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San Juan, A New Wine Region to Keep in Mind

At the foot of the Andes, the province of San Juan, the second most important area in Argentina’s wine industry, produces luscious Shiraz, Malbecs .

By Simone Zarmati Diament

North of Mendoza, the grape basket Argentina, and at the foot of the Andes, the province of San Juan is the second most important area in the Argentina wine industry* . The alluvial sandy and clayish permeable soils, natural irrigation by melting snow from the Andes, hot days and cold nights, dry and template weather and a height of 600 meters are ideal for the development of the great variety of grapes growing in the region since 1880.

From the start, Spanish, Italian and French immigrants settled in valleys like Tulum, Zonda, Ullum, Jáchal and Iglesia, located among the arid side of the Andes Mountains and irrigated by the Jáchal and San Juan rivers, introducing their traditions of winemaking to the region. And until recently a producer of table wines and bulk, spurred by the success of Mendoza’s wine industry, San Juan took the next step in winemaking.

Bodega Graffigna, a traditional winery founded in 1869, by Don Juan Carlos Graffigna, an Italian immigrant, in the fertile Tulum Valley, in the Province of San Juan, started investing in new technology as early as the 1980’s, planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnay, Chenin, Torrontés and Riesling, to the point of attracting the attention of the international group Allied Domecq who purchased Bodegas y Viñedos Santiago Graffigna S.A. in 2001.

From then on with state-of-the-art technological improvements both in the winery and in the fields, Graffigna’s production -- more than half of all wine made in San Juan -- went beyond the local market and is now being exported to more than 30 countries around the world including Brazil, the United States, England, Mexico, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Complex and powerful, the wines produced by Graffigna in the San Juan area, are long on taste and high on quality, ripe fruit with intense flavours and soft tannins — all of which adds up to great Shiraz, Malbec now available in the US.

The wines retails at $16 to $17 for the "G" ultra premium labels, and $9 to 11 for the Classic super premium wines.

Graffigna 'G' San Juan Malbec Pedernal Valley 2003
Delicious aromas of ripe plum fruit and currants complimented with a twist of spice. Graffigna's Malbec 'G' is beautifully round and full on the palate with subtle vanilla characters as a result of careful aging in American Oak.

Graffigna 'G' San Juan Syrah Pedernal Valley 2003
This single vineyard Syrah is distinctively rich and gamey on the nose with a hint of pepper and toast. A complex wine aged in French oak, Graffigna Syrah 'G' is firm in structure with fabulous ripe fruit flavors and great depth.

Graffigna San Juan Malbec 2004 ($10)
This dark red wine with a nose dominated by leather and earth and aromas of chocolate covered plums and ripe berries is soft yet lively and fleshy with a nice smoky, spicy finish.

Graffigna San Juan Shiraz 2004 ($10)
The Tulum Valley's outstanding conditions for growing the Shiraz grape are fully demonstrated in this wine. Graffigna Shiraz has rich berry fruit flavors and is full bodied with sweet, velvety tannins and a well balanced structure.

* According to the INV Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (National Institute of Viticulture) 147 wineries in San Juan produce about 4 million hectoliters per year while Mendoza produces 11 million hectoliters, and the third wine producing province, La Rioja, produces about 580,000 hectoliters.

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