Heading South – Argentina and Chile

Are you looking for good value when you shop for wine?  If you are then one of the best aisles in the wine store is the one with the wines of Argentina and Chile. They are probably best known for some prominent reds – from Argentina it’s Malbec and from Chile it’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

Let’s start with Argentina – cue the tango music (I see that great scene from Scent of a Woman with Pacino – hoo-ah! Here’s a link for you to enjoy Scent of a Woman Tango

The world owes Argentina a high five for Malbec.  This was a grape that basically was used in the Bordeaux blend and, except for the French region of Cahors, there wasn’t much attention being paid to it.  But Argentina embraced it and the inky dark, concentrated and highly drinkable Malbec literally exploded onto the world wine stage.  These are really good wines that have become an everyday staple for me. I love their versatility and I love the price!  They’re a terrific match with grilled meats or to just sit back and sip.  But Argentina is more than Malbec, there’s very nice Cabernet Sauvignon on the shelves and more and more Syrah and Bonarda among the reds. There’s a white wine called Torrontes that is fresh, floral and tasty as well as some Califonia-esque Chardonnay.

Chile is like Bordeaux transplanted to a more predictable climate.  Chilean Cabernet is definitely “new world” in it’s fruit driven style and you don’t have to wait to enjoy it. But it also strikes me as a bit more earthy than California or Australia.  So there remains a hint of “old world” traditionalism that seems to come through.  Then there is Carmenere.  It just might be that Chile will be the rescuer of Carmenere.  This is another somewhat ignored grape of Bordeaux and the south of France that is getting a lot of attention in Chile, while in France the vines are being pulled out and replaced with more well-known varietals.  So Carmenere may become as ubiquitous for Chile as Malbec has for Argentina.  Try some… it’s got a dark and fruity flavor with an almost smokey character that to me is like a rustic version of Merlot.  And the Chilean climate, which is a lot closer to California’s than France’s, is ideally suited to lots of wine varieties.  Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay – are all are being grown there.

While I am sure that the wine producers of both Chile and Argentina would prefer it otherwise, these are generally wines that carry modest prices and deliver a lot of bang for the buck.  I’m getting psyched just writing this so I think I’ll pop over to the wine store and pick up a few to have on hand.  Here are some I like that you may want to try:

Everyday Sip
2013 Susana Balbo Crios Torrontes $14
“I’ll have a glass of white.”

2013 Altos los Hormigas Malbec $11
Simple and straightforward.

2012 Terrazas Reserva Malbec $20
Consistently my personal favorite Malbec.

La Posta Tinto $14
A “field blend” of Malbec, Syrah and Bonarda that’s ideal to have around the house.  Cheeseburger wine!

2012 Norton Privada $20
Always yummy and full bodied Malbec, Cab and Merlot blend.

2011 Montes Alpha Carmenere $18
A little pricey but a flavor burst

2012 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Calachagual Valley $17
Ripe and ready – my go to Chilean Cab.