Argentina & Sparkling Wine/Champagne

Argentina actually produces a lot of Sparkling Wine (Vinos Espumante), sometimes colloquially, but incorrectly, called Champagne.


Argentina produces a lot of wine, including plenty of very good wine. They are the world's 5th largest producer. It would make sense they might produce sparkling wines as well as still wines, but I had never seen an Argentine Sparkler before. In fact they do make a lot of sparklers, and they are very good and inexpensive. Since many new world places make sparkling wine, for example South Africa, it should be no surprise they do as well.

Argentinian wine started during the Spanish colonization, and the Spanish brought the first vines to Argentina is the mid-1500s. The vast majority of wine has always been consumed by Argentinians and quality was not the original focus. In fact most of the wine was considered unacceptable for export. Argentinians do drink a lot of wine, and in fact wine is their national liquor! In part due to a desire to export more wine, the quality of their wines has improved dramatically, and I'll often grab inexpensive to moderately priced whites and reds just to have some decent but not too serious drinking wine on hand (they do also make some very serious wines).

The major wine regions are in the foothills of the Andes in the west, and have a semi-desert climate. Temperatures tend to be very hot in the day and much much cooler at night. Most wines are grown in the Mendoza region, but there are several other important wine regions as well. Southern Patagonia with its cooler climate and chalky soils (sound like Champagne to me!) is the source for many of the grapes used in Argentine sparklers, which incidentally are all produced using the traditional Champagne method, or "Champenoise Methode."

Long ago many of the big Champagne Houses started producing sparkling wine in California. They are doing the same thing in Argentina!

Samuel Ward has a wonderful article in Good Morning Buenos Aires, where he lists the top ten sparklers from there. Click here for the article. No idea which of these wines may be available in your country, but the list includes Extreme Extra Brut and Henri Piper Extra Brut by Cave Extreme, Navarro Correas Nature, Montchenot Nature by Lopez, Eternum Brut Nature and Baron B Rose (both vintage wines) by Chandon, Bianchi Extra Brut, Baron B Rose, Cava privada de Bianchi Vintage Extra Brut by Bianchi, Trapiche Brut Nature, and Paul Caraguel Extra Brut.

Tasting Note: Alma Negra Rose 100% Malbec from Mendoza - August 2014, rated B+

A sparkling malbec? I hoped it was better than the sparkling shirazs I had long ago in Rutherglen Australia . . .

This bottle came the lovely Plates Neighborhood Kitchen in Raleigh, North Carolina and I drank in with proprietor Steve and perhaps his wife Latrine. I think I like it slightly better than their 100% Chardonnay below.

A copper color.

On the nose, a touch of apricot, with strawberry and cantaloupe.

The palate has nice sweetness, some strawberry, a little orange, and fresh white table grapes.

A slight cognac thing going on in the nose and mid palate which is very nice.


Alma Negra Sparkline Wine, Mendoza, ArgentinaTasting Note: Alma Negra 100% Chardonnay from Mendoza - March, 2013, rated B/B+

As mentioned above, 100% Chardonnay (hence a Blanc de blancs, although not labeled as such). They also make a sparkling malbec and a rose. I paid less than US$10 for this on sale from its normal price of US$20 - supposedly the bottle is undergoing a redesign and the distributer was dumping it at half price.

The nose starts with apple and poached pear and quickly adds orange and chalk. The nose is very nice and borders on captivating

The palate is lively, with apple, pear, minerals/chalk, and a hint of orange citrus. Very tasty indeed. There is a fruity vibrancy I love - I want to say "tutti-fruiti" which means "all fruits" in Italian and Finnish, but to many of us is a taste from our childhoods. An almost syrupy fruity quality, but not too sweet, too syrupy, or too concentrated/syrupy.