Uco Valley: The Next “Napa Valley?”
Many wine enthusiasts know that Argentina is a big name in the world of wine. It is the largest producer in South America, and one of the most significant wine nations in the new world.
It is no wonder why many wine lovers are willing to travel to Argentina to experience its food and wine lifestyle. Its list of stunning wineries, upscale restaurants, and majestic sightseeing spots makes it a haven for tourists.
However, Argentina would probably not have made it to the list of top wine-producing countries in the world if not for the region of Mendoza. Located in the western edge of Argentina, Mendoza is the largest wine region in the country, producing around 70% of the country’s total wine production. Mendoza’s open secret: the vast vineyards lying in Uco Valley.
The Rise to the Top
Uco Valley’s wine industry boomed only recently. The valley’s potential for winemaking was only tapped in the early 1990s when most were busy targeting more famous wine areas such as Lujan de Cuyo and East Mendoza.
Vineyards existed in Uco Valley since Italian and Spanish immigrants erected them in the 1920s, but wine production did not really took off because the region was too far from the wine warehousing and production facilities in Mendoza.
Uco Valley produce were only used to add color and acidity to wines. Production continued to decline from the 1970s to the mid-80s when flood irrigation presented a challenge, with former vintners planting tomatoes instead of Argentina’s signature varietal, Malbec. Fortunately for them, things were bound to look up.
It took Uco Valley 20 years to make its wine industry finally prosper. Thanks to its location, altitude, climate, and tourist appeal, Uco Valley is now home to some of the best wines from that side of the globe.
It is safe to say that wine tourism was gaining ground. A Spanish-owned winery in the area even began offering vineyard plots at a price of $150,000 per hectare.
Making Full Use of Favorable Conditions
Sitting on the southwest side of Mendoza, Uco Valley is at the foot of the Andes Mountains. The place enjoys a rather advantageous position, with the valley’s sub-region of La Consulta sitting at an altitude of 2,800 feet and Tunyan at 3,600ft. Moreover, the valley is situated at the 33°S latitude, meriting favorable conditions for viticulture.
The elevated plots experience high daytime temperatures and cool nights. As a result, the grapes bear balanced sugars and acidity, which allow them to reach phenolic ripeness. This relatively cool climate makes it possible for the region to produce fine Chardonnay and Torrontes.
Uco Valley soil has a clay base and a stony, sandy surface. The soils are built like natural irrigation and drainage systems, allowing excess water to exit and not drown the vines. The yields may not flourish in quantity, but the wines produced have a high flavor and astringency concentration.
The altitude, soil, and climate in Uco Valley give the region its potential to expand and to improve its viticulture. These 3 factors permit the region to produce high quality wines, particularly reds with distinct floral notes.
Varietals of note
Uco Valley wines are fresh and aromatic. Malbec, the most famous grape variety in Argentina, grows across 10,230 hectares in Uco Valley, making it the top varietal in the area.
Winemakers, however, are also increasing the production of other types such as Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Franc given Uco Valley’s favorable growing conditions. As a matter of fact, winemakers believe that if one picks the right soil type and altitude, any variety can grow in Uco Valley. Many viticulturists grew other varietals like Barbera, Chenin, Ugni Blanc, and Viognier, and they did so with agreeable results.
Meanwhile, the number of wineries is also increasing in the valley. From only three in the early 1990s, it now plays home to 76 wineries. Though it might appear like a small number, hundreds of brands have been established in the region. This number is expected to grow in the coming years.
The future of the Uco Valley wine industry is bright. With numerous tourists lining up to try their wines, food, and culture, it won’t be surprising if the place soon bears the same reputation as California’s Napa Valley.
As long as winemakers continue to explore its potential and take advantage of its altitude, climate, and soil, Uco Valley will be one of the most celebrated locales in wine trade. As it happens, you can try the valley’s most renowned wines at Singapore Wine Vault, along with other brands from all over the world.