We travel to South America for robust, fruity, food friendly and crowd pleasing wines, red and white. Reds from this part of the world have gained significant popularity with consumers over the last decade, especially Argentinian Malbec, but don’t overlook the lesser known, exotic whites which are worth digging a little deeper to find. Wine lovers all over the world are discovering that, by venturing off the beaten path, wines from this part of the globe offer consistently excellent quality for the money. Especially for those of us who are weeknight wine drinkers—those who like to have a glass or two when we come home from work but don’t want to break out an expensive bottle and/or would like to stretch out the bottle to last over several days—few places offer the value that South American wines bring to the table.
Here are some great wines from Argentina and Chile that are currently available on the shelves:
2013 BODEGA COLOMÉ Torrontés (Argentina, $11–$15)
An exotic and sexy golden white wine that’s lovely in a Sofia Vergara sort of way. Tart and curvy, grapefruit essence and jasmine, and cultivated from the highest altitudes in the Calchaqui Valley of Argentina. Closes with an elongated, pleasing finish that’s surprising for a dry white wine or a wine in this price range. 91 pts search direct
2013 CASAS PATRONALES Chardonnay (Chile, $15)
Classic Chardonnay nose—you’d think you were smelling a Santa Barbara or Napa—but, drinking it, you know instantly it’s from somewhere else. Something unusual about the ripeness and sweetness and roundness and low acidity (pH) —must be the South American coastal weather patterns and clay soil. A good pairing for a crustacean on your plate. 90 pts search direct
2011 EL LIBRE Malbec (Argentina, $10–$11)
Could this be the greatest ten-dollar Malbec in existence?? One thing I know: I have wasted more money on bullshit Malbec for ten dollars. Overripe, over-produced crap. The El Libre, on the other hand, has nice aromatics, is artfully balanced, tastes really good and, with low alcohol content (13%), is totally food-friendly. Fuck yeah, Viva la Revolución!—greatest ten-dollar Malbec EVER. 90 pts search direct
2010 SUSANA BALBO Brioso (Argentina, $30–$44)
Who knew? A great Bordeaux blend (Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Franc/Petit Verdot) made in the Mendoza Valley. A very impressive wine—draws comparisons to a top notch Pessac-Leognan, which makes this a stunning value at half the price. Rich, deep and earthy, artisanal and complex but easygoing. Although thoroughly enjoyable now, should be worth the wait in 6-8 years. 93 pts search direct
2011 MENDEL Malbec (Argentina, $22–$28)
A prestigious 100% estate-grown Malbec. A great way to experience the local color of the country. There’s great tradition and modernity and obvious passion in the winemaking, and it’s everything a Malbec should be in this price range. Generous in its flavors and aromas, round and smooth—a delight. 91 pts search direct
One of the best places to sneak in an afternoon wine tasting on Saturdays in Los Angeles is at K&L Wine Merchants in the heart of Hollywood. We’ll keep you up to date on the greatest wines we sniff out at these tastings.