Syrah is the most widespread Mediterranean variety you’ll find in Mendoza, making up almost 10% of the planted red grape varieties. However Syrah isn’t the only grape associated with the Rhone that is making waves in Mendoza today - there’s an exciting new undercurrent of Mediterranean varieties emerging including Garnacha (Grenache), Monastrell (Mourvedre), Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.
One of the pioneers of the GSM blend in Mendoza was Dr Revana who planted the varieties in 2008 in his Corazon del Sol winery in the Winemakers Village at The Vines. “On my first visit to Uco Valley with winemaker Santiago Achaval, we visited a dry river bed at the western edge of Tunuyan - It was unlike any other site I’ve ever seen, 1,100 meters in elevation on a giant colluvial pile of rounded stones and boulders.”
“The raw land reminded me of some famous vineyards in the south of France, and we began to imagine the potential of this area as a high elevation version of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. If you look at where the varieties of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre produce the most compelling wines, you see similar climatic traits; copious sunshine, arid weather, and warm climates. The potential of these varieties in Mendoza is immense!”
His GSM blend has been a hit with the wine club ever since, and is possibly the wine Corazon del Sol is best known for today.
Santiago Achaval was similarly convinced by the potential of Mendoza for warm-weather Mediterranean varieties, and produced a co-fermentation of the three well known Rhone white wine varieties: Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne.
Perhaps the greatest advocate of using Mediterranean varieties today is the new winery Ver Sacrum which came onto the scene in 2012 producing Garnacha, Monastrell and Syrah as varieties and blends. At first the group of winemaking friends sourced old vine Garnacha and Monastrell in Maipu and East Mendoza, but today they also have new vineyards planted in the Uco Valley where they produce a white blend of Marsanne-Roussanne along with the red Mediterranean varieties (and some Nebbiolo!)
The critical praise of their wines has spurred more interest in Mediterranean varieties in Mendoza: “It’s only the most curious of consumers that are tempted to try it,” says Eduardo Soler, one of the founders of Ver Sacrum. “But once they do try it, they are convinced. There are some other wineries already starting to plant Garnacha [at the moment there’s only 24 hectares left in Argentina!] and they are watching very closely what we’re doing… I think that with climate change and other factors, Mediterranean varieties have a great future.”
While Mediterranean varieties - outside of Syrah - still form a minuscule fraction of Mendoza’s planted hectares, they are certainly having their moment in the sun. “The interest for varieties in the Southern Rhone has become very attractive in Mendoza,” says Mariana Onofri, Wine Director at The Vines of Mendoza who also makes her own Grenache wine. “The fact Mendoza is dry and we share similar climatic conditions, vines express a very nice adaptation proving beautiful results. Although it is a niche market, I see a very nice future for Mediterranean varieties in Mendoza.”
Mendoza-grown Mediterranean varieties to try:
- Corazón del Sol, Luminoso
This tasty GSM blend takes on a rich and perfumed style with red berry notes, a long finish and smooth tannins. Available to buy through the Corazon del Sol wine club.
- Ver Sacrum, Geisha de Jade
A very exotic and aromatic Marsanne-Roussanne blend, this white wine has attractive floral, honey, hay and ripe orchard fruit notes. Available in the US through Brazos Wine Imports and available in Argentina.
- Ver Sacrum, Garnacha
This is a light and juicy style of Garnacha that shows the perfume and floral notes of the variety and has a crunchy and fresh mouthfeel, which invites you to finish the bottle immediately! Available in the US through Brazos Wine Imports and available in Argentina.
- Ver Sacrum, Monastrell
There may only be 20 hectares of Monastrell in Argentina, but this wine proves how exciting it can be - spicy, herbal, fresh and juicy! Available in the US through Brazos Wine Imports and available in Argentina.
- Ver Sacrum, GSM
The darkest of the Ver Sacrum trio, this wine blends juicy Garnacha, spicy Monastrell and the fruit concentration and perfume of Syrah. A lovely blend. Available in the US through Brazos Wine Imports and available in Argentina.
- DV Catena, Malbec-Garnacha
This wine blends Malbec from the Uco Valley with Garnacha from Rivadavia in an adventurous and fruity blend. Available in the US and Argentina.
- Onofri Wines, Garnacha
As part of her Alma Gemela range, Mariana Onofri produces this boutique Garnacha wine with her husband and winemaking brother. Available at The Vines of Mendoza in Argentina.
- Uco´s Playground, GSM
This wine from the co-founder of The Vines of Mendoza, Michael Evans, reflects the versatility of Chacayes and the Uco Valley. Available at The Vines of Mendoza in Argentina.