IN my opinion, South America offers some of the best value for money in the wine world. Historically the best deals have been on its red wines, but whites have started to improve considerably with the development of cooler microclimates in Chile and Argentina.
Chile is definitely ahead of the pack in terms of consistency with both white and red. The success of coastal plantings in San Antonio and in the northerly valleys of Limari and Elqui are now bearing fruit as vines mature. Sauvignon blanc, riesling and syrah from Chile have never been better.
Argentina is fast improving as vines planted on higher altitude vineyards in the foothills of the Andes and in northerly Salta are now starting to bear fruit, but its malbecs and cabernets from the historic Mendoza region are still more consistent than its chardonnays.
Uruguay can offer something very unusual with its tannat grape, which is particularly good when grown in the right place and blended with softer tannic merlot. Brazil is one to watch for reds and sparkling wines, but is still a way behind in terms of quality. With its rate of plantings it will have more to offer very soon.
• Chile SAUVIGNON BLANC RESERVA 2012 Santa Ema (£6.66 each for 2, or £9.99 each until 2 Dec, Majestic)
This is an exceptional crisp, dry, white bargain at the offer price under £7. It hails from San Antonio’s Leyda Valley, the new coastal area where Chileans can make minerally elegant whites without losing acidity. Once dry farmland, a pipeline was built from the Maipo river in the 1990s to bring water to this coastal stretch to irrigate the vines – it’s paid off as Leyda is now Chile’s most exciting emerging region for crisp, dry whites.
Argentina DON DAVID TORRONTES 2011 Michel Torino (£9.69, Spirited Wines, Edinburgh and Glasgow; www.southamericanwinesonline.co.uk)
Outright winner of the white Argentine trophy in this year’s International Wine Challenge. Torrontes is a difficult grape which is grown in the Cafayete Valley at over 5,000 feet to retain its natural acidity. Michel Torino is the best performing winery in Salta today. Very aromatic, it’s scented in the mouth too with a fresh elegant finish.
Chile ACONCAGUA CHARDONNAY 2011 Errazuriz (£14.95, Ellies Cellars, Dollar; D Bryne, Lancashire; www.winedirect.co.uk)
Errazuriz’s Manzanar vineyard is planted with a mix of Dijon chardonnay clones, resulting in a beautifully balanced, minerally, elegant wine. No wonder it was a trophy and gold medal winner at this year’s Wines of Chile Awards. STAR BUY
Chile MIRAMAR VINEYARD RIESLING 2010 Casa Marin (£15.75, www.thedrinkshop.com; www.southamericanwinesonline.co.uk)
Maria Luz Marin was one of the first to plant close to the Pacific Ocean in San Antonio; her vineyards are a mere 4km from the beach. Now that her vines have matured, she makes exceptional riesling – and her award-winning Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is also wonderful too. They are not cheap, but if you want the best South American rieslings and sauvignons, head to Casa Marin.
Argentina EL ESTECO TANNAT 2010 (£7.49, Marks & Spencer)
Another excellent buy from Michel Torino in Salta, where they have been growing tannat for 20 years. If you like malbec, give this tannat a try as it shares a similar fleshy plumminess. GREAT VALUE BUY
Chile TABALI ENCANTADO SHIRAZ RESERVA 2010 (£11.49, Waitrose)
Syrah was first planted in Chile in 1995. Since then it has eclipsed Chilean cabernet. This Limari example from Tabali packs a punch of spice, ripe hedgerow fruits and savoury undertones.
Uruguay ATLANTICO SUR GARZON VINEYARD MALDONATO TANNAT/MERLOT 2011 Deicas (£12.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
Uruguayan tannat can be a little unforgiving, so it needs to be grown in the right place to ripen the tannins well. Uruguay has a tricky climate with cooler damper summers than in Argentina’s Mendoza or Chile’s Maipo. This is a delightful, juicy, plummy blend showing the grape at its best blended alongside the soft voluptuous merlot. STAR BUY
Argentina VINALBA GRAN RESERVADO MALBEC 2010 Domaine Vistalba (£13.99 each for 2, or £15.99 each, Majestic)
I have two current favourite malbec producers in Argentina: Domaine Vistalba which makes the superb Vinalba range – and also Pulenta Estate in Mendoza’s Agrelo, which are a little more expensive. Vinalba’s trophy-winning Gran Reservado Malbec ticks all the boxes for balance, ripe fruit, careful oak ageing, succulence and power.
Brazil AURORA PINOT NOIR 2010 (£9.99, Vinos, Edinburgh)
This comes from Serra Gaucha, southern Brazil’s traditional sparkling wine area – where pinot noir has been planted to make bubbly. This still red made from pinot shows great promise: very balanced, ripe tannins and good length. Good value too.
Chile CARMENERE RESERVA 2011 Casa Silva (£10.95, Luvians, Cupar and St Andrews; Michael Jobling Wines, Newcastle; D Byrne & Co, Lancashire)
Casa Silva is expert at making big, chewy, powerful, savoury reds from cabernet sauvignon to carmenere. This is made from the unusual carmenere grape which smells of balsamic and spice and tastes chunky, savoury and rich. The carmenere grape was discovered growing amidst merlot vines in Chile back in the mid 1990s. Now offered as a single grape varietal wine, it would suit anyone who likes big, hefty reds.
• Join Rose’s beginners wine classes in Edinburgh in January from £36, email@example.com