Agrelo is a small wine-producing village about 20 miles (35km) south of the city of Mendoza in Argentina. Located on the southern side of the Mendoza River just south of Perdriel, the area is home to some of the country's most famous wine estates. Agrelo's terroir is considered to be some of the best in Mendoza for the production of big, complex red wines made from Malbec.
The village is located in the western foothills of the Andes mountains, and is a part of the Lujan de Cuyo department, an administrative title which handily covers some of the best viticultural land in Argentina. The wine-producing zone of Agrelo slopes upward from the town toward the Andes, with the highest (and most desirable) vineyards in the west reaching up to 3300ft (1000m) above sea level. The lower-lying eastern part of the area is closer to 3000ft (900m). Agrelo has a dry, desert-like climate due to its position in the rainshadow of the Andes.
The altitude in Agrelo, while not at the extreme of Argentinean viticulture, is sufficiently high to have a pronounced effect on the quality of the grapes grown here. At this height, sunlight is more intense than in lower-lying areas and so grapes have hot sun during the day to help them ripen. These warm, sunny days are followed by much cooler nights due to cold alpine winds that sweep down the western side of the perpetually snow-capped Andes. It is this diurnal temperature variation that is the star of Agrelo's terroir, extending the ripening period and balancing crisp acidity and complex flavors in the grapes.
The soils in Agrelo are generally sandy loam with a deeper layer of gravelly stones, made up from eroded, mineral-rich material from the slopes of the Andes. These soils have exceptional drainage, and careful irrigation during summer is an essential part of the viticultural process. Using drip irrigation, viticulturists are able to carefully control yield and vigor, and produce small berries with an excellent concentration of sugars, acids and tannins. The wines that result from these grapes are firmly structured, with great complexity.
Along with Malbec, excellent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc are produced in the region. Agrelo's position in the center of the larger Lujan de Cuyo region has led many of Argentina's top producers to base themselves in the zone. Bodega Septima and Pulenta Estate are here, as is Catena Zapata, with its iconic winery styled like a Mayan pyramid.