The influence of the Spanish on Argentine wine is quite hidden. I have been asked more than once –
Argentines, are largely made up of Spanish and Italian immigrants, so why are there not much more Spanish
and Italian grapes planted?
This a very interesting question? Logically we should see a lot of Spanish grapes like Tempranillo, or Italian varieties like Sangiovese.
These two grapes accounts for very little of the grapes grown in the country. Meanwhile French varieties like the mighty Malbec for Bonarda are the two most planted grapes.
I started to ask around, I spoke to some very knowledgeable Argentines and the answer was not really known. Not wanting to leave the mystery unsolved I started to do a little investigation!
What I discovered was that back in the 1800s when the Argentine wine industry really started to keep off, there wasn’t the
wonderful choice of wines we have to day.
Today you could argue for hours upon hours that Italian wine is better than French, or that Spain has the finest reds for example. However, back in those days France was the king of wine, the undefeated champion of the world! If we think about a young immigrant from Spain, he would most likely plant a fancy French Cabernet Sauvignon rather than choose a grape from his motherland. Countries like Spain and Italy both have long history of wine making, but it was really the French that pioneered a lot the techniques we use today.
So what did the Spanish do for wine in Argentina?
They did the greatest thing of all – They introduced grapes!
When the Spanish came to Argentina in the mid 1700s they brought grapes to make their communion wine. They brought a grape which is known as Criolla in Argentina – thin skinned, high alcohol, high acidity and not really the that nice… However, by pure luck, the not-that-wonderful Criolla crossed with another grape – Muscat and the first Argentine grape was born – Torrontes.
So the Spanish, not only introduced viticulture to the country but also (along side the French) help to create the first Argentine grape!
Incidentally the Spaniards also brought cattle with them, so we can thank them for those juicy
Steaks and the French for bringing the Malbec! Bravo!
Today we see many Spanish varieties being planted – Garnacha, Tempranillo even Graciano, which is rarely seen outside of Spain. As the industry has develops, wine makers are searching for the best grapes to suit the often hot climate of Argentina. It was quite possible that we will be drinking more Argentine wines made from Spanish grapes in the near future!