South American white wines have come a long way in the last 25 years and quality is still on an upward trajectory, says Patricio Tapia, who picks five exciting wines to try.

Picture yourself in South America. It is 1990 and you feel like a glass of wine. Back then, the quality of the reds was solid. Most were still fairly rustic, but keen observers could see the potential of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.

The South American white wines were a different story. This was a time when Semillon, Chenin Blanc and Muscat were the leading varieties.

There were some sweet versions, harvested late, that shone, but dry wines resembled pale copies of Sherry: oxidised, without any freshness. If you wanted a crisp, dry, well-made white from any other variety, you’d have to wait a decade for Chile’s first coastal whites to appear, and at least 20 years before winemakers in the heights of Uco Valley could make anything decent from Chardonnay.

Fast-forward 25 years and things have changed radically. Today’s whites, especially in Argentina and Chile, are improved beyond recognition, offering some of the New World’s most terroir-driven drinking experiences.

(Editing by Ellie Douglas)

South American white wines: Five to try