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    5-min Quick Guide to South American Wine | Watson's Wine

    5-min Quick Guide to South American Wine

    Wine Knowledge

    When looking for wines which have great value for money, the South Americans are surely the best choice to drink! Stereotyped on the lower string in list, it is not until recent years the region has rose to fame, gaining enormous popularity and becoming highly sought after. With a unique terroir, continuously improving winemaking technology and relatively affordable costs, wine lovers are pampered with their relatively affordable yet high-quality collection.

    Wine production in South America mainly happens in Argentina and Chile. Although the 2 countries are adjacent to each other, separated by the Andes, the terroir and styles of the two are indeed a far cry from one another.


    Argentine Wine

    Argentina is the 5th largest wine producing country in the world. Historically, wines were produced to meet local needs, hence a varying quality. Until the 1990s, to promote wine export business, many wineries with quality comparable to traditional winemaking countries flourishes, gradually bringing high-quality Argentine wines to the world stage.

    Keywords for Argentina: High Altitude, Old Vines

    The hot and dry climate in Argentina has posed a great challenge for vine growth, but at the same time, has brought up the most special cultivation method, High-Altitude Plantation. Where wineries are setting up vineyards on high-altitude mountains, some of which can even reach as high as 5,000 feet above sea level. The higher the altitude, the lower the temperature, ripening period of vines are then prolonged, further developing complexity in wines. Generally, wine produced at lower altitudes tends to taste more mature; whilst those produced at higher altitudes will be purer and more intense in style and carrying prominent floral aromas and multiple flavours.

    Furthermore, most of the best quality products in Argentina are made from old vines, which have low yield but capable in absorbing more nutrients that brings complex flavors to grapes. So, when choosing Argentine wine, vineyard altitude and age of the vines would definitely worth your attention.

    argentina

    Argentina Super Star Grapes: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Torrontes

    Malbec Grapes

    Malbec is the most popular grape variety in Argentina without a doubt. Originated from France then brought to Argentina in the 19th century, it has taken root and flourished in the Mendoza as the “National Grape”. Since then, Mendoza Malbec has become synonymous with Argentine wine in many people’s heart. Argentine Malbec possesses a strong and unrestrained aroma of black fruits and flowers, which is scrumptiously attractive because it is big in body. Through winemaking techniques to neutralize tannins and alcohol, wineries could elegantly present the charm of their “National Treasure”. The bestof  is commonly found in high-altitude vineyards mentioned above. Cooler the weather, larger the diurnal temperature variation and higher ultraviolet rays, all these factors add up and allow Malbec to present in “elegancy in cool”.

    Whereas the international icon Cabernet Sauvignon also has a very good performance in Argentina, local dry weather turns out to be very suitable for its growth. Likewise to Malbec, the Argentine Cabernet Sauvignon has a prominent fruity aroma and delivers a full palate that comes between the thickness between Bordeaux and California’s Napa Valley, slighter fuller than Bordeaux, but more subtle than Napa Valley. Many famous Argentine wineries produce world-class products, which is capable to compete with Napa Valley or France in the world competitions. Just like the trailblazing Catena Zapata , as a pioneer in high-altitude planting in Argentina, their flagship wine, Nicolás Catena Zapata is a Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

    In terms of white wines, the iconic Torrontes is surely the representative. The signature freshness and strong aroma, soothingly smooth in mouth, with medium acidity, and comes in a unique peach and apricot aroma, is widely grown in Argentina.


    Chilean Wine

    Compared to Argentina, Chile enjoys a much more amiable climate. Nice grapes can grow without climbing an alpine. As the ninth largest wine-producing country in the globe, Chile is blessed with an unique climate and terroir. The long and narrow country is surrounded by the Andes to the east, Pacific Ocean to the west, and facing Antarctica to the south. It brings a variety of climates and create different terroir that is suitable to grow different types of grapes, bringing diversity to Chilean wine. Moreover, as the local land, labor and other winemaking costs are relatively low, price of wines are naturally more affordable. For those who wish to treasure hunt in something economically priced, Chilean wine is where you should search on.

