Discovering the wine region of San Rafael
San Rafael is an Argentine wine region located in the very Center of the Mendoza province, roughly 200 kilometers (125 miles) South of the city of Mendoza. Although not on the scale of the Vineyard">Vineyards around Mendoza's main wine regions in the north-west of the province, the vineyards of San Rafael still cover almost 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres), which still represents 15 percent of Mendoza's plantings, and the wines make up for quantity through quality.
As expected Malbec is the primary grape variety here. Bordeaux-style blends are prominent among the region's most popular wines, and single-variety wines are also made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and, less commonly, Pinot Noir.
Bonarda (Charbono) is also grown but tends to feature in blended red wines. Chardonnay, Semillon and Torrontés feature among the white wine grape varieties.
The wine estates are to the south of the city of San Rafael where the Atuel and Diamante rivers make their way toward the Pampas Plain from the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The effects of altitude here are generally not as important as in the rest of Mendoza, with vineyards generally found between 500 and 700 meters (1600ft and 2300ft) above sea level.
While the alpine vineyards of Alto Adige in Italy are found at similar heights – this is relatively low by Argentine standards.
Despite its distance from the Andes in the west, San Rafael is still located within the mountain range's considerable rain shadow and has a semi-arid Climate as a consequence. At the same time rivers flowing down from the mountains provide plentiful snow-melt water for vineyard irrigation, which can be judiciously applied to limit the growth and vigor of the vine. The sandy, alluvial soils help in this regard as well; they are reasonably free-draining and cause the vines to develop Deep root systems.