Argentina Wine Regions: Uco Valley

Photo: Sol de Uco Winery

We saw in a previous posting how Argentina’s wine regions are climatically continental, and how this condition, with all the benefits that may have, can also be very detrimental, particularly when it refers to excessive heat or untimely precipitation. This latter case –namely hail- is a serious problem in southern Mendoza, as we will see later. Fortunately for most of Argentina’s wine country, it is located high in the Andes, helping alleviate the excess heat problem.

Such is the case of the Uco Valley, which vineyards, ranging from 900 to 1,500 meters of elevation, provide the coolest conditions in the whole of Mendoza. Until not long ago this area –between Tupungato and Pareditas- was considered too high and too cold for vine growing. The new wave of winemakers didn’t fail to recognize its potential and set up shop, taking advantage of the long ripening season, the well drained, rocky soils and the thermal amplitude, which reaches a whopping 14 degrees.

The Uco Valley has been a blessing for black grapes like Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. such varieties benefit from solar radiation, which provides light for photosynthesis and heat to achieve ripe, rotund flavors. Those flavors, however, need be supported by right levels of acidity; without them the wine becomes flat, as so many Chardonnays from promising hot areas have shown again and again, to the disappointment of winemakers and wine lovers. The cool nights of the Uco Valley help the expert in the vineyard to juggle those factors to achieve a perfect balance between both.  This achievement is even more noticeable for white varieties, in which the lack of proper acidity can be the difference between the great, the good and the utterly forgettable.

The Uco Valley is such a recent development -when compared with the long history of winemaking- that we should expect higher quality products in the years ahead. You don’t need to wait though. Wines from this “appellation” to look for in Vancouver, among others, include:

Finca El Origen Malbec Reserve 2008 $16-19. As in the case of the entry level Cabernet Sauvignon, El Origen delivers the goods on this price range.

La Posta Pizzella Malbec 2008 $22-26. 90 pts by some famous wine critics. I give it gold.

Luca Malbec 2007. $45. You cannot miss Laura Catena‘s fantastic Malbec.

Lurton Pinot Gris 2009 $12-15. Great value and the promise of what this grape may produce in Argentina.

Andeluna Malbec Limited Reserve 2004 $60-65. One of the best Malbecs you will taste in Vancouver.

Andeluna Pasionado Blend 2004 $60. Another big hit.

Andeluna Torrontes 2008 $20-22. My apologies to Susana Balbo’s Los Crios but this is the arguably the best varietal in town.

Barrandica Blend 2006 $28-32. Lovely blend.

Other wineries to look for: Antucura, Clos de los Siete.


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