Ahead of his set piece Top 100 wines from Argentina tasting on May 8, Tim Atkin MW explains why he believes Argentina is now one of the most exciting and important wine producing countries in the world. He looks back at how the country has developed over the last 25 years since he has been travelling there and picks out the regions to study now and watch out for in the future.
From oxidised, oak-dominated wines to some of the most elegant and refined wines in the world, Tim Atkin MW assesses how Argentina has turned its winemaking on its head and become one of the most important wine producing countries in the word.
How has Argentine winemaking changed since you first tasting wine and travelling to Argentina?
There has been a total transformation, but that’s partly a reflection of how long I’ve been going to Argentina. My first visit was in 1992 and back then the industry was focused on the domestic market. Exports were just starting. The taste in those days was for older, more oxidised style of both reds and whites. Twenty five years on, Argentina is a very different place. There’s less focus on wood and barrel ageing and a much greater interest in terroir and developing new areas, or rediscovering old ones that had been unfairly neglected.
What do you think has precipitated those changes?
The influence of export markets, the opportunity that younger winemakers have had to travel and taste overseas, and at the start (but less these days) the input of international consultants such as Michel Rolland, Paul Hobbs and Alberto Antonini. Argentina has opened itself up to the world, both economically and politically, and that will precipitate further change.
Which regions do you think are making the most impressive Argentine wines or seen the most improvement?
There are so many to choose from. The Uco Valley wasn’t important when I first went to Argentina, where as now it’s seen as a world class region. Within the valley, I’d single out Paraje Altamira, San Pablo and Gualtallary. Closer to Mendoza city, Perdriel and Las Compuertas are very interesting. And outside Mendoza province, I’d highlight Pedernal in San Juan, the Calchaqui Valleys in Salta and Río Negro in Patagonia.
Everything has improved over the last 25 years, but exciting regions to watch are Chapadmalal and Calingasta, as well as Uspallata (at 2,000 metres), which will be by far the highest sub-region in Mendoza.
What do you see as the role of cool climate wines in Argentina?
Argentina is mostly a hot place, which specialises in what might be termed desert viticulture. It’s mostly a very dry continental climate. To produce cooler wines, you either need to head to the south or east of the country or up into the mountains. This has been one of the major themes of the last decade: the search for greater freshness and balance. At first, people like the Michelini brothers were mocked for producing “green” wines, but not any more. In terms of real cool climates, Argentina doesn’t have many, but Chapadmalal on the Atlantic Coast qualifies, as do the higher parts of the Uco Valley, such as San Pablo and Gualtallary. But we’re still not talking real cool climate, just cooler.
You have produced your latest Top 100 Argentina wine report. How did that come about?
This is actually my 5th report, although it’s only the second year that I’ve done a Top 100. The overall report is about much more than that – it’s an annual snapshot of the Argentinean wine industry. I started writing the report to satisfy my own curiosity and also to put what I know down on paper each year. And it’s kind of mushroomed from there. This year was my longest ever trip to Argentina, and I’ll be going back in August (not the warmest time to visit) to taste some more.
How do you put the Top 100 together? What’s the criteria?
It’s very simple – it’s a list of the best scoring wines in my report. I tasted over 1,300 wines this year and just picked the 100 that I like most.
Tell us about next week’s tasting. What can people expect to see in terms of style and wines?
They will see my favourite wines, made in a variety of styles from Pinots to Malbecs to Cabernets to red blends, Semillons to Chardonnays to Sauvignon Blancs to white blends. Oh, and a wine aged under flor using the solera system. It’s only my opinion, but I think these are the country’s best wines.
What do you like most about travelling to Argentina?
The people, the landscape, the music, the food and the maté (a kind of tea that I’ve taken to drinking in the UK too). I just love the energy of the place.
Any tips for getting the most out of your trip to Argentina?
It’s a big and very varied place, so try to travel as much as you can to make the most of it. Don’t miss the north, in particular.
What are your favourite regions?
Salta for the views; Gualtallary for the wines.
Favourite food whilst in Argentina.
No surprises here: a really good, juicy steak. “Jugoso” is the word you need to use when ordering
Favourite restaurant or bar in Argentina?
Oviedo in Buenos Aires, because it serves fish and has a fantastic wine list.
- Tim Atkin’s Top 100 Wines from Argentina tasting takes place on London on May 8 at the Argentine Ambassador’s Residence, 49 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8QZ.
- It runs between 11am and 5pm and will include a walk around tasting of Atkin’s Top 100 Wines plus three masterclasses including:
- Argentine White Wines: 11.30 – 12.15
- Argentine Iconic Wines: 13.30 – 14.15
- The New Argentina: 15.00 – 15.4
- Register now to attend and book your space on a masterclass (limited seats available):
Any queries please contact Sophie Jump, Jump Start: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The tasting is being held in association with Wines of Argentina.