Argentina and Chile are well known for producing wines of outstanding value. In recent years, they’ve also become recognized for making high quality wines that compete with the world’s best. We’ve explored both countries in depth in our International Wine Review report, and we’ve tasted hundreds of wines from the Southern Cone since our founding in 2005. In this article, we review some very good value wines and a number of outstanding ultra-premium wines. For in depth evaluations of Argentina and Chile, check out our reports at www.iwinereview.com
Global Vineyard Wine Importers brings in these wines.
The wines reviewed here, from Aniello, Ricardo Santos, and Tercos (also part of the Ricardo Santos family), are youthful wines that have seen only a modicum of oak aging. As a result, they are fresh and vibrant and meant for early, easy drinking. The Aniello wines come from the Rio Negro valley in Patagonia, which we visited on our last trip to Argentina. The Ricardo Santos and Tercos wines are from Mendoza, Argentina’s winegrowing center. For more on Argentina, read our most recent report, The Diverse Wines of Argentina.
Aniello 2017 006 Chardonnay Riverside Estate Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 90 This is a fresh and lively Chardonnay showing orchard fruit complemented by touches of white stone fruit and yellow citrus. It’s largely unwooded with less than 10% of the wine seeing oak and malo. A nicely balanced and refreshing wine that offers excellent value. The winemaker is Santiago Bernasconi. Aniello 2017 006 Pinot Noir Riverside Estate Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 90 Like the Chardonnay, the Aniello Pinot Noir offers outstanding freshness. It opens with alluring scents of plum, raspberry, and rose petals that carry over to a nicely balanced palate notable for its length and bright acidity. Hand harvested, fermented in small concrete vats (30% whole cluster), and partly oak aged. Aniello 2017 Malbec 006 Riverside Estate Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 91 Offering copious aromas of fresh dark red fruit with a hint of tobacco, this is an especially juicy Malbec with vibrant acidity and sappiness. There are hints of pomegranate and plum on the palate along with other dark fruit. Very good and phenomenal value.
Ricardo Santos 2017 Semillon Luján de Cuyo Mendoza ($16) 91 Golden yellow. The Ricardo Santos Semillon always impresses. It offers a weighty, complex nose of acacia, honey and olive. On the palate, it’s full and absolutely packed with flavor, excellent balancing acidity and a lingering finish. An astounding wine for the price, especially considering it’s made from 72-year-old vines! Ricardo Santos 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($20) 90 Showing scents of spicy dark red fruit, this is a good quality Cabernet Sauvignon. The attack is soft with a full, somewhat silky mouth feel. There’s impress depth on the palate with layers of fruit accented by earth and toasted oak notes. Finishes with firm tannins.
Tercos 2017 Bonarda Mendoza ($14) 89 Semi-opaque ruby red. Showing attractive spicy plum, wild blackberry, and savory scents, the Tercos Bonarda offers a vibrant, fruit forward, earthy palate with brisk acidity and nice firm tannins. This is a wine that improves in the glass, so give this wine some time to breathe, or, better yet, decant it to allow it to open up and give a fuller expression. Tercos 2017 Sangiovese Mendoza ($14) 90 Medium dark red. Showing a vibrant nose of dark cherry with bright notes of black raspberry and pomengranate, the Tercos Sangiovese offers a good New World expression of this Italian variety. It’s full in the mouth with excellent acidity, medium density, and a long flavorful finish. Outstanding for the price.
Everyone knows that Chilean wines offer exceptional value, but the wines reviewed here are also of excellent quality, irrespective of price. We’ve reviewed these wines many times over the years, and we’re impressed with their high quality vintage after vintage. We encourage you to read our previous reviews available on our blog and in our most recent report Chile’s Premium Wine Revolution.
Pargua 2013 Anka Maipo Valley ($20) 89 The Anka Cabernet Sauvignon red blend is a multifaceted wine with flavors and aromas of dark red fruit accented by fresh and dried herbs. It offers a medium weight palate, round tannins, and good acidity. The winemaker is Jean Pascal Lacaze. Made from certified organic grapes. We’ve reviewed this wines many times in the past and have found substantial vintage variation. The 2013 isn’t quite as good as the 2012, which we last reviewed.
