New World wine is constantly evolving and the dynamism of South American wine is no exception. With less rules and restrictions than the Old World or Europe, wine from the Southern Hemisphere continues to delight, innovate, and demonstrate consistency in quality. So what should you explore now in Vino Latino? Vea abajo for our exclusive Latinas Wine Club annual update on wine from Latin America!
Argentina: Malbec y Mas!
Argentina’s epic Malbecs continue to dominate production from this nation of high-altitude wines. After all, the Bordelaise varietal has thrived in Argentina since phylloxera decimated the majority of its original plantings in France. But there is much more to report from Mendoza, the epicenter of the country’s wine world! Fresh, crisp sparkling wine from workhorse varietals like Chardonnay and more offbeat grapes like Gruner Veltliner are showing Argentina’s livelier side. Explore these exuberant and versatile wines that range from bone dry to slightly sweet. Still longing for a rich red to go with your steaks? Try an Andean Cabernet and it will surprise you with its elegant intensity and demonstrate Argentina’s range of versatile vino!
It’s Chilly in Chile
Like its neighbor to the East, Chile has given a formerly French grape a new life. Until 1994, what was once believed to be its cousin Merlot, researchers discovered vines around the valleys of Santiago were actually Carmenere, the “lost grape of Bordeaux.” Chile now grows 90% of the world’s production of this smoky, spicy varietal but continues to refine its expression. Look for cooler climate, higher-altitude versions from the Colchagua Valley where spicy, ripe red and black fruit characteristics will be the ideal match for your meat entrees. Looking for a luscious, aromatic white? Chile is also mastering its crafting of Chardonnay, especially those from cooler microclimates. These wines are not only expressive of Chile’s unique, fresh terroir, but also approachable and affordable.
Uruguay: Tannat or Not Tannat
Although alive and well in its place of origin Madiran, France, the Tannat grape has been ambitiously adopted by Uruguay as the country’s national grape. Inspired by the success of Malbec in Argentina and Carmenere in Chile, producers in Uruguay are capitalizing on its Atlantic climate to become the world’s leader in this thick-skinned, tannic grape—it’s already growing a third of the world’s production! Traditionally Tannat was given lengthy extraction and barrel ageing, but explore modern styles have a less intervention and little or no oak influence at all. And as the only country in South America with a mild climate more akin to Europe, tart whites such as Albariño are becoming standouts. These lively, mouth-watering wines may remind you of Galicia, but are also uniquely Montevideo!
Peru es mas que Pisco!
We have come to know Peru—the most bio-diverse of any country on Earth—as the premier producer of Pisco, a distilled grape brandy that is also the country’s national spirit. But the country containing every eco-system imaginable within its 500,000 square miles also contains some of the oldest vineyards in South America. Most wine continues to be produced in the Valle de Ica where the oldest wineries are located and benefit from the cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean. International varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc dominate production but there has been a mini-boom in smaller, boutique producers crafting wine from traditional Pisco grapes such as Albilla and Italia. Using Pisco grapes to make undistilled wine is resurrecting centuries-old traditions in Peru that had been prohibited by Spanish colonists in the 1700’s and is slowly transforming Peru’s wine identity. Moreover, intrepid eno-pioneers have trekked to the Andes to produce some of the country’s first high-altitude wine. Amazingly, we can now enjoy wine from international varietals, where the Incas first cultivated potatoes. While still in the nascent phase, Peru is elevating—literally and figuratively—its wine game with remarkable results.
Vamos a los viñedos! Join our annual virtual Latin America wine class and tour the wine regions of Latin America with your fellow Latinas! See you on October 13 at 8:00PM and let’s raise a glass to Hispanic Heritage Month juntas!