Pascual Toso Chardonnay 2003
About the Region
Like its neighbor, Chile, Argentina has become known in the international marketplace for a red wine based on a minor grape variety used in Bordeaux. For Chile, that's carmenère; for Argentina, the grape is malbec, important in the southwestern French region of Cahors but peripheral to most Bordeaux blends. Malbec produces dark, smooth, intense wines characterized by ripe fruit and firm tannin. Cabernet sauvignon also does well in Argentina, as do merlot, syrah, and pinot noir. A minor cultivar from France's Savoie, called bonarda (charbono in California), is also grown, though it is losing popularity, and Spain's tempranillo has a presence. The most popular Argentinian white wine internationally is the fragrant, fruit torrontés, but there is also considerable muscat, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc, among other varieties. The most widely planted white variety is pedro giménez (not the pedro ximénez of Spain, though it may be related), but wines from the grape aren't bottled varietally for export. The best-known wine region in Argentina — which is the world's sixth largest wine-producing country (after Italy, France, Spain, the U.S., and China, in that order) — is Mendoza, near the Andes in the west-central part of the country. Red wines do particularly well here. San Juan and La Rioja, north of Mendoza, have had success with both white and red wines and San Juan produces fortified wines and brandy of some repute. The so-called Northwestern regions yield particularly rich torrontés, and good cabernet sauvignon (there are also plantings of tannat, a Southwestern French grape that has become the signature red variety of neighboring Uruguay). In far southern Argentina, in Patagonia, with its cool climate, chardonnay and pinot noir are the stars.