Argentina has built up a world-class wine industry, luring a flood of wine tourists, but boosting the quality quotient is still keeping its winemakers hard at work.
The century-old industry, with its heart in the Mendoza area in the southwest, has dramatically increased the volume of production in the past two decades and a few of Argentina's top malbec-based reds have drawn rave reviews worldwide.
"In the broad scheme of everything going on with wine around the world, we have a long way to go," says Martin Castro, who runs a vineyard in the Valle de Uco area in Mendoza, a parched, sunny province abutting the Andes.
"On top-end wines, we still have work to do to compete globally. But we definitely have a presence with malbec, which is well known," Castro stresses, referring to the variety used as a base grape in many meat-friendly local reds, one that used to be common in Bordeaux.
Argentina has become the world's number five producer, according to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). Meanwhile, it is the world's ninth ranked exporter and a big domestic consumer, the Argentine Wine Clearinghouse (OVA) says.
Castro and his partner Cristian Allamand, an agricultural engineer, are among those riding the wave. They oversee production at Bodegas Luminis, which in recent years has enjoyed phenomenal growth.
It is among the 900 or so wineries spread across more than 20,000 hectares in the area - one that also has attracted foreign capital such as France's Pernod Ricard, Chile's Trivento (Concha y Toro) and Portuguese Finca Flichmann.
"Aside from malbec, the most widely grown red variety in Argentina, there are many others that are doing well," Castro says.
Marcelo Pelleriti, the boss over at Monteviejo, says Argentina has plenty to be proud of, having won considerable renown for its malbec-based reds and their terroir.
Last year, the country's winemakers exported 365 million litres - up 17 per cent year on year - worth US$920 million, OIV data shows, with top markets being the United States, Canada and Russia.
"We have a way to go, when there are countries like France with 400 years of history and which can do very large volume as well as the higher end and pricier vintages," Castro says sounding hopeful, despite the world's cool economic growth. AFP