Apaltagua 2017 Pinot Gris Reserva San Antonio Valley ($13) 90 This Chilean Pinot Gris puts a lot of Italian Pinot Gris to shame. This is a bright, fresh wine with brisk acidity, attractive citrus and orchard aromas and flavors, and outstanding balance. Vivacious and exuberant, it’s a real crowd pleaser! Apaltagua 2016 Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva Apalta Vineyard Colchagua Valley ($17) 91 Dark red. This is a superbly concentrated Carmenere, evident from its expressive nose to its dense flavors and ripe, almost unctuous finish. There’s great acidity and balance with good depth and ripeness and a touch of green tobacco leaf. The Envero Carmenere has always been one of our favorites, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Apaltagua 2016 Envero Cabernet Sauvignon Curico Valley ($17) 91 Like the Carmenere, the Envero Cabernet Sauvignon offers astounding value. This is an impeccably balanced Cabernet with perfectly integrated oak, a solid structure with firm but accessible tannins, and appealing, fresh dark red berry and cassis flavors. Amazingly refined for a wine at this price level, it offers delicious drinking pleasure right now. Apaltagua 2015 Grial Carmenere Apalta Valley Colchagua Valley ($75) 93 Dark red. The Grial always ranks up at the top of our favorite Chilean Carmeneres, and this one is no different. It offers a perfume of red fruit and herbs that gives way to a soft, silky attack and a remarkably long, densely flavored palate. There’s terrific juicy persistence on the back end, too. Most of the fruit for this wine comes from ungrafted, 60 year old vines on the Tutunjian family estate in the Apalta region of Colchagua. Benjamin Mei is winemaker, and Alvaro Espinoza is consulting winemaker.
Calcu 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($13) 89 A perfect crisp white wine for summer drinking, this is a soft and gentle Sauvignon Blanc showing light citrus and passion fruit notes. It’s light on the palate and bright and fresh, perfect for sipping. With a little added ice it would also be the perfect wine cooler. Calcu 2015 Carmenere Reserva Especial Colchagua Valley 91 Dark ruby red. An absolutely delicious wine with a complex, rich savory nose and dark red fruit notes. There’s a soft, full attack and rich, layered flavors of dark fruit with hints of chocolate and tobacco. Calcu 2014 FUTA Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley ($65) 93 FUTA is a well balanced wine with considerably more finesse and judicious oaking than the vintage we reviewed a couple of years ago. It offers an effusive spicy nose of toasted oak and dark red currant. The palate is rich and fresh with outstanding purity and attractive red fruit highlights. Excellent integration of oak and a persistent, extracted finish.
Viña Quebrada de Macul 2014 Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon Upper Maipo Valley ($70) 94 Showing a rich perfume of blackberry and cassis, this Domus Aurea holds up to the lofty reputation of its forebearers. It’s an elegant wine, silky in texture, with deep, rich flavors on a pure, superbly balanced palate.
Viña Peñalolen 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley ($20) 91 Dark red. An attractive, multifaceted nose introduces a charming palate of red and dark red fruit with hints of green peppercorns. The wine is silky in texture with a firm backbone and lovely fine tannins.
Gillmore 2014 Mariposa Red Blend Loncomilla Maule Valley 92 This very appealing 50/50 blend of Syrah and Merlot is big and concentrated yet has the acidity and grip to deliver an impression of freshness and refinement. It has expressive ripe fruit and a prolonged finish. Absolutely delicious. Gillmore 2014 Hacedor de Mundos Cabernet Franc Maule Valley ($40) 92 Semi-opaque ruby red. A highly perfumed nose of dark plum, dried plum, earth and cooking spice introduces one of South America’s best Cabernet Franc wines. It offers dense, copious, layered flavors, a silky texture, and fine firm tannins, finishing remarkably long and pure.
Maquis 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley ($20) 91 Showing sweet red and black fruit aromas, the Gran Reserva has a soft attack and a silky, elegant palate with pure blackberry notes. Long, flavorful finish. Maquis 2013 Viola Colchagua Valley ($55) 93 The best red wine we’ve tasted from Chile this year, the Viola offers a penetrating nose of dark red fruit with a hint of cigar box. The palate has impressive depth of rich, sweet fruit beautifully balanced by lifting acidity and substantial, finely grained tannins. A blend of Carmenere and Cabernet Franc blended by Jacques and Eric Boissenot of Bordeaux. Maquis 2013 Franco Colchagua Valley ($85) 93 Franco is another astounding wine from the winemakers at Maquis. It offers good typicity with aromas and flavors of dark fruit, seamlessly integrated toasted oak, and hints of autumn leaves. The palate is silky smooth and high toned with fine grained tannins despite 14 months in French oak. Will be still better with a little more time in bottle. We also recently retasted the 2011 Franco, which showed the benefit of two years more in bottle.