Argentina is one of the world's biggest wine-producing countries by volume. Until the end of the 20th century, almost all Argentine wine was made for domestic consumption. Over the last 20 years, however, the country's wine producers have raised quality levels and successfully consolidated an international export market. The country's most widely grown grape variety, Malbec, has played a dominant role in winning worldwide acclaim for Argentina's wines.
As a result of the changes, there are a number of developing wine regions, including Jujuy in the far north and Neuquen in the far south, separated by more than 1250 miles (2000 km). The official names and boundaries are also changing year by year, as market forces and emerging regions change the shape of Argentina's wine map. In 1993, Lujan de Cuyo in Mendoza became Argentina's first officially recognized controlled appellation.
Argentina's geography includes high altitudes and semi-desert landscapes. The majority of the country's vineyards are located around dry, mountainous areas. High altitude and low latitude lead to increased sunshine levels and higher diurnal temperature variation – ideal for developing balanced sugars and acidity in grapes.
Thanks to its topography, Argentina is home to some record-holding vineyards. Many share latitudes with the Egyptian desert and the southern tip of Baja California. A world-topping vineyard owned by Bodega Colome sits at 9900ft (3000m), higher than the peak of Mount St. Helens in the Pacific Northwest of America.
In addition to its physical features, Argentina is also affected by 'La Zonda' – a warm, dry wind that sweeps down from the hillsides. While the damage done by the 25-mph (40-kph) wind can be substantial, it also aids viticulture significantly, as it lessens the risk of vine disease and brings warmth to high-altitude zones.