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The Argentinian Vineyard: Introduction

In addition to its work on co-ordinating and supervising many aspects of the Argentinian wine industry, The Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura (INV) maintains and publishes a database of grape and wine production, as well as sales and exports.  These data are detailed for the late 20th and 21st centuries, and more basic for the period from 1936 – 1990.  Nevertheless, taken together they help elucidate a number of interesting long-term trends in Argentina’s more recent wine history.

Evolution of the Argentinian Vineyard, 1936 – 2011

The development of the Argentinian vineyard since 1936 has been dominated by Mendoza province.  Mendoza is far and away the most important province for viticulture and changes in its vineyard area largely account for growth patterns of the total Argentinian vineyard.  Post-WWII domestic demand fuelled rapid vineyard expansion, until a peak vineyard area of 320,000 ha was reached in 1980.   This was followed by catastrophic decline through the 1980s as many vineyards were abandoned and a number of wineries were forced out of business.  By 1992 the National vineyard area stabilised at just over 200,000 ha and the early 21st century has seen modest increases with the 2011 figure being 217,750ha.

The total number of vineyards since 1936 shows a similar pattern to the total vineyard area.  A peak of nearly 53,000 vineyards was reached in 1980, followed by a sharp decline through the 1980s.   During the 1990s the number of vineyards was still declining but the total vineyard area was roughly stable.  Then in the 2000s the number of vineyards was stable at around 26,000, but the total vineyard area was still able to increase.  These changes are accounted for both by a reduction of the large number of very small (<1 ha) vineyards and an increase in the small number of large (>100 ha) vineyards.

Changes in Vineyard colour, 1990-2011


Apart from the trend towards larger vineyard size, the past twenty years has witnessed dramtic changes in the varietal content of the National vineyard. The area of white varietals has decreased slowly from 60,000 ha to 43,000 ha.  By contrast, the area given over to red varietals has more than doubled and now accounts for just over 100,000 ha.  Pink varieties such as Criolla Grande and Cereza have declined sharply from 100,000 ha to 55,000 ha, reflecting the drive towards improving the quality of the Argentinian National vineyard.