South America has a long history of wine culture. Both Chile and Argentina were making wine in the mid-1500s. Famous for great value wines, you can pretty much close your eyes and point at any of the $12 to $18 wines on a wine shop shelf and always have a great experience. South American wine countries experience easy climates for grape cultivation, and vast amounts of wine are produced which in turn allows economies of scale. BUT – pay a little more and the quality quickly escalates.
Uruguay is the next wine frontier on the continent. Ideal terroir and the ocean-cooled climate add up to enormous potential. Bodega Garzon’s streamlined whites, like their Albarino, is liquid proof. Chile’s breezy coastal regions are a proving ground for noble grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir… check out the chiseled acidity and exotic citrus fruit in the Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay made on the fringes of the torrid Atacama Desert, and the earthy red fruit energy of Clos des Fous Pinot Noir Subsollum, grown in Chile’s southern valleys. Carmenere is a relic from Bordeaux and needs a warm, inland terroir: Koyle Gran Reserva (available at New District Dunbar) shows off the grilled herbs and inky black fruit of fine Carmenere. Across the Andes not far from Mendoza, Malbec vineyards crawl up the mountain foothills where higher elevations slow ripening and keep acids brisk and fresh. Argento is a newer winery that emphasises sustainable farming and expert winemaking (Alberto Antonini is part of this head-turning project), and their organic Malbec (available at New District Dunbar) is a spicy, blueberry-fruited stunner.