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This week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show; “The Tale of Two Terroir’s.” There are two countries from South America that produce exceptional wine of value. Chile and Argentina are known by wine lovers from around the world to produce great wine that’s affordable. These two countries run parallel to one another yet produce very different styles of wine, but make no mistake there are great wines being produced in Chile and Argentina and I have two that I enjoy and will share with you.
In the world of wine you will see the word terroir used when writers are describing wine, vineyards, or perhaps well-known wine regions in general. Simply stated terroir defines a sense of place. When a winemaker talks about their wine and refers to terroir they are suggesting that the wine expresses the personality of the earth, the weather that influences grapes in a vineyard, subtle yet unique nuances imparted as a result of terroir. These subtleties may exist only in one small block of land.
Napa Valley’s most famous vineyard To Kalon is a perfect example. To Kalon is Ancient Greek for “the highest beauty”, this vineyard provides Robert Mondavi Winery with most of the grapes for its world-class Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, and is the exclusive source of Sauvignon Blanc. You begin to realize just how romantic and powerful this term “terroir” becomes as your personal relationship with wine evolves.
The Colchagua Valley of Chile is on the west coast of South America and enjoys a Mediterranean climate that is somewhat unique when it comes to wine country terroir. Chile is a melting pot of European influence that runs north to south on the West Coast of South America and is 2,600 miles in length, but it is only 100 miles wide at its widest point. There is a heavy influence of German, Spanish, English, and French that have taken up residence and enjoy this wonderful Mediterranean climate.
The Colchagua Valley wine region has four clearly defined seasons which is rare and exists at only four other points around the world: the Mediterranean coast; the California coast; the Cape of Good Hope; and the southeast coast of Australia. The climate in Chile falls somewhere in between that of California and Bordeaux. Rich aroma and flavor in the wines of this valley are the result of Pacific maritime influence and breezes from the Andes Mountain slopes that move through the vineyards.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Carmenère are the most widely planted red grape varietals in the Colchagua Valley. In 1996 Chile exported 100,000 cases of wine to the United States and today that number has increased to 7 million cases. The quality and value of wines from Chile speaks for itself which is duly noted by the increased exports.
Chilean wines adhere to the European Union label requirements. The wine must contain 85% of the grape variety, vintage, and domaine of origin (D.O.) that are indicated on the label.
Argentina is the largest wine-producing country of South American and the fifth largest producing country in the world. With 300 days of sunshine and an average of only 8 inches of rain each year the Argentinians have established an elaborate irrigation system fed by runoff from the snow-capped Andes Mountains.
The Jesuit missionaries began making wine in the mid-fifteen century in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The Uco Valley (pronounced ooko) of Mendoza produces mainly Malbec, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina is widely recognized throughout the world for their outstanding Malbec wines that offer a real bargain for the wine consumer. The Mendoza region has over 70% of the total 500,000 vineyard acres planted in all of Argentina. There are over 600 vineyards located in Mendoza.
The grapes in this Mendoza region are planted at high altitude near the base of the Andes Mountains. With hot days, cool nights, and breezes from the mountains producing beautiful fruit that is concentrated and naturally acidic. The result is excellent wine that is balanced and well structured.
When you read the label on the bottle of Argentinean Wine the grape that is listed is 100% of that varietal. The Malbec wines from this region offer tremendous single varietal focus and in the hands of a great winemaker will leave you with a memorable finish on your palate and in your mind.
In tasting both the 2009 Quatro blend and 2009 Killka Malbec wines you will discern a very distinct style of winemaking. The difference in these two wines is very representative of Chilean and Argentinean wines. Chilean wines have a tendency toward big, rich, full-bodied wines whereas Argentinean wines typically are concentrated, focused, and a bit less refined.
Here are two outstanding examples of South American wines of exceptional value. The first is a Chilean red blend from Viña MontGras; the 2009 MontGras Quatro is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec; 15% Carmenère, and 15% Syrah. This wine is a deep ruby color in the glass and on the nose offers aromas of fresh-roasted coffee, dark fruit of black currants and cherries, leather with a hint of vanilla. When you smell this you know you want to taste it, and you won’t be disappointed.
This wine on the palate is full-bodied, rich, soft, supple, and round. There is a very nice balance of fruit and acid which allows it to pair well with food. This wine is not so big and over extracted that it will over power you or your food pairing. The Quatro serves up a long, luscious, and lingering finish. This wine is under $15.00. Pair this wine with grilled Top Sirloin or Prime Rib.
The Argentinean wine from Mendoza that offers tremendous value is 2009 Salentine “Killka” Malbec. This wine is flamboyant, fruit forward, spicy and perfectly tannic. In your glass the wine has a deep purple hue with darker streaks of purple when held up to the light. Dark plum and blackberry with a bit of sweet vanilla meet the nose. This wine has great fruit, balance, and structure on the palate. Don’t forget about the wonderful silky tannins this wine offers. The Killka has not been overly manipulated in the winemaking process and this is one of its best qualities. Available for under $15.00. Pair this wine with Rib Eye or Filet Mignon and a red wine reduction or green peppercorn sauce.
Both wines receive the WineGuyMike™ seal of approval®