The World Class wines from South America continue to astonish us in both quality and style.
As the wine industry in Argentina and Chile continue to improve and evolve, so too does our selection in The Wine Country’s compact but mighty South American wine department. It is my goal, and a never-ending quest, to bring you their finest red and white wines from these serious wine cultures for your enjoyment.
Here is a rundown of the latest fruits of my labors, with both new-to-the-store wines and new vintages of store favorites.
2011 Cousiño Macul Finis Terrae, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot,
Valle de Maipo, Chile
The Cousiño Macul winery dates back to 1856 and is revered in Chile for their quality and tradition. A serious, classically structured, built to age, hand selected blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and 13% Merlot, this is a wine of power and finesse, with strong fruit, balancing natural acidity and firm tannins. There is a core of dark, spicy savory fruit and a nice streak of earthiness with a hint of eucalyptus - the portion of the Maipo valley where the grapes for this wine are grown is famous for producing Bordeaux-style red wines and this wine's flavor profile proves the point. The finish shows off the firm, fine tannins and is long and complex. After the long slow fermentation, only the very best barrels are blended in a time-consuming process. The wine spends 14 months in 55% new French oak and 1-2 years in bottle before release. This wine will smooth out and integrate over the next 10-15 years, but is wonderfully intense now with a vigorous decant of an hour or two. There is some serious structure in this serious wine so patience and cellaring will be generously rewarded.
$26.99 per bottle
2008 Matetic EQ Syrah, San Antonio Valley, Chile
The Matetic winery has a well-earned international reputation for making hand-made, intense, precise and terrior driven biodynamic and organic wines from Chile’s cool climate San Antonio Valley. This meticulously hand produced cool climate Syrah is a big, balanced, complex and intense wine. It shows brambly dark, peppery berry and black olive on the nose and palate, with a hint of savory herbs and violets. There is very serious structure - this wine is developing beautifully but still young - with nice acidity, still firm but smooth tannins and a core of juicy sweetness, although this wine is completely dry. There is a hint of dark chocolate on the long, complex and intense finish. I was fortunate to get this older vintage directly from the winery’s cellar but there isn’t much more to get, so get it while you can. A world-class wine in every way and one that will reward patience.
$33.99 per bottle
2016 Matetic Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc
San Antonio Valley, Chile
Another organic/biodynamic beauty from boutique producer Matetic, this is the definition of a crisp. clean and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, with a core of pure and smooth fruit and a beautiful overlay of minerality. It shows the typical grassy citrus Sauvignon Blanv flavor profile but with a hint of tropical fruit and a bit more texture and mouthfeel than you'd expect at this price point. While somewhat similar to Sauvignon Blancs from places like New Zealand, this wine has a certain something that differentiates it - a purity, zest and smoothness that is just hard to find without spending a lot more money. A must-try for lovers of the crisp and clean style of Sauvignon Blanc.
$12.99 per bottle
2012 Koyle Gran Reserva, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Alto Colchagua, Chile
The latest generation of Chile's venerable Underraga family wine dynasty founded this winery in 2006. Situated in the higher reaches of the Colchagua valley, all the vineyards are organic and biodynamically farmed. The wine in the bottle is an astonishing value - plenty of strong, supple fruit and pure expression of the terrior in this blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. Rich and balanced on the nose and in the mouth, there are pure and enticing aromas and flavors of black currant, blackberry, black tea and black pepper. There is excellent natural acidity, and a solid streak of minerality to add some depth and complexity. The tannins are firm but smooth and the smooth finish is much more complex than you'd expect at this price point. The wine spends 12 months in French oak after a carefully managed fermentation. A shining example of the type of world class winemaking coming out of Chile with their hard-to-match value.
