Southern Hemisphere

South America

  • Argentina has built a formidable presence in many export markets abroad, especially the U.S.

    Argentina is the fifth largest wine producing country in the world, with 15.8 million hectoliters produced from 188,000 hectares of vines. Wine production has a long history, and domestic demand is strong. Because there was little need to export, the style of Argentinian wine for many years remained quite rustic. Now with renewed interest in the country, this is beginning to change.

    The focus on Malbec has also served to provide a point of difference to consumers, and there are other local specialties, including the white Torrontes, and the red Bonarda. These grapes are transplants from Portugal and northern Italy, respectively.

    However, in spite of these differences and renewed foreign investment and the concurrent surge in quality, the country is now beginning to produce truly exciting wines, such as Terrazas and the "New World Grand Cru" Cheval des Andes.

    Most of wineries have focused production around Mendoza, the main center of wine production in Argentina. Two other regions that have been building a reputation for quality are Cafayate, about 500 miles north of Mendoza, and Rio Negro, near Patagonia. Winemakers are doing very interesting wines in these remote, cool climate areas.

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  • Chile, a very narrow country, runs down the western side of South America with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Andes mountains on the other.

    Casablanca and Aconcagua
    The climate of Chile is cooled by air currents both from the very cold south Pacific as well as by cold air coming down from the Andes. The coolest of the regions in Chile is the Casablanca valley, known for its white wines. It is located west of the capital city of Santiago, closest to the ocean. To the north of Casablanca lies the Aconcagua, which provides a much warmer climate, and is known for Cabernet and Merlot.

    To the south of the city lies the Central Valley, with its several subdivisions. The first of these is the Maipo valley, followed by the Rapel, Curico and Maule valleys as one travels to the south. Of these, the Maipo is the hottest, and therefore best suited to Cabernet production.

    The Rapel and south
    Merlot is the specialty in the subregion of the Rapel valley known as the Colchagua. South of the Maule, the regions become progressively cooler, and south of the Maule lie Sur, Itata and Bo- Bo.

    Chile has many advantages in wine production, from the lack of phylloxera to the mild and moderate climate to inexpensive vineyard property and a pool of well-trained labor. One of the exciting prospects will be to see the fulfillment of this promise over the coming years.

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  • Uruguay
    The fifth largest producer of wine in South America is Uruguay, who has focused on the Tannat grape from southwest France, and Brazil, where it is possible to bring in two crops of grapes per year. Unlike the wines made from Tannat in France which tend to be very tannic and "rustic", Tannat in Uruguay tends to produce wines with much smoother tannins. It is often blended with Merlot and Cabernet as well.

    In terms of grape production, Brazil grows large amounts of grapes, but only a small proportion goes into making table wines. Most of the country is too warm for wine production - this means the primary area for growing grapes for wine are in the southern regions which are much cooler.

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