Spring is the time of year for rebirth, renewal, and a fresh new start. What better time to try something new? We're bringing in a great cross-section of wines from South America. While offering juicy and balanced examples of so-called "new world" wines - like chardonnay, cabernet and merlot - South America also offers a tasty hint of history with traditional varietal wines like malbec, carmenere and torrontes. Here's a little background on this rapidly growing wine region:
Chile and Argentina have both been producing wines since the mid-sixteenth century, when Spanish missionaries brought grapevines with them when they arrived with the conquistadores. By the 1800's South American wine producers became so prolific that their wine exports began to affect Spanish wine production and sales. As a response, the Spanish government took action, imposing heavy tariffs and uprooting vines throughout South America and Mexico. While nearly destroying the wine trade in Mexico, wines from South America continued to grow and thrive.
Chile, a long, narrow country with over 3000 miles of coast line, has a wine growing region that stretches north to south over 500 miles. Its natural barriers, the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, offer an isolated environment which has helped this country avoid most major vineyard diseases, including phylloxera. The Andes contribute to prime growing conditions, cold nights and warm sunny days. Most wine production takes place in the Central Valle, which contains the Maipo, the Rapel and the Colchagua valleys.
Argentina has been making wine just as long as Chile and is one of the world's largest producers. The Penaflor Winery is the second largest winery in the world, second only to Gallo. Most of the vineyards lay at the foot of the Andes. In fact, Argentina has approximately 1800 wineries and 70% of these are located near Mendoza, at an average altitude between 2-3,000 feet. Though arid, Mendoza's original irrigation system was developed by the indigenous population centuries ago.
Here's just a sampling of some of the tasty South American wines we'll be featuring in March and April:
Los Vascos "Special Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon
Available only at Whole Foods Market. Twenty years ago the famous Baron Rothschild (Lafite) acquired a controlling interest in Los Vascos and applied their Cabernet producing expertise immediately. The wine is full bodied with supple tannins and ample black cherry and plum fruit. Try it with a range of robust foods like grilled meats and vegetables or spicy red-sauced pasta dishes.
Carmenere is said to be the "lost" varietal grape of Bordeaux when the phylloxera vine disease ravaged French vines during the late 18th century. Since phylloxera has not yet touched the vines of Chile, we get a glimpse here of a red wine with unique flavors and a noble pedigree. Deep, ripe currant fruit with touches of smoke and pepper are tastefully integrated. Try with lamb or other Easter fare.
From Argentina, Tilia is the Latin name for the Linden tree common throughout Mendoza. Made from 60 year old vines by the Catena family, known in the wine world for their excellent quality and modest prices. The wine offers a distinctly tropical nose, and fresh pear and citrus fruit framed by balancing acidity. Try with shellfish, chicken tarragon, or white sauced pasta dishes.
From the Lujan de Cuyo vineyards that kiss the Andes in Mendoza, where the best torrontes is said to be grown. Legendary winemaker Susana Balbo named her selection of wines "Crios," Spanish for "kids," her obvious reference to the care and love she has for them. Crios torrontes is very aromatic, almost floral, and though the crispness suggests sauvignon blanc the flavors are distinctly tropical. Try with crab dishes or medium aged cheeses like Comte or Manchego.
Here's a full list
of the wines from South America available this spring. Check them out and let us know what you think!
Some products may not be available in all stores and are subject to availability. Also, some areas do not allow wine sales in grocery stores.