Wine Region Spotlight: South America

A Cono Sur vineyard in Chile.

South America may not be the first place you think of when considering wine, but the continent produces some great varietals in many areas. Here is a look at the wine regions of Chile and Argentina.

Chile’s climate and environment are ideal for growing grapes due to warm temperatures, fertile soil and its location between mountains and the ocean. The major wine regions include Aconcagua, to the north, Chile’s warmest region; Panquehue, the intermediate region and Casablanca, a cooler region near the coast.

Chile’s Central Valley produces much of the country’s wine and has four sub regions: Maipo, Rapel, Curico and Maule Valleys. Rivers run through each area from the Andes to the ocean and the vineyards are located on a plateau adjacent to two mountain ranges.

Notable Chilean varietals include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon: big, bold, complex reds with black currant intensity
  • Merlot (Carmenère): youthful to complex, robust, earthy and smoky
  • Pinot Noir: Sweet, silky, smooth, with hints of berries
  • Sauvignon Blanc: refreshing and zesty with hints of fruit and citrus
  • Chardonnay: rich with tropical fruit and citrus notes

Source: The Wine Snob

Argentina, like Chile, has a very favorable climate for growing grapes and is one of the top wine producing countries in the world. Vineyards are located at different elevations but the overall climate is warm and arid with limited rainfall.

Most of Argentina’s wine is produced in the western part of the country in the areas of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja. Mendoza is the country’s leading wine producer, with Malbec emerging as the region’s most popular varietal in recent years. San Juan is the second highest wine producing region in Argentina, producing Syrah, Charbono (or Bonarda to the locals), sherry style wines, brandies and vermouth.

Notable Argentinean varietals include:

  • Malbec: full-bodied, mild grape with low acidity, moderate tannins, dried fruit and plums
  • Cabernet Sauvignon: big and bold with notes of spices, berries and maybe even green peppers
  • Merlot: smooth, well-balanced, fruity or oaky
  • Torrontés: fresh and light with big bouquets of floral aromas and tropical fruit
  • Chardonnay: Argentina’s chardonnay can be light and fruity or more complex
  • Sauvignon Blanc: can have herbal or citrus notes and some smokiness

Source: The Wine Snob

According to Wikipedia,  it is Argentinean law that if a grape name appears on a wine label, the wine must be made up of 80 percent of that varietal. Early Argentinean grapes, Cereza, Criolla Chica and Criolla Grande, still make up 30 percent of the country’s vines. These pink skinned grapes are high-yielding and strong. Italian immigrants have influenced the country’s wine production by bringing several Italian varietals including Barbera, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. There are currently more than 1,500 wineries in Argentina and the country continues to make a place for itself in the international wine market.

TRY: Cono Sur Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc from Santiago, Chile. They offer organic wine as well.  Also very popular are Kalinda Malbec Mendoza (Argentina) and Miguel Torres “Las Mulas” Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile). Many of these wines are very reasonably priced, so stock up the wine cellar with some South American favorites. Have a favorite South American wine? Share it with us or tell us on Twitter @vigilantinc.

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