The quality offered by its big brands has long been a strength of South America’s wine industry – great for wine lovers, since it means a good choice of widely available, well-priced wines. We asked two of our experts to taste through 74 wines from the big-name producers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay in order to pick out the best buys for everyday drinking. Sarah Jane Evans MW reports on the tasting...
Confident, consistent, convincing – congratulations to the winemakers! This tasting showed just why South America’s brands are so successful on the UK high street and are also have a growing presence in the USA. They have an undeserved reputation for anonymity, yet the best wines tasted here provide character as well as value. Two-thirds of our selection scored 90 points or more – this meant they charmed us with their individuality, despite being produced in many thousands of cases.
Scroll down to see the 20 top-rated South American big-brand wines
What came top? It was a dead heat between Argentina and Chile in terms of numbers. Uruguay, a relative newbie, did well with two wines from Familia Traversa, one of them an exceptional Cabernet Franc – the only one in the line-up, but it underlines the variety’s potential in South America. Inevitably Malbec did well, and well done to the Zuccardi family for making the grade with three Malbecs in our selection. But – buyer beware – twice as many Malbecs failed to make the cut as passed the test. Quality is not consistent.
On the other side of the Andes, Chile’s Carmenere disappointed us. Only one made the grade: the Max Reserva from Errazuriz. All the rest were blends and, as an ingredient, Carmenere showed itself an awkward bedfellow with other varieties. Much more interesting were the Pinot Noirs from Montes and Cono Sur. There were also two fine Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons, which defied the variety’s reputation here for being all bell pepper and eucalyptus. Chile’s Merlots on the other hand were drab by comparison.
Any surprises? Yes, that we only selected one Sauvignon Blanc out of the four submitted and one Chardonnay out of eight. Once upon a time these were headline-makers. Still, we were pleasantly surprised by the Chilean Carignan from Luis Felipe Edwards, which was full of character, as was the Trapiche Bonarda.
The tasters: Sarah Jane Evans MW, an awarded wine writer and author and a DWWA co-Chair and Patricio Tapia who is DWWA Regional Chair for South America, not including Chile.