Patagonia is Chile's and the world’s southernmost winegrowing region. It is primarily a desert and viticulture is only possible here thanks to irrigation using the a pure melt water from the Andes. There are three winegrowing provinces: Rio Negro is the most established, followed by Neuquén and, more recently, La Pampa.
Patagonia has a very old, yet little known, viticultural tradition. It was one of the first locations selected in Argentina by the pioneers and immigrants on the XIX century, due to excellent conditions to produce high quality grapes for wine production. The later boom of local mass wine consumption (that reached its peak with 90 litres per capita in 1970) encouraged producers to move into northern locations with higher yield production and better transportation facilities (railroad to Buenos Aires, the main area of consumption). The viticultural potential of Patagonia was therefore kept almost unexploited for many years, till the Argentine reconversion to high quality wines in the eighties and nineties.
The warm days and cold nights, thanks to the desert conditions (and altitudes of 1,300ft to 1,500ft in Rio Negro and Neuquén) results in an extended growing season, allowing the grapes to become fully ripe whilst retaining refreshing acidity and varietal character. The newest province, La Pampa, is a gentle desert plain with narrow, fan-shaped valleys between 130ft to 330ft above sea level. Irrigation is essential with only 150mm to 200mm rainfall per year.
The resultant wines are light and elegant - a far cry stylistically from their Mendoza counterparts. Pinot Noir is particularly successful but refreshing, fragrant Malbec, Syrah and Bordeaux varieties have great appeal, as well as pure, mineral Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling.