Just like in California and France and other winegrowing areas of high esteem, South America is home to multiple sub-regions — regions within regions, otherwise known as microclimates.
It would be impossible to delve into the full list here, let alone the best of the best. So for today, let’s deal with the two undisputed appellation champions of South American wine — the Mendoza region of Argentina, and the Central Valley of Chile.
Argentina is known as “the land of gauchos,” but today’s it’s also thought of as “the land of the vineyards,” producing wonderful wines that shine brightly on the world wine stage. The Mendoza region is the hub of production, and a vast majority of the bottles produced in Argentina include the “Mendoza” designation on their labels.
The soil in Mendoza is alluvial with rocky subsoil. It possesses sediments of sand, silt and clay, and its lack of organic matter restrains the growth of the grapevines, resulting in grapes of excellent quality for winemaking. The wines from this area are known for their great intensity.
Argentina’s neighbor to the west, Chile, also has become a phenomenon on the global wine scene, and its hub of activity is the Central Valley (a.k.a. Valle Central).
Like Mendoza, the Central Valley has numerous sub-appellations, each of which is known for producing specific varieties of exceptional quality.
The Curico Valley, for instance, is situated between the massive Andes and the rolling Pacific coastal ranges, south of Chile’s capital city of Santiago.
Although winemaking has been a valley tradition for hundreds of years, Curico’s modern history as a major New World wine-producing region began in 1979. That’s when acclaimed Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres established the country’s first major winery using modern stainless steel tanks for aging many of the wines. That ignited a flurry of foreign investment and plantings, and Chile now is a major player on the worldwide wine scene.
When you’re looking for a quality wine from South America, the best places to start are Argentina’s Mendoza region and Chile’s Central Valley.