Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winnowing the Vines - The Growth of the Mendoza, Argentina Wine Industry - Introduction

December 2006
Swarthmore College
Buenos Aires, Argentina

In 1835, Charles Darwin laid eyes upon the spectacular Andes Mountains that lay before him. At the foot of the jagged, snow-capped ridges lay a small town named Mendoza. To many travelers, Mendoza looked like a paradise after the rugged two-week trek across the pampas from the European metropolis of Buenos Aires. Experienced explorer Darwin thought otherwise, “To my mind the town has a stupid, forlorn aspect to it…but, to those who, coming from Buenos Ayres, have just crossed the unvaried pampas, the gardens and orchards must appear delightful.”

Today, the canals and contrasting flora remain the only aspects that from the Mendoza Darwin first experienced. Twenty-first century Mendoza is home to a multi-billion dollar wine industry and its world renowned Malbec red wine. Geographically Mendoza is located in the western region of Cuyo, bordered by the Andes Mountains and Chile in the west. It is known for its dry, hot summers and mild, yet humid winters. For centuries, the natives to Mendoza have utilized the rainwater and melting snow that flows off the Andes Mountains for hydroelectric power and irrigation.

This paper will explore the evolution of the wine industry in Mendoza since its initial growth in 1880, with particular emphasis on the past 15 years. Although special attention will be paid to the impact of government institutions in the province of Mendoza, economic and historical factors will be explored as well.

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