High Value Wines from the Southern Cone

Argentina and Chile arguably produce the world’s best value wines priced at $10-$20.  Argentina has, of course, become famous for its Malbec, and Chile for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  [Chile has more plantings of Cabernet than the US and almost as much as France.] But many other varieties are grown in these two countries as well.  Below, we review several current releases from the Southern Cone. To read about the super-premium wines of these two countries, see our reports on Chile’s Premium Wine Revolution and The Diverse Wines of Argentina.

Albamar 2020 Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($12) 89   Showing notes of lime, thyme and guava on the nose, this is a pleasant drinking wine.  The palate has surprisingly ripe flavors, but it’s also fresh with good balancing acidity and medium concentration. Finishes light and clean. Albamar is one of the brands of Tapihue Wines, located in Chile’s Casablanca Valley.

Aniello 2019 Blanco de Pinot Noir Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 90  Medium yellow straw. Notes of underbrush, dried herbs, and minerals on the nose. The palate mirrors the nose with additional nuances of dried citrus and peach. Full and creamy on the palate, finishing with uplifting acidity and lingering yellow fruit notes. Sourced from a vineyard with mixed soils: gravel, sand, and clay at Mainque in Argentina’s Upper Rio Negro Valley.

Aniello 2019 Chardonnay Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 90   Showing aromas of yellow orchard fruit on the nose, this is an easy drinking, nicely balanced wine.  There’s good acidity and freshness on the medium weight palate. Doesn’t quite have the concentration of some earlier vintages. Still, it’s great value.

Aniello 2019 Pinot Noir Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 91  Medium ruby red.  Showing a complex bouquet of red cherries and berries accented by earth and herbal notes, the 2019 Aniello Pinot Noir offers a mouthfilling, medium weight palate of pomegranate, raspberry and dried Montmorency cherry. It’s well balanced with good acidity, pliable tannins, and a persistent finish.  Well done!

Aniello 2019 Malbec Alto Valle del Rio Negro Patagonia ($17) 89 Opaque red.  Intricate aromas of blackberry, violets and rosemary are followed by a medium weight palate with dark fruit and licorice flavors.  Finishes with lingering fruit notes and firm, chunky tannins.

Apaltagua 2019 Carmenere Reserva Apalta Valley ($13) 91 Dark ruby purple. The plum and red berry nose is a bit reticent, but in the mouth, this wine is beautifully sculpted with a fresh, silky palate and very good phenolic ripeness. Fresh, fruity and delicious! Incredible value!

Apaltagua 2020 Carmenere Rosé Reserva Maule Valley ($13) 91  Blush pink.  Zesty bouquet showing hints of raspberry and kirsch.  Nicely balanced with bright acidity and lively, light red berry flavors complemented by citrus and minerals, finishing long with particularly good extract.  We’ve tasted this rosé several times over the years, and this is the best yet!

Calcu 2019 Escarlata Colchagua Valley ($12) 90  Dark ruby red. The Escarlata Red Blend is a good bistro style wine with a spicy dark fruited nose and a soft, layered palate of dark red berries with tobacco and earthy notes. There’s good acidity and firm tannins. A blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Malbec, 20% Petit Verdot, and 15% Syrah.

Funckenhausen 2020 Rosé Mendoza ($15) 88 This is an easy drinking rosé with an ojo de perdiz color and showing light red raspberry and cherry aromas and flavors. It’s fresh with just the right amount of acidity but finishes a little short.  Sold in 1 lt bottles; a blend of 75% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.

Funckenhausen 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($15) 89  This Cabernet Sauvignon led, red blend offers excellent value in a one liter format.  Cassis and plum aromas are complemented by touches of leather and earth, all mirrored on a tightly focused, fruit forward palate with firm tannins.  Excellent value!  A blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot.

Maquis 2016 Lien Red Blend Colchagua Valley ($35) 92  This is the only wine in this review with a list price in excess of $17, but it still offers great value. The 2016 vintage of Maquis Lien punches above its weight with its elegance and power.  It begins with earth and spice on the nose that carry over to a seamless, expressive palate and complemented by notes of framboise and cassis.  The mouth feel is nice and silky, finishing long and focused.

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