South American whites have improved so much in that last decade, they now offer great value substitutes to other New World countries.
Reds from Chile and Argentina, meanwhile, are some of the best value wines in the southern hemisphere. Here is my pick of the top ten from the Andean heights, Uruguayan valleys and Brazilian hills.
ARGENTINA Faldeos Nevados Fiano 2012 Dominio del Plato
(£8, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
The Italian grape fiano is usually found in the Avellino commune in Campania, inland from Naples. It is now thriving at 1,200 metres in the Andean foothills in Mendoza. Argentine winemaker Susanna Balbo has managed to coax it into a surprisingly crisp, refreshing, taut minerally wine. Great value too.
ARGENTINA Don David Torrontes Reserve 2012 Michel Torino
This is my favourite version of the native torrontes grape grown in high altitude Salta in northern Argentina. Its grapey, floral notes remind me of muscat and gewurztraminer, but with a very distinct crisp, dry, mountain freshness to the palate – a style which might suit those who enjoy viognier.
CHILE Legado Limari Chardonnay 2011 De Martino
(£8.50, The Wine Society, www.thewinesociety.com)
The up-and-coming Limari region in northern Chile is becoming a hot spot of experimentation, thanks to pioneers including de Martino winery. Its whole range is consistently good and very approachable. Its winemaking philosophy is geared more towards old world elegance rather than just new world fruit and power. This is superbly made with a clean, citric mouthfeel. It’s hard to find a Chilean chardonnay to beat it in quality at this price.
CHILE Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay 2011 Errazuriz
(£14.95, Ellies Cellar, Dollar; www.winedirect.co.uk)
This was named top chardonnay at the recent Wines of Chile Awards. It’s a very sleek, elegant, restrained chardonnay, which is not smothered with oak as some South American chardonnays tend to be. Grown in Errazuriz’s Manzanar vineyard on schist soils planted with a mix of different clones imported from Dijon in Burgundy.
ARGENTINA Santa Ana Unanime 2007 Santa Ana
(£17.50, Swig, www.swig.co.uk)
A very exciting recent find. This is a star Bordeaux-style red from Mendoza’s Uco Valley from an old winery established back in 1891. A mature blend of 60 per cent cabernet sauvignon with 25 per cent malbec and 15 per cent cabernet franc with a leafy, cedary cherry-fruited savoury flavour and rich chocolate undertones. Winner of Decanter’s Wine Awards Best in Show – and I can see why.
CHILE Legado Reserva Syrah 2012 De Martino
(£11.49, L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline, www.aduv.co.uk; Les Caves de Pyrene, www.lescaves.co.uk)
For those who love spicy, elegant syrah, this is proof of Chile’s potential. It has only been planted in Choapa Valley in northern Chile since 2000, but the dry climate with low rainfall and high altitude vineyards at 825 metres in the Andean foothills are perfect for this grape. Superb and still very approachable in price. STAR VALUE BUY
CHILE Sideral 2009 Vina Altair
(£14.89, WoodWinters, Edinburgh/Bridge of Allan)
Cassis, prunes and spice in this clever blend of cabernet sauvignon and carmenere made by Ana Maria Cumsille from vines planted on an Andean cliff-face in Totihue Valley in the Cachapoal region. Maturation in French oak for 15 months has added light chocolate and toast notes. Cumsille recommends serving her Wines of Chile Award-winning red blend with wild boar ragu.
URUGUAY Gran Bodegon Tannat/Merlot 2009 Familia Deicas
(£21, The Wine Society)
I think the edgy, tannic tannat grape is at its best in Uruguay when blended with softer luscious merlot. Tannat hails from south-west France, where it makes madiran, but in Uruguay it tends to be lusher and less minerally. This is a serious blend, with 30 months maturation in barrique. The best Uruguayan wine I have tasted to date.
BRAZIL Quinta do Seival Castas Portuguesas 2006
Brazil’s Portuguese links are well known, so no surprises to find the best Brazilian wine is made from the Douro’s famous touriga nacional and tinta roriz grapes. Pricey, but beautifully mature with mellow bouquet, damson undertones and a savoury palate which reminds me of an old rioja (tinta roriz is the same grape as Rioja’s tempranillo). This comes from one of the oldest vineyards in the country in the Campanha/Frontera region on the Uruguyuan border.
ARGENTINA Vinalba Malbec Gran Reservado 2010 Domaine Vistalba
(£13.99 each for 2 bts or £15.99 each, Majestic Wine)
Always a winner at tastings. Such lush, voluptuous, damson-rich fruits, fruit forward and sweet, but with chunky depth of fruit concentration and an elegant tannic backbone. Superb with venison. All Vinalba’s range are enticingly fruit forward, luscious and well-made.
Join Rose’s Rioja & Ribera del Duero Masterclass in Glasgow, 8 May, £40, firstname.lastname@example.org