The Uco Valley: The Napa Valley of Argentina
While I dislike general comparisons, sometime they serve to create links for those unfamiliar with a topic. The Uco Valley probably fits into this category for many wine enthusiasts and both of these regions share a huge commonality.
While the Uco Valley is larger than Napa Valley both in size (about 45mi/15mi vs. 30mi/5mi) and planted vineyard area (61K acres vs. 46K acres), they share a long history of viticulture dating back to the late 19th century. However, the key attribute both have in common is that winemakers have flocked to both regions in search of cooler temperatures relative to the 'traditional' growing regions in each country.
'Modern' Napa Valley begins in the mid 1960's and parallels the story of Robert Mondavi, who sought to produce more elegant and European-styled wines compared to the more commercial wines of the rest of the state, which was centered in the sweltering Central Valley of California. Most are familiar with the 1975 Judgement of Paris, where CA wines (Napa Valley-based) bested those of France. Now, Napa Valley is synonymous with quality wine.
Starting in the late 1980's, the Uco Valley became a destination for winemakers looking for cooler growing conditions due to its high altitude (3k-5k fasl). The cooler climate, like Napa, affords a longer growing season. This allows for longer hang times and better ripening of tannins and other polyphenols/flavonoids in red grapes, producing wines with mature, round tannins and increased flavor depth and complexity. Not only this, but cooler temperatures also slow the loss of acid in the grapes, providing finished wines with better balance.
Complexity and balance, hallmarks for every world-class wine and why the Uco Valley will become as iconic a wine region in Argentina as Napa Valley is in the USA.