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South American wine
Favorites from Chile and Argentina

09/18/14
By Stefanie Phillips food@hippopress.com



 South America, once thought of as only a minor player in the world of wine, has really made a place for itself as one of top wine-producing areas in the world. Is it also happens to be one of my favorites.

 
Chile
For a country of its size, Chile produces a lot of wine and benefits from its location on the Pacific Coast. Like Italy, Chile has its own appellation system, or its Denomination of Origin, which groups its wine areas into four major regions. Wine growing areas are located in the central part of the country, between the mountains and the ocean where the soil is extremely fertile. 
In August, USA Today named the Top Three Wine Regions to Visit, including Chile’s Maipo Valley on the list along with Alentego in Portugal and Okanagan Valley in the United States. It was the only South American region on the list, praised for its cabernet sauvignon and carmenere. 
In addition to the aforementioned reds, Chile also produces several other varietals including merlot, cabernet franc, syrah, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and riesling. 
We have access to many different Chilean wines in our grocery stores, New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlets and other wine shops. I can’t say I like them all, but that is my personal preference. 
One of my Chilean favorites is Cono Sur, founded in 1993 in Santiago. The winery touts its environmentally friendly wine practices and offers organic wine. They also produce limited-edition wines, sparkling wines and single vineyard wines.
My favorite Cono Sur wines fall under their Bicycle brand. These wines are young and friendly, according to the winemakers, and are also very affordable. Look for the bicycle on the label. 
Cono Sur’s Bicycle Sauvignon Blanc is light and fresh, with citrus notes of grapefruit and green apple. 
Cono Sur recommends pairing this wine with vegetarian dishes, lemony chicken dishes, soft cheeses, oyster soup and smoked salmon with ricotta. 
The Cono Sur Bicycle Pinot Noir is described as “sexy, pure and simple,” by the winemaker and I have to agree. I call this wine my “gateway wine” because it helped me ease into drinking reds long before my palate developed. It has rich notes of cherry, raspberry, plum and strawberry with well-balanced tannins. It is smooth and sensuous yet light enough for novice red wine drinkers. 
Enjoy this pinot noir with pasta, grilled chicken, seafood or mild fish. It also pairs well with pesto dishes, mushroom pizza and sushi. Other Cono Sur Bicycle offerings include reisling, syrah, merlot, chardonnay and carmenere. 
Cono Sur also offers organic sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir and a carmenere cabernet sauvignon blend. These wines are made without any chemicals or synthetic products. 
 
Argentina
Argentina has been credited for raising the bar on malbec in recent years and contributing to the popularity of this grape. Geographically, it benefits from its proximity to the Andes mountains. Much of its wine country is located above sea level where the sun is constant and rainfall is limited. Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja are the country’s top producing regions, with most of the winemaking taking place in the western part of the country. 
Argentina has been making a place for itself among other top wine regions, offering cabernet sauvignon, syrah, chardonnay, tempranillo and even Italian-based barbera in addition to its renowned malbec. 
One of my favorite Argentinian brands is Alamos, nicknamed “the wines of the Andes” because they are based in Mendoza. This producer works to preserve each varietal’s aromas, textures and characteristics. Alamos produces several wines including malbec, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and the country’s signature white varietal, torrontes. Theirs is fresh and light with notes of citrus and peach. It is not aged in oak; instead it is light pressed and cold settled, giving it nice acidity. 
The Alamos Malbec is rich and deep in color and is made up of grapes from four different vineyards around the region. This blend results in notes of plum, black currant and a subtle hint of chocolate with a long, smooth finish. This wine is aged in French and American oak barrels for nine to 12 months. 
Cono Sur and Alamos wines are readily available in local stores and are both quite affordable ($10-$15 a bottle).
 
As seen in the September 18, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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