Cristian Allamand makes wines from the historically most important grape growing sub-regions in Mendoza: the High Mendoza River and the Valle de Uco sub-regions. Today, it is fair to say that these are the two most important sub-regions for high quality grapes in Argentina.
Why do we think it is important to learn more about sub-regions in Mendoza?
Mendoza produces approximately 80% of the wine that Argentina makes every year. If you are having a wine from Argentina, chances are that wine was produced in Mendoza.
Furthermore, there are five different growing sub-regions producing high quality wines in Mendoza; each one with its own unique characteristics. Those of us who like wine with a sense of place and are making wines respecting the places where they come from know that wines coming from these different sub-regions within Mendoza are VERY DIFFERENT.
This is exactly why, we believe, it is important for any person approaching wine from Argentina to learn a little bit more about the macro characteristics of each sub-region in Mendoza in order to better appreciate and better understand the wines and the people that work behind them.
The five sub-regions in Mendoza are: High Mendoza River, Valle de Uco, Eastern, Northern, and Southern. Cristian Allamand cultivates vines in the two most important sub-regions in Mendoza: Finca Federico Villafañe, Finca La Esperanza, and Finca JP Calandria, all located in the Valle de Uco sub-region, and Finca La Lucita, and Finca de Joaquín Villanueva, both located in the department of Luján de Cuyo, part of the High Mendoza River sub-region.
The High Mendoza River sub-region
Historically, this is the most important fine wine sub-region in Argentina. It is currently suffering the impact of the urban development that comes attached with the not-very-well-planned expansion that the capital city of Mendoza along with Lujan de Cuyo and Maipu, are experiencing.
This viticultural sub-region stretches, west – east along de Mendoza River (the main irrigation source in the area), from the foot of the Andes at 1060 meters to the 650 meters above sea level. Soil and climate characteristics of this sub-region allow for the growth of very distinct fine wine grapes with an annual average temperature of 15 C.
The highest districts in the west of this sub-region: Vistalba, Las Compuertas, and Perdriel (all of them part of the department of Lujan de Cuyo, at aprox 1000 meters of altitude) are the coolest places the grow grapes and therefore have become the most sought after places to get grapes for fine wines in this sub-region.
As we move east from these districts, following the Mendoza river, altitude drops and average temperature increases, creating many different “terroirs” in the relatively very short distance of 20 km.
It is in the department of Lujan de Cuyo that Cristian manages two vineyards that are very representative of "micro-terroirs" in this sub-region: Finca de Joaquín Villanueva, in the district of Perdriel, and Finca La Lucita, in the district of El Carrizal.
This High Mendoza River sub-region encompasses 30,000 hectares planted to fine grapes with malbec being the most typical grape variety here. In this sub-region we can find 40, 60, and 80+ year old vineyards planted to malbec that represent a true viticultural treasure of the province.
Other grape varieties representative of this sub-region with the potential to show high quality wines are: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, and, to a lesser extent, tempranillo. On the white grapes side semillon shows very unique characteristics in the high altitude areas of this sub-region while chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are currently showing very good potential for white wines coming from this area.
Valle de Uco
Located between 80 km and 130km south-west of the city of Mendoza, this sub-region covers three departments of the province: Tupungato, Tunuyan, and San Carlos. The annual median temperature is 14.2 C. This valley presents altitudes from the 1400 m on vineyards planted at the foot of the Andes range all the way to 900 m on vineyards planted in the surroundings of the city of Tunuyan.
During the last 10 years, Valle de Uco has become the most important sub-region in Mendoza for high-quality wine related investments, presenting today approximately 20,000 hectares planted to mainly high quality varietals (both red and white). Historically, malbec and semillon were the traditional varieties found in Valle de Uco. Today, and due to the expansion the valley is experiencing, a myriad of fine wine grape varieties grows all across the valley.
The main characteristic of this sub-region, in general, is the high natural acidity that can be found in wines made from Valle de Uco fruit (hence, more aging potential.) As distinctive, and due to the high altitudes, wines from this valley also present very deep and intense colors. Particularly when talking about malbec, the evident and very characteristic floral (violet) aroma is also another distinction that the valley provides to its malbecs.
The most sought after districts/specific places that are currently producing very distinctive wines in this sub-region are: El Peral, in Tupungato, Altamira, a very small place within the district of La Consulta in San Carlos, Vista Flores, in Tunuyan, and Gualtayary in Tupungato.
In this high quality sub-region, Cristian Allamand makes wines from three different vineyards: Finca Federico Villafañe (in Altamira, a very small district within La Consulta, department of San Carlos), Finca La Esperanza (in Las Pintadas, department of Tunuyan), and Finca JP Calandria (in El Peral, department of Tupungato).
This sub-region starts 20 km East of the city of Mendoza and is responsible for most of the bulk wine produced in Argentina, encompassing 60,000 hectares of vineyards across four provincial departments: San Martin, Rivadavia, Junin, and Santa Rosa.
Altitudes in this sub-region range between 750 m to 640 m on the easternmost part of the valley. It is a warmer valley with a huge exposure to hail. Wines coming from this valley tend to be light in color and low in natural acidity. While of course there is a big portion of the vineyards in this sub-region planted to fine wine grapes, the main characteristic of this valley is the high-yielding grape varieties and the gigantic production of concentrated must and bulk wine.
This sub-region could be equated to a "lower Mendoza River" sub-region since it covers the low lands, to the northeast of the city of Mendoza, that are also irrigated by this river. It runs across five departments: Lavalle (15 km north of the city and the most important), a portion of Guaymallen (very close to the city of Mendoza), Las Heras, the northern part of San Martin, and the low lands of Maipu.
Altitudes range between 700 m and 600 m, producing wines that show similar characteristics to the ones produced in the Eastern Mendoza sub-region: low color and acidity.
Even though the sub-region produces red grape varieties like bonarda and syrah, this area is more widely planted to white grape varieties such as chenin blanc, pedro gimenez, ugni blanc, and torrontes mendocino.
This sub-region is located 200 km south of the city of Mendoza and stretches across two southern departments: mainly San Rafael, and to a lesser extent, General Alvear.
With approximately 25,000 hectares of vineyards and irrigation coming from two important rivers (Diamante and Atuel) this sub-region finds its highest altitude in Las Paredes at 750 m and its lowest in the area of General Alvear at 485 m.
The most important varieties found in this sub-region are: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, chenin, tocai friulano, semillon, and torrontés mendocino among the white varieties. On the red varieties spectrum the most important are: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, malbec, syrah, barbera D’Asti, and bonarda.