South American Review

andes vineyard

On both sides of the Andes, the winemakers of Chile and Argentina are trying to bring a range of wines, from inexpensive jug fillers to extraordinary wines that put the region on the map. We've seen South American wines come and go at Wine & Words, as the competition heats up for the international wine dollar. This week we'll review some of our Chilean and Argentine wines.

Asunto de Vino Chardonnay (Central Valley, Chile) Regular Price $12.45/ Feature Price $10.58
The  name means “Affair with Wine” and it’s one affair you can enjoy without guilt.  This is Chardonnay in the ripe tropical fruit style of the Southern Hemisphere...just made to go with summer.

Tilia Torrontes (Salta, Argentina)  Regular Price $13.35/ Feature Price $11.35
Torrontés grapesTorrontés grapesThe Torrontés Riojano grape is a “creole” blend of Mission and Muscat of Alexandria and is known for its aromas reminiscent of Riesling or Gewurztraminer.  Salta is the farthest north wine region of Argentina.  The Torrontés grape thrives on the cold, windswept hillsides there and yields a wine with a peachy aroma and a long, dry finish.

Altosur Sauvignon Blanc (Tupungato, Argentina) Regular Price $13.40/ Feature Price $11.39

Altosur, a made-up trade name I take to mean “heights of the south,” is the value line of Finca Sophenia (see their Malbec below). I have recently had to move it out of the “$12 and Under” section, but it’s still a very good buy in an easy-drinking Sauvignon Blanc that will go great with seafood, salads and the last muggy days of summer.

Santa Julia Sparkling Brut Rosé (Mendoza, Argentina) Regular Price $15.75/ Feature Price $13.39
Santa Julia vineyardsSanta Julia vineyardsSanta Julia wines are a project of the large Familia Zuccardi winery.  Their Torrontes, Organic Cab and Malbec have been flying out the door all summer, but sometimes I forget to Feature this beautiful sparkling wine of 100% Pinot Noir. It’s a lovely wine for summer, with a deep rose color and aromas of ripe strawberries. But don’t let first impressions fool you. This is no "fun wine" meant to be tossed off by the tumbler full, but rather an elegant dry sparkler that carries all of Pinot Noir’s great food matching qualities. In fact, I’m sure we’ll Feature it again when it’s time for holiday feasts, but now’s your chance to try it with grilled seafood.

Crios Bonarda/Syrah (Mendoza, Argentina) Regular Price $16.25/ Feature Price $13.81
Susana BalboSusana BalboSusana Balbo seems like an old friend. We’ve been carrying her Crios line of wines almost as long as we’ve been open (and we have a lot of fans for the Ben Marco Malbec, made by Susana’s husband, Pedro Marchevsky). People are attracted to the pictograph of three hands on the label (Susana and her two children) and the story that the wines are her crios (“offspring”). But they come back for more after they taste what’s in the bottles.  Here we have a very tasty blend of Bonarda (known as Charbono in California) with another Rhone native, Syrah.  The wine is silky smooth, with a long, clean, food-friendly finish.

Cousiño-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley, Chile)  Regular Price $22.95/ Feature Price $19.51
Since its debut in 1927, Antiguas Reservas has always been a limited selection of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon from the Cousiño-Macul estate vineyards in Chile's Maipo Valley. Over the years, Cousiño-Macul has maintained its classic style with this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon by combining New World ripeness with Old World elegance, finesse, and a framework to age long and well. Since 1997, virtually every vintage has been rated 90 Pts by the wine press.  This is one of the best Cabs in the house and has been a perennial best seller at Wine & Words.

Finca Sophenia Malbec Reserve (Tupungato, Argentina) Regular Price $19.50/ Feature Price $16.58
Finca Sophenia is located in Tupungato, at the northern end of the Uco Valley, at an altitude of almost 4,000 feet. The altitude brings not only a cooler moderation of the temperatures in the valley below, but also a clarity of sunlight and access to meltwater from the surrounding Andes peaks.  What I like  about this Malbec is expressed in one word - “subtle.” Now, subtlety is not usually a characteristic of Mendoza Malbecs. They’re usually brawny and inky and bold. Maybe it’s the influence of Michel Rolland, the Bordelais wine consultant for Finca Sophenia, but this wine has a European depth and finesse to it. This makes it a great food wine...and not just with a 3-pound Argentine steak.