    A Place Let Hundred Grapes Grow

    Compared to Argentina, Chile enjoys a much more amiable climate. Nice grapes can grow without climbing an alpine. As the ninth largest wine-producing country in the globe, Chile is blessed with an unique climate and terroir. The long and narrow country is surrounded by the Andes to the east, Pacific Ocean to the west, and facing Antarctica to the south. It brings a variety of climates and create different terroir that is suitable to grow different types of grapes, bringing diversity to Chilean wine. Moreover, as the local land, labor and other winemaking costs are relatively low, price of wines are naturally more affordable. For those who wish to treasure hunt in something economically priced, Chilean wine is where you should search on.

    Chile Wine Map_2
    carmenere

    In addition to international varieties, the variety that must not be missed in Chilean wine is Carménère. Like Malbec in Argentina, Carménère is also from France, but set foot in other countries. In the 19th century, the outbreak of Phylloxera in Europe has almost wiped out Carménère. Tugged in the middle of oceans, mountains, Antarctica, and deserts, Chile is protected and has never been infested by Phylloxera. The Chilean Carménère has a rich taste, with hint of unrepeated herbal flavour and spiciness. The berry flavour is ripe and sweet and becoming more and more popular in the international market.

    How to choose Chilean wines without falling into pitfalls?

    Many Chilean wines in market offer at very low price, which seem to be very attractive, but indeed giving people a hard time to swallow it. If you want to avoid getting into situation like this while trying to get a great value wine, try those from the well-known wineries first, where quality is relatively guaranteed. Just like Montes, it is a pioneer in providing high-quality local wines and the first to export top Chilean wines. Their footprint has set in more than 100 countries around the world, and you can find it in many high-end restaurants and hotels. Noticeably, the entry price of it only cost you about $100-$200 dollars. Also noteworthy is Arboleda, which is founded by Eduardo Chadwick, the owner of Vinedo Chadwick and Sena. Its sustainable winemaking philosophy and insistence on producing single varietal wine together create the pure expression of Chilean terroir. It’s a affordable wine with blue blood.

    arboleda

    If you want to try new wineries, you may look into popular regions and grape variety, which are of more stable quality. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo, rich and full in style; Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc from Aconcagua Valley has a unique minerality, with the former showing New World tropical fruit and creamy flavours and the latter showing purity and good acidity; Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from Colchagua are great too: its Cabernets are softer and more elegant than Maipo’s and its Carmenere is very popular and have attractive flavours!

    Must-known Chile’s top wineries

    With more and more high-quality Chilean wines, in addition to Montes mentioned earlier, the following are wineries which also worth your attention, including Almaviva, Vinedo Chadwick, Sena and Casa Lapostolle (Clos Apalta). When gathering with friends, apart from choosing Premier Cru from France, perhaps Chile is a choice to show your supremacy of taste.

    Almaviva

    Inspired by “Alama” in Spanish which means soulful and lively, Almaviva is a well-known winery. It is a collaboration between Chilean Concha y Toro and the parent company of French first growth, Château Mouton Rothschild, integrating Bordeaux technology into the perfect Chilean terroir. Their vintage 2015 and 2017 have scored 100 points from James Suckling.

    Almaviva-Kultrun1
    chadwick


    Vinedo Chadwick

    The first vintage of Viñedo Chadwick dates back to 1999, and the second vintage 2000 is already history making by defeating Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Margaux at the Berlin Tasting. The 2004 vintage is the first ever Chilean wine winning 100 points from the hand of James Suckling.

    Sena

    Seña was a joint hand venture by owner of Chadwick and the legendary California winemaker Robert Mondavi. The authentic Chilean blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere is clearly a role model of its fella. Scoring more than 90 points in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate for more than a decade, the 2015 and 2018 have indeed also scored 100 points from James Suckling.

    sena
    Clos Apalta


    Casa Lapostolle (Clos Apalta)

    Casa Lapostolle winery has been consulted by star winemaker Michel Rolland since 1994, commits to create top Chilean wines. Its flagship, Clos Apalta, is grown under Biodynamic approach, advocating nature and refining Chilean terroir. The 2005 vintage is the champ in Top 100 Wines of the Year in Wine Spectator. Followed by 2014, 2015 and 2017 vintages scoring 100 points from James Suckling.

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