What’s the next big trend in South American wine? Amanda Barnes talks to seven of the region’s leading sommeliers to find out...
South American wine trends: From the sommeliers
Not so long ago, restaurant diners in Buenos Aires and Santiago would be offered a choice of two wines – red or white – and no one could tell you much about either. But since the first sommelier school opened in 1999, the rise of the somm in south America has been hypersonic. Today you’ll find wine lists categorised by micro-region, wine style or even soil type, and everyone has an opinion.
The role of the professional sommelier has become integral to wineries in Argentina and Chile, while in the gastronomy capitals of Peru and Brazil wine culture is escalating hand-in-hand with the renowned cuisine. The new influx of imported wines and greater dissemination of wine communication is giving the new generation an unquenchable thirst for something new, spawning diverse wine trends of which the sommeliers are at the forefront.
Best Sommelier of Chile (2011, 2014)
‘There are many exciting things happening all over south America. Countries including Peru, Bolivia and even Ecuador are making interesting wines that will surely be as well known as Chilean and Argentinian wines in the future. Brazil has great quality sparkling wine and I think it will soon be known worldwide for its bubbles. Although Uruguay hasn’t yet reached full force, it is a wine country that promises great things. I think the style of wine leading the future is much purer, representing the terroir rather than a recipe, and highlighting both classic varieties and less traditional varieties such as Chile’s Carignan, Carmenere and País.’
Consultant sommelier, Brazil
‘I think the next trend in Brazil will be orange wines. There is a growing group of winemakers in Brazil, Argentina and Chile producing this style, so they will be easier to find than before. The natural wine movement is also growing in Brazil; this can be considered a huge victory for a country which is so attached to the chemical industry. My favourite wines at the moment are Peverella by Era dos Ventos from Serra Gaúcha in Brazil; Via Revolucionaria! Torrontés Brutal by Matías Michelini from Mendoza in Argentina; and Rivera del Notro País by Roberto Henríquez from Chile’s Itata region.’
Joseph Ruiz Acosta
Central Restaurante, Peru
‘There’s a small project in Cuzco with vines planted at 3,500m altitude, and with time I think we will see more winemakers in Peru following this direction. The other interesting movement here is producers working with pisco grapes to make wine.
‘The commercial pioneer is Pepe Moquillaza, who makes wine with the native Quebranta grape – which is Peru’s most-planted variety – and also with Albilla, Italia and Negra Criolla. These wines are really food-friendly with low alcohol, no oak influence and an interesting terroir. I think we will see more of these wines showing an identity of place in the future.’
Federico de Moura
Best Sommelier of Uruguay (2015)
‘The next big thing in south America is the growing diversity of complex white wines and world-class traditional method sparkling wines, especially in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile. Uruguay is giving us a lot to talk about with its fruity and expressive Albariño, and Sauvignon Blanc also has great potential. We enjoy naturally high acidity in our white wines, with no need for correction, and our Sauvignon Blanc is wonderfully fruit- forward with a great expression of our climate and soil – quite different from the styles of New Zealand and Chile.’
President of the Asociación Argentina de Sommeliers
‘What excites me about the future of Argentinian wine is the arrival of new styles. Top [Malbec] wines now achieve a great balance between intensity of flavours with a natural freshness and elegance.
‘We are also seeing a re-emergence of Cabernet Sauvignon, while Pinot Noir is now achieving a subtlety that was often overlooked before.
‘In the case of the white wines, the old-vine Semillons have a great freshness and weight in the mouth, and our Sauvignon Blanc shows great diversity – including even maritime influences. Everything about the future excites me.
‘This generation of winemakers knows how to innovate on a technical level, while keeping their eyes firmly on the ground beneath their feet.’
‘What I find most interesting about the future of Chilean wine is the diversity of expressions from new terroirs. We have savoury and mineral wines from the desert of Huasco; wines with great personality from above 2,000m altitude in Elqui; fresh and fruity wines from deep Patagonia, such as Villaseñor’s Puelo Pinot Noir; and lively wines from new coastal regions in Aconcagua Costa, Colchagua Costa and Zapallar.
‘It is the diverse landscapes of Chile that make us unique. It’s amazing how you can travel to Chile’s many contrasting territories through the different expressions of its wines.’
‘The next big thing in Argentina will be terroir-driven wines. Each year we see amazing wines from specific vineyard plots and new appellations gaining recognition. Argentina has unique conditions, unlike anywhere else in the world. Places like Cafayate, for example, where the high altitude and perpetual sunshine create wines with a distinctive sense of place.
‘We need to start trusting more in what our vineyards, sunshine and soils can give and stop trying to “copy and paste” the styles of Bordeaux, California, Burgundy…
‘There are also some interesting wines and innovative styles to look out for from Argentina, including those from Grenache, Mourvèdre, Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvasía, Trousseau, and orange wines.’
Amanda Barnes is editor of www.thesqueezemagazine.com, a guide to wine and travel in Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay
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