The rise of South America

This article first appeared in Cellar Press, 2008
Tyson Stelzer

If your wine journey hasn’t yet led you to the shores of South America, there’s a whole new world to be discovered.

Argentina’s ascent into the wine world’s spotlight has been more dramatic than any other in the past decade. It delivers a diverse palette of French, Italian and Spanish varieties, but the three to look out for are torrontés, bonarda and malbec.

The tangy, fresh white grape torrontés make for pleasant summer quaffing, but the country’s real strength lies in its savoury, muscular reds. Rich, opulent malbec leads the way, while the indigenous bonarda makes juicy, budget reds.

The vineyards of Chile have traditionally been concentrated on flat land between the Andes and the lower Coastal Range. Warm valleys are famous for cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties, while world class syrah (shiraz) is grown on hillside vineyards. Crisp, aromatic white wines of great finesse are also emerging from these sites.

The buzz in Chilein recent years has been the creep of vines up the hills to higher sites, and further into the south and the north. These cooler, marginal places are showing great promise for fresh, mineral chardonnay and elegant pinot noir.