The deeper understanding of place and terroir in Argentina has been a joy to watch unfold. The differences between subregions within the Uco Valley especially have become far clearer to see and have contributed to a giant leap forward in stylistic diversity. Plus, the shift towards a style of Argentinian winemaking that is less reliant on oak has meant that many of the wines tend to exhibit more purity and transparency.
The question of ageing potential and its link to oak usage is an interesting one. Some believe that oak is a prerequisite when it comes to ageability. I am not so sure. Certainly, the more sympathetic use of oak means that these wines offer more pleasurable drinking at an earlier age, because the oak tends to be better integrated (if used). But I do not think that the judicious use of oak will see a dip in ageing potential. Indeed, several Argentinian wines I sampled on a recent trip to the country were very suggestive of possessing an excellent capacity to age. This must be seen as a positive for drinkers and collectors.
Premium Argentinian wine is in a good place at the moment. Yes, the focus is on Malbec – and understandably so, given its immense success over the past 10-15 years. Yet Chardonnay continues to impress greatly and I fully expect to see more Argentinian Chardonnays considered alongside some of the best examples in the world. The wines offer good value for money, especially in the UK, where they are comparatively cheaper than in the US.
There has been a slight reduction in the use of (unnecessarily) weighty bottles, which has been good to see, yet it remains an issue. I also think work needs to be done to help consumers understand the different appellations more easily. But it is early days and this should happen with time. At the moment, the focus for producers is finding the places, understanding them and transmitting their message in the bottle. And with this, quite clearly they are already doing an excellent job.