South America 1995: Drink soon
Very good vintage in Chile for drinking now or soon. Argentina superior, with some excellent wines that have still to reach their peak.
Global warming is seen as a possible issue for the future, with less water available from the melting snows of the Andes. Underground aquifers are also having to be perforated to greater depths to reach the water table in many regions of South America. This effect is most marked in Mendoza, where talk about building another dam is under way. Dry conditions lead to healthy grapes.
Some regions, like La Rioja in Argentina are attracting the attention of certain European importers, who have spotted a business opportunity due to the name. Needless to say, it all ends in tears further down the road. Spain won’t allow fast and loose playing like that. Mendoza is now fully into its investment programme, and it is some programme. Don’t forget, this is the world’s fourth largest wine industry beginning to restructure itself. The best wines still come from Mendoza, albeit some interest in the white grape Torrontès from Salta (although it originally hails from La Rioja, further south) highlights the work done by Bodegas Etchart in the beautiful Cafayate Valley.
Look for new names along with the old-established firms. Casa Lapostolle will make great wines, no mistake. Concha y Toro is still hard to beat for sheer value and fruit purity. Merlot is causing furore, especially in the US. The only damper on the issue is that much of it now appears not to be Merlot. While on a routine visit to the Don Maximiano vineyard in Panquehue, some French ampelographers were surprised to identify a sight rare in its own native Bordeaux, Carmenère Even more surprised, though, were the Chileans who realised that a slip-up many years ago in purchasing from a French nursery must have given them an error of identification.