In my quest to become a Sommelier, I have just recently studied wines from Chile & Argentina, and let me tell you… you can discover some beautiful wines at very reasonable prices.
Let’s start with Chile. Although wine has been made in Chile for 500 years, the wine industry is young and fresh. They did get a burst of international attention in the mid-19th Century when Phylloxera devastated the vineyards in France. French wine makers came over looking for work and Chile welcomed them with open arms. It wasn’t long before Chilean wine was wanted locally and abroad. However, with 2 World Wars and decades of state protectionism, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Chile started to enjoy a resurgence. Chile now exports wine to 100 countries and there are some beautiful wines available from this country.
Here’s a Pinot Noir I had the other evening. First time ever trying a Pinot Noir from Chile and I really enjoyed it. There was a time wine-drinkers would tell you to stay away from a Pinot Noir under $20, however, this one is only $18.99 and it’s a beautiful expression of a Pinot Noir. From the Casablanca region of Chile (isn’t that a romantic name for a wine region), it is medium-bodied with notes of cherry and delicate spices. It is aromatic and food friendly and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Three of the biggest names in Chile are Concha Y Toro, Errazuriz and Santa Rita. The Casillero del Diablo wine is the mainstay of the winery Concha y Toro, and has a fabulous story. The rumor that the wine cellar was haunted by the devil gave this wine its unique name and now comes in 10 different varieties. The Merlot, which is pictured here, along with the Carmenere from Errazuriz, has a unique history in Chile as well. Carmenere was once mistaken for Merlot, even though it looked different and ripened 2 – 4 weeks later than Merlot. These two varietals were harvested and bottled together, which sometimes gave Chilean Merlot a green unripe taste. In 1994, through DNA testing, Carmenere was identified as a varietal on its own. Now Chilean Merlot, like this one from Concha Y Toro, is smooth and rich with lush flavors of plums, black cherry and chocolate. Carmenere is now known as Chile’s grape, never finding its proper home in Bordeaux France. The Errazuriz Carmenere elicits gorgeous flavors of dark fruits, coffee and spice. And both of these wines are under $20!
According to legend, 120 patriots, exhausted after a long, hard battle during the fight for Chile’s independence, reached the land belonging to Santa Rita. On that fateful night in 1814, these forces of liberty found refuge in the estate cellars. The Santa Rita Chardonnay sells for under $17 where I live, and is a full-bodied beauty with flavors of vanilla and tropical fruits.
Separated by Chile by the majestic Andes Mountain Range, Argentina is the biggest wine producer in South America and the 5th largest in the world. You cannot talk about wine in Argentina, without talking about Malbec. It is the flagship of wines in Argentina and the biggest producer of Malbec in the world. Originating in Bordeaux, it was used to pigment wines, but it has a starring role in Argentina.
This Norton Privada Malbec is a big winner in my eyes. This is a big bold full-bodied wine. Full of ripe fruit and bold spice, this baby can take on any grilled meat, steak or roast. This wine was made for beef.
Of the 210,000 hectares of vines planted in Argentina, 156,000 of them are planted in the region of Mendoza. The biggest wine region in Argentina, offers a wide variety of wines, and again Malbec shines. This Catena Malbec is gorgeous, dark and rich. Spice, chocolate and vanilla flavors complement this wine, and again it’s under $20.
Chile and Argentina offer a wide variety of delicious wines in both red and white. I didn’t even get to discuss Brazil. Check it out at your favorite wine store and discover a whole New World of wine!