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The Uco Valley - Napa of South America

The Valley de Uco is a wine region southwest of Mendoza, Argentina.  Although vineyards have been planted in the region since the early 1900s, a resurgence driven largely by foreign investment has led many to call the Uco the “Napa Valley of South America”.  In the shadow of Mount Tupungato (21,555 feet), and Tupungatito (19,700 feet) an active volcano that last erupted in 1987, the Uco Valley is perched at an elevation that ranges from 2,500 to over 4,000 feet.  These high elevations provide a wide variation in daily temperatures.  The intense heat of the day produces grapes that yield deep color and aromas.  The cool night time temperatures slow the ripening process allowing for the development of ample acidity.

Mount Tupungato
Mount Tupungato

The Valley is home to some very prestigious vineyards and wineries with investment from the likes of Tuscan winemaker Alberto Antonini (Altos Las Hormigas), Californian Paul Hobbs (Riglos, Bramare, Finca 8) and Frenchman Michel Rolland (Clos de Los Siete, a project involving 7 French wine proprietors).  Argentines too have a strong presence including Catena Zapata and Trapiche.

The Wines of the Uco Valley

Although Malbec is the most widely planted grape variety in the Uco Valley, the near ideal growing conditions are leading vintners to add to their repertoire.  Vineyard acreage is now dedicated to Semillon, Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Torrontes, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Although the Uco Valley has a relatively small number of wineries, a far greater number of producers source their grapes from within the regions borders.  Some of the producers that export to the United States and their wines include:

Finca Flichman – Paisaje de Tupungato (Landscape of Tupungato).  A delightful Bordeaux style blend of Malbec (70%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) and Merlot (5%).

Bodega Catena Zapata – Look for Catena Alta Chardonnay and the Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard Malbec both sourced from the Adrianna Vineyard, 4,800 feet up in the foothills of the Andes west of Tupungato.

Alamos – Another brand of Bodega Catena, Alamos makes a 100% Malbec and a 100% Chardonnay from grapes grown in vineyards in the Uco Valley.  Alamos is produced in large quantities and distributed by E. & J. Gallo in the United States making it widely available.

Achaval Ferrer – Winemaker Roberto Cipresso crafted this Malbec using grapes from 14 acres of 80 year old vines in La Consulta region of the Uco Valley.  With less than 1,200 cases of the 2009 release produced, you might have to work to find this wine.

Altos Las Hormigas
Altos Las Hormigas

Riglos – The South American extension of U.S. producer Paul Hobbs, Riglos wines are sourced exclusively from their estate vineyard Finca Las Divas in the Uco Valley.  Riglos makes three wines, a Malbec, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend comprised of 70% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, known as Gran Corte.

Trapiche – As Argentina's largest exported premium wine label, Trapiche products are widely available in the United States and around the world.  Look for their line of single vineyard Malbecs, representing the selection of the three best Malbec wines of each harvest.  In 2008 all three wines contained at least a portion of their grapes from the Uco Valley: Vina Cristina Y bibiana Coletto, Vina Federico Villafane, and Viina Jorge Miralles.

Grape Growing in the Uco Valley

The Uco Valley runs north to south, 42 miles long and 24 miles wide, and is carved by the Tunayan and Las Tunas Rivers.  The town of Tupungato marks the northern end of the valley, and San Carlos the southern terminus. The region covers 57,800 acres of vineyards and includes three sub-regions (from north to south) – Tupungato, Tunuyan, and San Carlos.  Known for its high elevation, the northern end of the valley approaches 4,000 feet above sea level.

The climate is continental, with a long growing season (250+ days a year).  The average temperature is 57 degrees F and with rainfall less than 10 inches per year access to the Andes runoff is critical for the vineyards.  With the occasional exception of spring hailstorms, the grape growing conditions of the Uco Valley combine to approach ideal.

Beautiful scenery, world class wines, a budding tourism industry, world renown winemakers, and ideal climate are all combining in this small valley.  As the vines age, and the variety of wines increase, this hidden gem may well become the Napa Valley of South America.

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·  Wine Labels from Argentina
·  San Juan - Home of the Zonda
·  Malbec - The Happy Transplant
·  Argentina - Pampas and Patagonia
·  Mendoza


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