Argentine wine – the national liquor of Argentina
In November 2010, the Argentine government declared wine as Argentina´s national liquor.
Argentina is the 5th largest producers of wine, and became a notable exporter of wine in the final years of the 20th century. Previously, almost all wine produced in Argentina was also consumed there.
A majority of the wines exported from Argentina hails from the Mendoza province, but important wine regions are also found in the provinces San Juan, La Rioja, Salta, Catamarca, and Río Negro. More recently, even the Buenos Aires province has began creating some noteworthy wines.
The main wine regions of Argentina all enjoy high altitudes and low humidity, where vineyards are unlikely to run into any major problems with fungi, mold and other grape issues that thrive in humidity. This allows the vineyards to use no or very little pesticides, and some vineyards are even organic.
Even though Argentina did not become a notable exporter of wines until the 1990s, its history of viticulture goes back to 1556 when father Juan Cedrón established a vineyard here using cuttings from the Chilean Central Valley. These cuttings were the forerunners of the Criolla Chica variety that would come to comprise the backbone of Argentine wine production for the next 300 years.
Today, many different grape varieties are grown in Argentina, as various immigrant groups have introduced their own favourites over the years.
Mate – the national infusion of Argentina
In 2013, mate was declared the national infusion of Argentina through the passing of Law #26.871.
Mate is made by soaking the caffeine-rich dried leaves of the species yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) in hot water, and this drink has been consumed in parts of South America since time immemorial by certain indigenous people, including the Guaraní and the Tupí. The oldest known evidence of yerba mate cultivation are from a region that we today know as the Amambay and Alto Paraná departments of Paraguay.
Mate is typically served in a container made from a calabash gourd and drunk through a metal straw known as the bombilla. The dried leaves are either chopped or ground prior to infusion to make a coarse powdery preparation. The bombilla serves as both straw and sieve, since the liquid is filtered through small holes or slots in the bombilla. There is therefore no need to filter the mate before serving it. Historically, metal bombillas were used by the privileged classes, while the common people used less expensive materials.
According to Guaraní legend, the yerba mate plant is a gift from the Moon Goddess and the Cloud Goddess. One day, when they were both visiting Earth, an old man saved them from a jaguar who was about to attack them. As a show of gratitude, the goddesses gave the man a plant from which he could prepare a Drink of Friendship. Drinking mate is still very much a social event in South America, including Argentina, where a group of friends will drink from the same calabash gourd, taking turns to use the same straw.