A grape that almost disappeared into ambiguity has made an enormous resurgence in Chile. Initially grown in France, the Carménère grape’s popularity diminished until winemakers brought the vine to Chile, mistaking it as Merlot. Many of the best inventions come from accidents and since then, Chile has been producing the most Carménère in the world. This fresh, slightly fruity red with notes of herbal spice has been in high demand and is a great wine for any type of meat dinner.
Brands to try: Concha Y Toro, Santa Carolina, Errazuriz
For wine lovers, the Malbec grape is no stranger and the Mendoza region of Argentina is seeing a steady increase in the production and perfection of this wine, which is being widely regarded as an ‘Argentinian classic’. With so many boutique wineries from the Valle de Uco in Mendoza, it’s easy to pull a Malbec off the shelf and enjoy a fantastic bottle that would make even the French jealous.
Brands to try: Catena Zapata, Trivento, Terrazas de Los Andes
Known as Mission in North America or Criolla in Argentina, the Pais grape was the most widely cultivated grape in Chile until the French influence brought over other varietals. However, Pais is making a comeback and once again being valued as more than just a table wine. With its unique fruit flavour, that sometimes feature floral notes and an earthy finish, this wine is proving that it should be taken seriously.
Brands to try: Miguel Torres, Concha Y Toro, Cacique Maravilla
Prior to the explosion of the Malbec grape in Argentina, Bonarda was considered the country’s main grape but suffered a similar fate as did the Pais varietal; when the European influence introduced other vines, Bonarda was slightly forgotten—that is, until recently. A very fruit-forward wine coming from warmer regions of Argentina, South America’s Bonarda will be different than the variations of the wine you might find in places like Italy, and though it often flies under the radar, it is a must-try red.
Brands to try: Trapiche, Alta Vista, Zuccardi
Native to South America, this wine is at its best when grown in the northern warm regions of Argentina near Salta. It is a delicious, yet deceptive wine: while its floral and fruity notes prepare you for a sweet wine, on the palate, the taste can be slightly bitter and very dry.
Brands to try: Piattelli, Trapiche
While Malbec has fought to be the golden child of Argentina’s wine scene, in Uruguay, Tannat is considered the national grape. The symbol of Uruguayan wine, this dry, dark and powerful red has strong tannins and a high acidity that make it a slow drinking wine—Tannat is more of an experience than simply a beverage. If you feel you are not adequately prepared for a full-bodied Tannat, you can ease into it with a Tannat-Pinot Noir blend before working your way up to a full Tannat.
Brands to try: CampoTinto, Bouza, Narbona
A wine with a history in Chile as deeply rooted as its vines, Carignan, though a little difficult to find, is well worth the search. This grape can be a tough one to tame, but offers a great reward when it’s cultivated properly: it’s naturally high in tannins and acidity, and has a punch of flavour that makes it great for blending with Grenache and Syrah to soften it up.
Brands to try: Meli, Finca La Higuera, Blu Wines