Patagonia is the southernmost wine-producing region in Argentina.
Located inland, close to the Andes Mountain ranges, and at a lower altitude (300m, or 100ft) than Mendoza, Patagonia features an austere desert climate of warm days and cold nights that particularly suits the production of elegant wines including Argentina icon, Malbec and Pinot Noir.
It is considered one of the most favorable places in the country for making wines. As a result, top Argentinian wineries have developed various luxury projects in the area.
Let’s dig into what makes Patagonia so special,
as a wine region, its History, its soils, Bodegas, and more…
Location and Brief history of Patagonia
Rio Negro was the pioneer and started producing fine wines in oasis of northern Patagonia, with unique climate conditions, a hundred years ago. With a new wine boost a decade ago, other valleys such as Neuquén, La Pampa, and Chubut joined the wine industry.
These valleys are rich in water since their rivers are by far larger than those irrigating oasis in the center and the north of Argentina.
Patagonia wines bring together the traditions and the spirit of the region, and the elegance and delicacy of noble varieties that have found here a favorable place to grow.
Patagonia is known for fine food and wines. There is a simple reason to this: as the harsh climate impedes large production and the long distances generate high costs, the only viable solution is to focus on producing quality products with high added value.
Climate and other Factors behind Wine Quality
The northern provinces of Patagonia (Río Negro, Neuquén, La Pampa and Chubut) are considered today among the most favorable lands for wine making, and big Argentinian wineries have settled here with luxury projects.
With over 3700 ha (little over 9000 acres) of vineyards cultivated, the region knows harsh winters and cold summer nights. Wide temperature variations give aromatic wines with good acidity.
Grapes benefit from a long and slow-ripening season in Patagonia.
Vineyards are located between 300 and 500 meters above sea level in the higher lands, and the low latitudes allow for good temperature range that positively impacts the tannic structure of red wines. These characteristics bring Patagonia wines elegant flavors and unbeatable aromatic intensity, the key factors to their personality. They are crisp, expressive, fruity, refined wines with bright colors.
Patagonia enjoys continental, warm, semi-arid climate with less than 200 mm of annual precipitations in average. There is a remarkable temperature range during the ripening months, which develops special characteristics in red wines regarding aromas, acidity and colors.
Winegrowing also finds good conditions in the desert pampas area, where the dry continental and warm to cold climates present temperature ranges of 21 °C and annual precipitations around 200 mm. Due to the strong, dry winds, grapes thicken their skin as defense and health mechanism. As regards the sun, the high heliophany (hours of sunlight) favor the good ripening, producing intense aromas and colors.
In general, thanks to the climate, temperature range, strong winds and sunlight, winemakers obtain complex and ripe red wines of intense colors and great tipicity. As for whites, these develop good structure, complexity, natural acidity and aromas highlighting mineral notes
Grape Varieties Grown in Patagonia
But award-winning Malbecs are the great attraction for investors and consumers.
Today, with the global trends and consumers favoring Pinot Noir worldwide, Patagonia’s cool climate is vene more of an advantage for producing top-quality wine sfrom this grape..
Experts hold that short and medium-cycle varieties adapt better to Patagonia than long-cycle ones.
Because of this, the dominant grape varieties are:
- For whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillón, Viognier, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris.
- For reds: Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Grown in higher altittudes, on stony soils, with moderate irrigation and careful viticulture, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon can produce interesting fruity wines with attractive colors and refined tannins.
Soil Types & Topography
The landscape in the wine region of Neuquén presents plains at the foot of the mountains as well as high river terraces, whhile Río Negro extends over soft slopes topography.
In Río Negro, soils are desert-like. Here are found:
- Soils called bardas: made of different types of sand, sometimes thick and gravel-like, at the foot of elevations similar to cliffs originated by river erosion.
- Soils called media barda: made of different textures, ranging from slimy loam to loam and cover the middle part of the valley.
- Medium coastal soils: sandy loam and loamy sand textures in the transition area where rivers have their source.
- Coastal soils: sandy and of variable depth, in the left high riverbank (albardón).
A special soil feature in the lower valley of Neuquén river and Alto Valle de Río Negro is that at a depth from 40cm to 120cm (1 to 3 feet) is found a compact layer that limits roots development, increasing hydric stress.
Winemaking and Wineries
Patagonia combines traditional winegrowing practices such as those in Alto Valle de Río Negro with modern ones in Neuquén and La Pampa. (On this topic our fun Infographic: What you need to make wine, Modern Vs Traditional Winemaking).
Vineyards in Patagonia cover, proportionally, a larger surface than the national average given that young viticulture is practiced here, especially in Neuquén.
According to INV, there are 39 wineries in Patagonia
Most of these 39 wineries are small or boutique, but some are bigger (see list below). (Note: INV is the National Wine Organization).
Together they represent 4.4% of the number of producers in the country, they but only account for 1.1% of Argetina’s national wine output in volume.
|Number of WINERIES in PATAGONIA|
|Wineries||2015 production (Hl)||2015 average production (Hl) per winery|
|ARGENTINA||884||100.0%||13 361 964||100.0%||15 115|
|RIO NEGRO||26||2.9%||46 410||0.3%||1 785|
|NEUQUÉN||10||1.1%||93 048||0.7%||9 305|
|LA PAMPA||2||0.2%||4 287||0.0%||2 144|
|PATAGONIA||39||4.4%||143 745||1.1%||3 686|
Patagonia Wine Production by Grape Variety:
Malbec is the most cultivated variety, covering 30% of Patagonia vineyards and 2.6% in the country.
At the second place, Merlot, the oldest variety grown in the region, represents 14% of Patagonia vineyards and 9.4% in the country.
Cabernet Sauvignon takes 11% of the region and 2.6% nationwide.
Pinot Noir is grown on 382 hectares (943 acres) representing 11% of the region and 19% in the country, which evidences its great adaptation to the area and its attraction for investors.
The average exporting price of Patagonia wine is significantly higher than the national average, with higher costs of production, but also probably a higher average quality of wines.
Some of the top wineries in Argentina´s Patagonia Wine Region are listed below. Learn more about them following the provided links:
Check out our Reviews of Bodega Fin del Mundo wines
Bodega Humberto Canale
Technical Facts about Patagonia Wine Region
- Altitude: 300 to 500 meters above sea level
- Latitude: between latitude 38 and 39 degrees south
- Climate: continental, mild, dry, with strong winds
- Heliothermic index: 2576 in Neuquén and 2566 in Río Negro
- Cold night index: 11.3 °C in Neuquén and 8.9 °C in Río Negro
- Dryness index: -314 mm in Neuquén and -129 mm in Río Negro
- Maximum temperature in summer: 31.5 °C in Neuquén and 31.1 °C in Río Negro
- Temperature range: 16.4 °C in Neuquén and 18.2 °C in Río Negro
- Annual precipitations: 221 mm in Neuquén and 198 mm in Río Negro
- Sum of warm days: 2050 in San Patricio del Chañar (Neuquén) and Manqué (Río Negro)
- Winkler: IV
- Dominant soils: clay loam soils
Infographic Facts about Patagonia’s Sub-Regions
Infographic Image Source: WineofArgentina.org
Vineyard & Wines of Neuquén
Vineyard & Wines of La Pampa
Vineyard & Wines of Río Negro