Expert’s choice: South American Riesling
It’s beginning to flourish in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Patricio Tapia recommends his top 12
For most wine lovers there’s no natural association between Riesling and South America. For Riesling fans, the go-to places are Germany or Austria – or if they are forced to travel to the New World, perhaps Australia or New Zealand. South America can be the source of very good wines, but Riesling doesn’t generally spring to mind when thinking of this part of the world.
This is perhaps to be expected. In total, there are barely more than 500ha of Riesling in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay combined. The variety is thought to have arrived in those areas towards the second half of the 19th century, together with the first imports of European vines. Pioneers were the Cousiño family, who brought some plants from Rheingau in Germany and planted them on their farm in Macul, just outside Santiago. Today, much of the Riesling planted in Chilean soil is directly descended from that material, while CousiñoMacul continues to produce its classic Isidora, a Riesling that debuted half a century ago.
Chile is the main producer of Riesling in South America, with 412ha planted. It is followed by Argentina with 88ha and Uruguay with 5ha. But in all of these countries, Riesling is far from being the most-planted white variety.