If you’re a longtime wine aficionado, you might have noticed an increasing presence of Malbecs and Argentine wines. While most people think of France and Italy for wine, Argentina has quietly become the fifth-largest grape producer in the world. Most of the stuff was consumed at home for a long time, but a shift in strategy led to a surge of interest for South American varietals.
Following in Chile’s footsteps, Argentine vintners began focusing on exporting their wares during the 90s, increasing the quality of their grapes as production costs fell with the devaluation of the peso in 2002. This also had the consequence of increasing tourism in the country, introducing eno-tourists to a whole new area. Buenos Aires, Córdoba and La Pampa became famous for their product, but it is Mendoza that is the center of winemaking in Argentina, producing more than 60 percent of the country’s exports.
The high-altitude varieties are particularly prized, as they can be made organically with no need for pesticides. While the country produces several types of grapes, it is most famous for Malbecs, brought from France to be grown in Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley thanks to their increased elevation, intensity of sunlight and inviting climate. Since 1936, the annual harvest has been commemorated by the National Grape Harvest Festival, signed into decree by the Mendoza government.
The festival is a lively celebration of Mendoza wine and culture. Restaurants offer special wine pairing promotions, even at the local McDonald’s, and there are plenty of workshops and events with the region’s top chefs and vintners. No festival is complete without music and dancing, as well as fireworks, grape crushing and the local favorite Harvest Queen pageant.
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