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The Development of the Mendoza Wine Region (And the Influence Italian Wine Workers Had On it)

As lovers of all things to do with Italian wine, we must admit that our blog often has a bias towards the wonderful producers in our native country. We’re keen to introduce you to as many Italian wines, producers, and regions as we can in the pages of this blog as we truly believe that Italy stands atop the mountain when it comes to quality wine production.

However, we would be doing a disservice to the many hundreds of wine producers in other parts of the world if we were to claim that Italy is the only country to produce great wines.

The fact is that great wines come as much from the passion and hard work of the people making them as they do from the terroir. Wherever there is a wine industry, there are winemakers tirelessly working to create the best possible product for consumers.

Of course, we often think of countries like France, Spain, and the United States when we talk about wine industries outside of Italy. However, there are several South American countries that produce spectacular wines, with Argentina being chief amongst them.

So, in this article we will examine the most important winemaking region in Argentina. We’ll take in a little of its history, what it’s known for today, and even explore how Italian winemakers had an influence on it.

It’s time to visit the winemaking region of Mendoza.

The Mendoza Wine Region

Today, Medoza is the largest wine-producing region in all of Argentina. This single region is responsible for almost two-thirds of the wines to emerge from the country, with the red wines of Mendoza being particular favourites. The region is added by favourable terrain and climates, with many of its vineyards being planted hundreds of feet above sea level. And there is a tradition of winemaking that has led to Mendoza becoming the figurehead for a country’s entire industry.

But it wasn’t always this way.

In the 18th century, Mendoza was more well-known as an agricultural region, with a particular focus on the production of cereals. Many years before, the region had been colonised by the Spanish. And despite that country’s rich history with wine, those early colonisers perhaps saw the potential to create products that weren’t necessarily available in Spain or, perhaps more likely, that the local colonists would need to survive.

Thus, cereal became the name of the game for Mendoza.

Couple this with the mining industry in the region and there was perhaps little reason for anybody to explore the idea of making wines in Mendoza. Those who arrived could find work in either cereal or mining, so perhaps few saw the winemaking potential of the land. Even as more Italians began moving to the region in the beginning of the 19thcentury, Mendoza wasn’t in a position to develop its own wine industry.

However, a single event changed the region’s fortunes forever.

The Event That Changed Everything

In 1861, an enormous earthquake shook the foundations of Mendoza. 

In an instant, the entire cereal industry was sent to its knees. Struggling to recover in the aftermath, workers and business owners new that something had to change. Coincidentally, the mining boom that had led to many people emigrating to the country from Europe had also died done. As a result, Mendoza rapidly went from a region with two thriving industries to a region that had none.

Similar events in history have led to people leaving a region, never to return. But it appears the people of Mendoza were made of sturdier stuff. And in particular, the Italian immigrants who had arrived in the country saw the potential of a new product that Mendoza hadn’t created before:

Wine.

Though the region was devastated, it still had a healthy number of Italian workers and entrepreneurs who understood the potential of a wine industry and, as importantly, had the skills to rejuvenate the land and grow the vines needed to produce wine. Couple this knowledge with that brought over by the Spanish and French immigrants who had similar experiences and you had the seed of an industry that would soon start to grow rapidly.

Previously, the few Argentinian winemakers who operated in the region saw the concept of selling their products outside of their native country as an impossibility. But with the need for new industry growing alongside an increasing number of wine experts entering the country, Mendoza was now primed. With expertise and connections came a wine industry that quickly began to thrive. 

Combine this with the introduction of a Buenos Aires-Mendoza railroad in 1885 and you have a region that was in the perfect position to thrive once more.

Mendoza went from devastated cereal and mining region to thriving wine country in the space of a few short decades.

The Situation Today

As we mentioned at the top of the article, Mendoza is now Argentina’s leading wine-producing region. Were we to compare it to an Italian wine region, we could say it is the Tuscany or Piedmont of Argentina! When you buy an Argentinian wine, there is a very high chance that it comes from Mendoza, even if you’re not specifically looking for a wine from the region.

None of this would have been possible were it not for the indominable spirit of the amazing people who moved to the region in the 17th and 18th century. Where others might have moved back to Europe upon seeing their local industry devastated, these people saw potential in the land and worked hard to realize said potential. 

Mendoza is now known the world over as the region where you can enjoy wines made using the Cereza and Criolla Grande. Creative producers have also introduced more widely-known grape varietals, including Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The result is an industry that produces quality and variety.

In fact, Mendoza is so impressive that we have a number of the region’s wines in stock! Check out our catalogue of wine products from Mendoza and we’re sure you’ll be impressed.

HIGHLIGHT

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