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Saddle Up for South America’s Robust Red Wines

Inspired by the original French varietals, the South American terrain brings a characteristic flavor and profile to its wines. This winter, explore the little known with wines from Argentina and Chile.

Seasons in South America, which is in the southern hemisphere, are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. South America is in summer as some of us are chilling into winter. Cue the heartier food and turn your attention to the red wines from Argentina and Chile. These wines will level up your wine drinking knowledge and experience because their distinctive and drinkable red wines are made with grapes from the most recognized varietals: Malbec (Argentina), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère (Chile). You’ll be fluent in wine speak in no time! Here are a few noteworthy wines to pepper up that cold weather drinking which we tasted in person with the wineries’ winemakers. 

Pyros Winery
Pyros Winery landscape  

The wine growing region of Mendoza borders the Andes Mountains and is considered Argentina’s prime grape growing terrain due to its extremely high vineyard altitude (an average of 2,700 feet). Fluctuations of day-to-night temperatures from sunny days to chilly nights preserve the grapes’ natural acidity and inhibit bugs, fungus and humidity. Malbec grapes thrive in this terrain pest-free with the limestone soil and cracked pieces of mountainous rock and sand. Hydration comes with the help of irrigation systems, drip or runoff water from the Andes/ glaciers and streams. 
Another significant characteristic is that the vines are original Malbec vines from France. How’s that? When the 1863 phylloxera plague swept through France, by chance, a French agronomist Michel Pouget was brought to Argentina in 1853 to start its School of Agriculture and he brought Malbec vines from France with him. For more than 150 years, Malbec has flourished in Argentina to become the region’s most grown premium grape varietal—95,000 acres compared to France’s 13,000 acres–producing a dark violet wine with a mouth-filling bouquet and taste. 

Salentein Winery
The Salentein Winery  

Pyros, “fire” in Greek, is a new winery whose grapes grow in a flinty rocky soil in the foothills of the Andes. Their wines are similar to the well-known Burgundy wines in France with expressive flavors including wild flowers, black fruits and spicy aromas and mineral notes. Best of all, the wines might be high in alcohol content but winemaker Paula Gonzalez gives a lighter touch to the wines. 
In the Uco Valley, more than 5,000 feet above sea level, a vineyard owning and luxury wine producing company called Salentein has distinguished itself as a leader in Argentina’s Malbec and Bordeaux Blend wines with its single vineyard wines. Grape vines grow in sandy (desert like) soil and are nourished via an irrigation system flowing with the low PH water from the Andes. Career winemaker Jose Galante, hailed as Argentina’s winemaking genius, turns the hand-harvested grapes into elegant red and white wines using oak barrels for some of the fermentations. He says this method brings out the subtle differences of each single estate wine produced by Salentein.   

veinte Malbec for Scout & Cellar
Veinte Malbec, available at Scout & Cellar  

Here's another interesting fact. Did you know that French people immigrated to Chile during the late 20th century? They also brought grapevines with them which have remained phylloxera-free. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world and is the world’s seventh largest producer. Climate-wise, Chile is roughly that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère. 
Chilean Malbec is typically found in Argentina, but it’s made a terrific migration into tasty, juicy wines harvested on the other side of the Andes in Chile, also in high elevation vineyards which rules out pests and is therefore a more organic wine production overall. Start your Chile wine exploration with Veinte Malbec 2020 with its red cherry, sweet pipe tobacco and orange liqueur aromas and a silky-smooth finish. This winner is available online from Scout & Cellar, a pioneer in the clean-crafted wine sector (no foil neck wrapper on the bottle to simplify bottle recycling). 

Sena Chilean wines
Chilean red wine Sena  

Established in 1995, Seña is the result of a brilliant collaboration between two winemaking icons, Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi. The lush terrain of Chile captured the curiosity of Mondavi, who traveled to the area for research in the early 1990s. After meeting Chadwick, they planted and grew their grapes to create their wine in the Aconcagua Valley. Not surprisingly, it’s modeled after the Bordeaux style. During the quarter century since its inception, Seña has been ranked among the top-tier wines around the world. We’ll drink to that!