A recent tasting at The Wine Country demonstrated that wines from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are now world-class producers. The rise in quality has been astonishing.
One of my favorite parts of this job is turning people on to the remarkable combination of world-class quality and extreme value presented in the wines within my purview. In the case of this article, I’m referring to the delicious and varied red wines from Argentina, Chile and Uruguay I presented at our recent Saturday wine tasting.
And judging on the modest size of the crowd, it was a tasting that many of you, lamentably, didn’t attend. According to the red wine lovers that did show up, you missed a good one.
The red wines presented ran the gamut – from a bright, clean and proper Merlot from Chile to a powerful and intense high-altitude Malbec from Argentina and even a smooth and strong Tannat from Uruguay. Additionally, we poured a Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc blend from Chile; a Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon Blend and a rare 100% Petit Verdot from Argentina.
All these wines are delicious and remarkably priced for their high quality. The types of wines one could enjoy any day of the week and not break the bank in the process. The types of wines that can be very hard to find.
That Merlot from Chile, the 2016 La Playa with its clean savory fruit and soft but firm finish - $7.99 (I got a lot of double takes and “you’re kidding” and “best 8-dollar red wine I’ve ever had” comments).
That Malbec from Argentina, the 2014 Colomé “Estate”, the one with grapes from four different high-altitude vineyards, including the highest vineyard on Earth at over 10,000-foot altitude and another vineyard that included grapes from 150-year-old vines, the one that blew people away with its intensity and powerful dark fruit - $22.99.
And the Tannat, the 2015 Garzon “Reserve” from Uruguay, the one that landed at number 41 on the 2017 Wine Spectator Top 100 and had people talking about its mouth coating, teeth purpling, dark and strong savory fruit - $15.99.
And these were by no means the only stars of the show, based on comments from the sparse but enthusiastic crowd - and based on sprightly sales after the tasting. People really snapped these wines up after they tasted them and realized just what great bargains they all are.
The 2014 Underraga “Sibaris” Pinot Noir from Chile surprised and delighted folks with its bright, smooth and clean red cherry fruit – for $16.99.
The 2015 Montevia Bonarda from Argentina caught the fancy of people that were looking for a versatile smooth and savory classic red wine for food – for $11.99.
The organic/biodynamic 2012 Koyle “Gran Reserva” Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile absolutely mystified, in a good way, those that like intense Cabernet Sauvignon that is classically structured, with firm tannins, good natural acidity and pure fruit – for $14.99.
The 2014 Catena “San Carlos” Cabernet Franc WAS decidedly one of the wines of the day, captivating the attendees with its incredibly smooth and supple savory dark red fruits with just the right amount of rich oak – for $16.99.
The organic 2015 Tarapacá “Gran Reserva” Red Blend’s peppery, clean, complex and intense Cabernet Franc based flavor profile struck the fancy of fans of food friendly, but not simple, red wines – for $15.99.
And then there were the real big boys. The wines that stained the teeth purple. The wines you couldn’t possibly see through. The wines with “juice”. The wines that caused the BIG-red-wine-loving people tasting them to have an immediate and giddily positive reaction. (I already mentioned two of these wines, the 2014 Colomé “Estate” Malbec from Argentina and the 2015 Garzon “Reserve” Tannat from Uruguay.)
The hearty few souls at the tasting discovered what happens when you combine the best of French winemaking, in this case the folks from world-renowned first growth Bordeaux Domaine Rothschild (Lafite), with Nicolas Catena, considered among the very best producers ever of Argentine wine, the two of whom team to make the 2015 Amancaya “Reserve” Red Blend, whose preturnaturally smooth and rich Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon dark fruit flavors lead to some of the best French oak on the planet expressing itself on the rich and smooth finish – for $19.99.
And the brooding, inky 2015 Domingo Molino Petit Verdot from Argentina truly satisfied those in attendance who believe there can never be too much intensity and flavor in a red wine - it’s THAT big – for $22.99.
If you like bold, balanced and value driven red wines like these, don’t miss the Chilean Red Wine tasting coming up on Thursday March 8th. I’ll be pouring six red beauties from Chile. The tasting starts at 4:30 and runs until 6:45. Cost is $15 and you get some artisan cheese and fresh bread to nibble on. No reservations needed, so redeem yourself and don’t miss this one. You’re likely to find some new wines to enjoy while saving some money.