For the last 20 years Pinot Noir, the lightest and silkiest of all the reds and most complex of wines, has steadily become a favourite in the country revered for its Malbec. The variety, also referred to as the Pinot Negro ('noir' being French for black) is grown all over the world, especially in the cold regions, and is associated especially with the Burgundy region of France. It is also a primary source worldwide for the making of sparkling wine (along with Chardonnay) as it is considered to be amongst the most elegant of grapes. Pinot Noir, though a difficult variety to grow and vinify, is present in most of the wine provinces of Argentina.
According to the Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (INV), there was a registered total of 1,996 cultivated hectares in 2021, which represents 0.9 per cent of all grapevines in the country. Mendoza is the province with the largest planted area of this variety with 1,463 hectares (73.3 per cent), followed by Patagonia with 18.3 per cent representing an increase in planted vines of approximately 10 per cent over the last decade. The skin of the grape is thin, containing low levels of phenolic compounds which allow it to produce wines with a light colour, medium body and few tannins. These wines also tend to have aromas of red fruits, such as cherries, raspberries, and strawberries when young.
In 2021, 48 per cent of this wine variety was exported with the remaining 52 per cent supplying the domestic market, its total production exceeding 37,000 hectolitres of both pure Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir wine blends. Argentina earned approximately US$9.6 million from its primary markets, by quantity, which include the United States, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Denmark. Pinot Noir is a favourite for elaborating sparkling wines, due largely to its good acidity levels, medium body, and firm structure which combine to achieve what is sometimes referred to as the most elegant of inks. The Argentine strain, which dates back to 1910, is widely used globally for sparkling wines due to its great concentration, as a result of the number of hours of light, the thermal amplitude and the type of soil, making it particularly different, and desirable, from other strains.
Despite its relatively small production, when compared to the mammoth Malbec, the quality of the wines produced from the Burgundian grape is finding favour amongst wine lovers the world over. Today we explore some of the best Pinot Noir varietals produced in the Mendoza and Patagonia vineyards of Argentina.
Lui Single Vineyard Pinot Noir de La Carrera is 100 per cent Pinot Noir and produced from vineyards located 1,500 metres above sea level in the Valle de Uco sub-region of Mendoza. This wine, which scored 91 points and a silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) in 2022, has a soft and delicate red-violet colour. On the nose it has aromas of red fruits and raspberry accompanied by mineral notes while on the palate, it is light and fluid in body, with medium tannins and good acidity.
The wine is produced by garage winery (read: very small wine production) Lui Wines, who are also producers of a rosé with their Pinot Noir grape: the Lui Wind Blend Rosé 2021. Made up of 60 per cent Pinot Noir and 40 per cent Malbec, this variety is a brilliant light pink, soft and feels like strawberries, cherries and sour cherries on the nose. In the mouth it is balanced and fresh with a vibrant finish on the palate.
Otronia Pinot Noir is a distinctive Pinot Noir character, with scents of cherry and raspberry fruit combined with herbal and floral notes. It has an elegant structure, with delicate tannins and refreshing natural acidity giving the wine depth and vibrancy in the mouth. This wine, by Bodega Otronia, scored 92 points at the 2022 DWWA and is a 100 per cent Pinot Noir produced in the Patagonia region in southern Argentina, an area known for its extreme cold weather. The bodega also produces the Otronia 45 Rugientes Pinot Noir, a wine that is a mixture of different batches of Pinot Noir from different blocks.
Each batch is made separately from 100 per cent Pinot Noir and then assembled in search of the best combination that manages to enhance the character of the Sarmiento terroir and the elegant and delicate profile of the Pinot Noir. The resulting wine is a delicate ruby red colour, with violet reflections, that expresses aromas of cherries and strawberries combined with spicy notes of black pepper, cinnamon and mineral touches. In the mouth it is characterised by its freshness and delicacy in a very complex, medium structure, that is elegant and fine. Otronia 45 Rugientes Pinot Noir also scored 92 points at the 2022 DWWA.
Hermandad Winemaker Series Pinot Noir is produced 11 metres above sea level by Falasco Wines from vineyards located in the Los Chacayes area of Tunuyan in the Uco Valley sub-region of Mendoza. Winner of a silver medal, this wine received a score of 92 points at the 2022 DWWA, placing it among the ranks of the three previous award-winning varietals featured today in these pages. This cherry red-coloured wine, which was aged in second-use French oak barrels for 9 months, bears aromatic notes of ripe cherries and strawberries with subtle spicy notes. It has good acidity in the mouth providing a freshness mixed with rough-textured tannins accompanied by a persistent finish.
Argentine Pinot Noir is the silent rising star of South America, producing great wines to be discovered and enjoyed in various styles from various regions. In Neuquén, a bastion of Patagonian wine, the Pinot Noir achieved is concentrated and fleshy, the product of a sunnier climate. In Rio Negro, their grape is from older vineyards dating as far back as 1932 and considered to be amongst the jewels of the Patagonian region. While in Mendoza, the Pinot Noir created elaborates a very fine but lush style, combining height, cool weather and good sunshine to give rise to intense exponents with fruity profiles, earthy tones, truffles and fungi.
Regardless of the region in which they're produced, Pinot Noir from Argentina offers its own distinctive styles and flavours to delight an ample range of palates. Salud!