Wine Style Focus: South American Reds

Something of an incubator for offbeat or forgotten varietals, the vintners of Argentina and Chile have a way of making a grape their own.

Carmenere is a forgotten constituent of classic Bordeaux that has found a new home in the high vineyards of the Chilean Andes. A bearcat in the vineyard but a delight in the glass: umami flavors of soy sauce, grilled meat, leather and coffee wink out from beneath Merlot-like richness of black cherry, plum, blackberry, and spice.

Malbec, once regarded as a lowly blending grape, has come into its own in Andean vineyards. Lots of high-altitude sun makes for a long, steady ripening, which in turn makes for a big and intense – yet supple — wine of inky color, oozing deep bass notes of plum and spice.

More well-known varietals (Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir …) also thrive in South America, known for their pronounced expression of sumptuous and juicy fruit flavors and aromas.