$14.99 per bottle
2013 Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon La Consulta & Gualtallary Vineyards
Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
The huge Zuccardi wine empire in Argentina is now being led by Sebastian Zuccardi, the grandson of the founder. Like many of the world’s latest generation of winemakers, he has studied and trained across the globe. Having met and tasted with this intense and passionate young man, it is easy to see why the wines from Zuccardi are getting better and better. He combines a forward looking technological zeal with old school knowledge and a truly fanatical attention to detail to make phenomenal wines at every price point and this under $20 Cabernet Sauvignon is a prime example.
The Q stands for quality and this vintage has the press to prove it - #53 on the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines for 2016 list – and while good press doesn’t necessarily mean a particular person will like the wine, it does mean that there is a very good chance the wine is well made and pleasing to a large number of palates. The high-altitude vineyards - situated between 3,200 and 3,600 feet altitude - that provide the grapes for this hand-made wine are some of Zuccardi's finest and the hand-picked and hand-selected grapes see the utmost care. After a minimal intervention fermentation in Zuccardi's state of the art winery, the wine spends 12 months is 25% new French oak. This beautifully balanced wine has big, pretty aromas and flavors of dark berry and herbs. It is smooth, powerful and classy, with nice weight in the mouth and smooth, firm tannins on the finish. There is perfect natural acidity to keep things fresh. Not a heavy or oaky wine, it does have excellent intensity and purity. Overall, a remarkably well-made wine for the money, and as one might guess, since this is an Argentine wine where beef is king, you’ll be happy if you pair it with a barbecued steak.
$18.99 per bottle
2016 TintoNegro Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Started recently by two 15-year veterans from the famous Catena estate, TintoNegro is based in the prime Malbec region of Mendoza. This is an honest and straightforward Malbec at an exceptional price. This new vintage continues to be spot on the money. It has nice aromas and flavors of ripe dark fruit, with soft, approachable tannins and an easy, smooth yet crisp finish. They age the wine in used French oak for 6 months to add some complexity without overpowering the fruit. A very satisfying and perfectly typical entry level Malbec for under $10.
$8.99 per bottle
2013 Carmelo Patti Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo
Carmelo Patti is a revered 40-year veteran of the Mendoza wine scene and is famous for making truly hand-made wines in the most traditional manner. Nothing fancy or flashy comes out of his old-school winery, just one of the very best authentic Argentine Malbecs available, although it is made in small quantities and is hard to get. He literally does everything in the winemaking process, down to the hand labeling of every bottle. And boy does the old man know what he’s doing - his wine is true, pure, lithe, elegant and intense. And just really delicious. Penetrating high-toned aromas of earth, minerals, cherries and strawberries lead to a flavorful, palate-coating mouth full of more berries and cherries. And oh-so-smooth! Brilliantly treading that fine line between too heavy or not heavy enough, it is rich and powerful, with the weight in the mouth just right. And the wine has a taut, intense core and proper structure, with excellent refreshing acidity and very supple, firming tannins that provide an excellent backbone. This will certainly improve over the next five years or so, but is delicious now. And, of course, since it is an authentic Argentine wine, made for pairing with beef.
$34.99 per bottle
2016 Colomé Torrontés, Valle Calchaqui,
This new vintage of a long-time store favorite continues its legacy as a popular pick with our many customers looking for something other than Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Unique, intense and floral, Torrontés is the national white grape of Argentina and found almost nowhere else.
The best Torrontés is grown in the extreme high-altitude region of Salta, hard along the high Andes mountains. The grapes for this hauntingly beautiful and complex version are grown at 5,500 feet altitude, where the intense ultraviolet rays of the sun, combined with big swings in temperatures from day to night allow for the grapes to get fully ripe while retaining their natural acidity and forming thicker skins which adds to the exotic flavor profile. A powerful floral bouquet - white flowers, roses & violets - is followed with mouth-coating, minerally, honeyed tropical fruit and citrus. It has perfectly balancing natural acidity and finishes dry and clean. The intensity, weight and texture of the wine is very sensual. A sumptuous, gorgeous hand-made wine, it sees no oak and is famously food-friendly. A must-try if you like intense and flavorful white wine.
$13.99 per bottle