Ask most wine drinkers what they think of when Argentina is mentioned and the answer is a single word – Malbec. As in other warm, sunny climates, however, the search for elegance and freshness has headed towards both high altitudes and cooler latitudes. These searches have put sparkling wine on the agenda.
The same intensity of sunlight that does wonders for Malbec can make for quite tough, bitter sparkling wine grapes even when the sugar and acidity balance looks good on paper. There are a handful of sparkling wines from the lower parts of Mendoza , but the likes of Chandon Argentina source most of their grapes from the high-altitude Uco Valley, producing friendly, soft styles of fizz that appeal largely to the local market.
Uco is still broadly on warm and bright side for traditionally-styled sparkling, however, so adventurous bubble-hunters have begun investigating more southerly climes in Patagonia near the city of Neuqén. It is early days, but the extreme latitude certainly suggests sparkling wine as a natural style.
Chile’s diversification in the still wine arena has not quite spread into quality Traditional Method Sparkling Wine – yet. The potential is certainly there, though, as altitude and coastal influence bestow a number of regions with the sort of growing seasons that can turn out good sparkling wine grapes. Chief among these are Límari, Casablanca and Bío Bío.
For now it is the established, mid-to-large size producers with varied holdings that are exporting good quality sparkling wines, even if quantities are small. These ought to gain in presence and availability based on the reputations of these producers’ still wines. Look out for Viña Leyda, Matetic and Undurraga.