such as Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchaguá, Curicó, and the Maule Valley. Further south, are the Itata and Bio Bio Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape variety in Chile, however, Carménère is the country's signature grape variety. Mistakenly thought to be Merlot, the varietal arrived in Chile late in the 19th century from Bordeaux. Carménère has charmed wine lovers around the globe, the sunshine in the warmer areas in Chile create charming red wines that are extraordinary.

Argentinian Wines

Argentina is the largest wine producer in South America and ranks fifth in the world. Its vineyards produce internationally recognized wines that are mostly found along the slopes of the Andes mountain range, stretching from north to south. There are 1320 wineries.  370 of the wineries export wines of international quality. Wine has been declared by a government decree as the national drink of Argentina, something that no other country has done.

Argentina is divided into four major wine regions: Northern, Oceanic, Cuyo, and Patagonia. These regions are subdivided into twelve wine regions (Jujuy, Salta, Catamarca, Tucumán, La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Buenos-Aires). The dominant wine-growing regions are Mendoza (395 acres), San Juan (123 acres), and La Rioja (21 acres).

Malbec is the grape variety that is the queen of Argentina. Originally from Cahors in southwest France, it was brought to Argentina in the mid-twentieth century by Michel Aimé Pouget. Argentina also produces outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Spanish Torrontés, and Italian Bonarda.

A large percentage of wines from both countries are exported around the world. The main markets are China, South Korea, Japan, Scandinavia, and Great Britain. Both of these countries with their breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary wines should be explored, either in person or through a bottle of wine.

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