Catbec

Where can we find Catbec?

Although Argentina is consistently among the top 10 wine producing countries, the hectares dedicated to winegrowing represent only 0.1% of its land surface.

Stretching along the eastern slopes of the Andes, the wine history of this country started long time ago, in the 16th Century, when Juan Cedrón crossed the Andes with the first samples of Muscat of Alexandria and Listán Prieto. These two varieties were crossed many times giving birth to the Argentine family of Criolla varieties. However, it was not until the 19th Century, with the arrival of ampelographer Michel Aimé Pouget that the wine industry in Argentina gained its actual characteristics, with the planting of French varieties like Malbec. 

The main Wine Regions of Argentina are: 

Northern Argentina

La Rioja and San Juan 

Mendoza province

Patagonia

Northern Argentina: The vertical limit of wine

While far smaller than regions like Mendoza, San Juan or la Rioja, this region is one of the most promising of Argentina. Its arid landscape and poor communications pose a challenge for the winemakers.

The main subregions are:

Quebrada de Humahuaca: Home of some of the highest altitude vineyards in the world, this region is incredibly dry and irrigation is of utmost necessity. High solar radiation and strong winds need also to be addressed through careful canopy management and windbreakers. The main grape variety is Malbec

✾ Catamarca: This mountainous and isolated province is the fifth most important producing region in Argentina. The main varieties in this region are the Criolla and Torrontés while Syrah and Bonarda are increasingly gaining more importance. Most of the wine produced in this region is sell in bulk or by the Damajuana, a big refillable bottle.

✾ Calchaqui Valleys: This region is a land of extremes. The cold nights means that frost is a real risk while the high solar radiation means that canopy management is paramount in order to avoid the grapes to get burnt. The oldest producing vines of Argentina, planted in 1862, can be found here and are still producing Torrontés wine. Other important grape varieties are Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

La Rioja and San Juan: The lands of Torrontés:

Between Catamarca and Mendoza, these provinces are the third and second Argentinian provinces per wine hectares. The lower altitude compared with the Argentinian north means that solar radiation is no longer a big threat, however water is also scarce and, without irrigation, this would have remained a desert country.

The most important subregions are:

✾ La Rioja province: It’s not a coincidence that this province shares the same name as the wine producing Spanish region of La Rioja. Although the number of hectares dedicated to wine production is in decline, it remains an important player in the Argentinian wine industry and hosts the biggest cooperative in the country, La Riojana. The main grape variety is Torrontés, followed by Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Bonarda. Most of the vines are planted in the Famatina Valley, where they have access to irrigation.

San Juan province: The strong Zonda winds have modelled the San Juan landscape, reaching velocities of 240 km per hour and able to uproot trees and destroy buildings. However, in the less exposed areas this wind can be a blessing, generating a healthy and dry environment where viticulture can flourish. Surpassed only by Mendoza in terms of wine production, its most important varieties are Malbec and Syrah, the quality of the latter is simply outstanding.

HEY THERE! I’M CATBEC, WOULD YOU TO LIKE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ME?

Argentina, is together with Chile, one of the biggest wine producers of South America. My name comes from its signature grape, Malbec. Originally from France, like Carmenere, the majority of its plantings are actually found in Argentina. Most of Argentinian wine production is concentrated on the slopes of the Andes mountains and, more specifically, in the province of Mendoza, where more than 80% of the wine is produced.

Unlike other cats you will find here, I’m a Pampas Cat, a wild feline native from these lands. I protect vineyards from Vizcachas, a native rodent similar to a hare. My habitat has been reduced and I need the help of humans to preserve it, so me and my childrens will continue to have a place that we can call home. I’m only slightly bigger than a domestic cat and I need your help and your voice so other humans can join my cause and protect the Andes. 

In the picture I’m dressed as a gaucho, the cowboys of Argentina, with a big wine demijohn full of Malbec and a Mate (infusion made with local mate herb) beside me. Behind me you can see the autumn vineyards and the impressive Andes mountains. Isn’t it beautiful?

COOL WINE CAT MUST HAVES!

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Mendoza: The backbone of Argentina’s wine industry

Mendoza and Malbec are synonyms of Argentinian wine.

More than 80% of the wine of Argentina is produced in this region. Separated from the Pacific ocean by the Anndes and from the Atlantic by the vast plains of the Pampas region, water supply is one of the most important challenges.

The main wine subregions are:

✾ Eastern Mendoza: Eastern Mendoza might not be as famous as Maipú or Uco Valley, however half of the wine production of the Mendoza province come from this region. The hectares dedicated to wine growing reached a peak in the 1970’s and has been in decline since then due to the fall in domestic wine consumption. In this region hail and lack of water the main hazard for winegrowers and there is a tendency to introduce drip irrigation. The main grape varieties are Criolla grande, Cereza, Bonarda and Malbec.

Maipú: This region might be considered the heartland of the wine industry in Mendoza since the 19th century. Due to its proximity to Mendoza city, Maipú has become a center for wine tourism as well and most visitors start their journey in this region. With a flatter terrain and less altitude than neighbouring regions like Luján de Cuyo, producers are tending to leave this region aiming for higher terrains, causing a slow reduction in the hectares dedicated to wine since the 1990s. The main grape variety is Malbec, accounting for more than 35% of the grapes produced, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

✾ Uco Valley: Surrounded by deserts and mountains, this oasis is one of the most iconic wine regions of the Americas. Due to its isolation, this valley was the slowest to develop in Mendoza province and winegrowers need to cope frequently with hail, frost and the strong Zanda winds. Since the 1990s it has tripled in size. Cooler temperatures and poor and rocky soils creates the perfect conditions for the finest Malbec, a variety that account for more than a half of the hectares planted. One of the most recognized areas are the slopes of the Tupungato, a volcano that constitutes one of the highest peaks of the Andes.

Luján de Cuyo: This region was the first in Argentina to achieve DOC status. One of the landmark regions for Argentinian wine, Luján de Cuyo is considered the Land of Malbec. Some of the oldest Malbec vines are located in this region and this grape variety accounts for more than half of the total grape production of this subregion.

✾ San Rafael: Located at a lower altitude than the rest of Mendoza wine regions, this region is generally warmer than Uco Valley in spite of being the southernmost wine producing subregion of the province. Red varieties dominates although this time Malbec share the podium with Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Patagonia: The last frontier of wine

Rio Negro: This river brings life to this arid region and gives also its name to the province. Thanks to its waters, life and viticulture become possible in an otherwise unhospitable landscape. Once the third province of Argentina by wine production, the succession of economic crisis and the inability to compete with other regions due to its isolation, makes of Rio Negro one of the fastest declining regions in Argentina, losing 40% of its vine hectares just in one decade, in the 2010s. However this region produce some of the best wines of Argentina and its diversity is astonishing: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot share the place with other varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Noir or Sémillon.

✾ Neuquén: Closer to the Andes, this region located just west of Rio Negro has seen an increasingly interest from winegrowers since the 1990s. Here, the climate is warmer and red varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot dominates the landscape. Almost half of the land belongs to one winery: Bodega del Fin del Mundo.

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