Words: Henry Yuen ( http://www.taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )
Why are wines from Argentina and Chile so likable? Mostly because the price point to quality ratio is never disappointing; definitely excellent values for those wine lovers whose affinity is quality driven rather than reputation alone. No doubt certain varietals flourish in specific parts of the continent; be it Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere in Chile or Malbec in Argentina. The consensus is that these varietals are perfect match to the terroir and growing conditions and is difficult to replicate in other parts of the world.
Vina Santa Rita Winery
This winery in Chile is known for it’s offering of the familiar ‘120’ tier of wines. On top of this, they have the ‘Reserva’, ‘Medalla Real’ and the coveted ‘Triple C’ tiers of wines. The ‘120’ tier is tagged with everyday price that is considered to be very consumer friendly. For example, the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon offers adequate black fruits and earthy aroma with berries, tobacco and tannins on the finish and delivers beyond the price sipping pleasure.
The 2010 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon is a higher tier at $14.99. The fruit is more intense with cocoa and tobacco on a smooth finish. Up a few notches is the 2009 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon priced at $19.99. It carries more complexity and fruity intensity on the nose, followed by a lengthy, velvety finish. The 2007 Triple C (55% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere) at $38.99 portrays skilled winemaking technique and varietal cultivation. Well-balanced and full-bodied with bold and intense flavour, definitely a classy wine showcasing how much Chilean wines came around since the bulk wine era.
While the Santa Rita line up is impressive, other worthy considerations are:
Concha Y Toro Trio at $14.95 - A fine effort that combines black fruit and plum as the welcoming bouquet; and a hint of spice and tobacco to finish.
The 2011 Errazuriz Estate Carmenere – At $14.99, this is a mouth-watering beauty with red fruits and ripe berries on the nose and a chocolate and cocoa finish.
Finca Decero Winery from the Mendoza region of Argentina is a rather focused winery. Decero literally means “from scratch”. They find out what’re best for the terroir first then concentrate the expertise onto crafting those wines. As a result, only red varietals are grown. There is no attempt to stretch its resources beyond what the appellation, the soil and the land are providing. As a matter of fact, the results are so positive there is no need to consider anything else!
The vineyards, located at the foothills of the Andes at an elevation of above 1000 meters, are granted with adequate sunlight; ideal conditions of warm days and cool nights, Mother Nature’s gift benefits the grapes to flourish to the fullest.
Five wines are produced from this single vineyard producer. What not to like about the 2010 Decero Malbec? Nothing! This enticing example of a typical Argentine Malbec is well crafted with herbal aroma and dry cherries bouquet; laced gently with a hint of mint, the reserved oak treatment enhanced the balance of the wine. The 2010 Decero Petit Verdot is from a 40 acres vineyard. A fruit forward wine exhibiting flows of red fruits and plum. With 16 months in new French oak, this wine is delicately smooth with soft tannins. The 2010 Decero Syrah has a fine combination of barnyard earthiness, limestone and herbal aroma. On the palate, it is peppery with generous ripe plum and black fruits. 14 months in oak produced the velvet body structure. The 2010 Decero Cabernet Sauvignon is full-bodied with black current and prune on the palate. With light stem contact during fermentation, it gives the wine the balance tannins. The aroma of sage along with a hint of fine cigar and tobacco note provides a lengthy and luring ending. The 2009 Decero Amano is a fantastic wine with the 2006 vintage garnering 94 points from Wine Advocate and the 2007 getting the Top 100 wines from Wine Enthusiast. The 2009 with great finesse is as fine a wine. A blend of 60% Malbec, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Tannat, the bouquet of black current and dried stone fruit is a beautiful invitation. On the palate, this full-bodied wine is jammy with soft tannins and a hint of smoky and cocoa on the finish. The benefit of the gently basket pressed, 20 months in French oak and a year in bottle gives this wine the unique touch that lingers. A good demonstration of the winemaker’s determined focus and a sincere testament of not having to do too much but staying with what you know best.
As for other Argentina Malbecs, I like the Norton Reserva Malbec ($17.99), with its jammy, plum and spice aroma with a smoky finish. The Altos Las Hormigas Malbec ($15.99) is a good deal with plum and berries fruits and the finish is earthy and spicy. My favourite is the 2007 Valle Las Acequais Malbec from Mendoza ($22.99), it only takes the first sip to love its fine effort. It is a full-bodied Malbec with lots of red fruits and prune on the nose and silky soft tannins. If you want to find out what a good Argentina Malbec tastes like, this is it!
These are great examples of good valued South American wines that deliver consistent quality and signature craftsmanship. At very approachable price points, South American wines have no doubt been garnering more and more retail attentions.