When I first started down this little blog road, I did not drink a lot of South American wines for the simple reason that I did not buy any. I was caught up in the French and Californian wines that populated my cellar.
Once my writing started to garner a bit of attention, I was fortunate enough to receive a few samples. While most of those wines have been from the U.S., I have received quite a few from South America, mostly Chile and Argentina.
I have a confession to make: for most of my adult life, I did not really think all that highly of South American wines. Why? Well, the easy answer is that I admit that I am (or at least was) a French wine snob and as such it was my duty to dismiss any wine produced beyond its borders. The more accurate reason, perhaps, was simple: most of the South American wine I had tasted was not very good.
Most of those wines were usually at some sort of social event where the cheaper the wine the better.
Now, several years into my “career” as a wine writer I have realized that South America produces a bunch of inexpensive wines that, like many cheap wines, taste, well, cheap. But I have also learned that the region also produces some fantastic wines, many of them quite affordable. All one needs to do is scratch the surface just a bit and there are a host of gems available.
I recently received several such wines from Argentina, a country that is steadily moving up my list of wine regions that I need to visit.
2014 Rutini Sauvignon Blanc Tupungato, Mendoza: Retail $25. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% new oak, 50% 2-3 use barrels. A bit of white grape, lemon, and stone fruit. Great acid but also nice and round from the oak influence. This is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc by any means and that really is a good thing. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Rutini Wines Malbec Tupungato, Mendoza: Retail $35. 100% Malbec. Raspberry, blueberry, cassis and licorice on the nose. On the palate, after an initial wave of fruit, there is considerable intrigue and earth. Like I said, I do not drink a ton of South American wines, but this clearly shows that I should. I would hazard to state that this wine, at $35, could compete with domestic wines nearly twice that much. It is certainly not “cheap” but I would consider this a bargain as it clearly drinks above its weight class. This was also much better on day two which leads me to believe that there is a bit of life ahead of it. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Rutini Cabernet Sauvignon Tupungato, Mendoza: Retail $35. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A nice blend of old and new world. Dark berry fruit up front both on the nose and the palate with some tobacco and earth. The wine quickly shows off its tannic muscle, which is tempered by the fruit. No real hurry to drink this, but it is tasty now. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Trivento Malbec Reserve Mendoza: Retail $10. I perseverated about this wine for a while. It is not a world beater. Heck, it is not even a neighborhood block beater, but there is something about it that keeps me coming back. Maybe it is the blackberry dominant fruit that envelops the tongue with its juiciness. Then there is the acidity: vibrant and joyful, it jumps up and shouts “here I am” right after the fruit makes its grand entrance. Perhaps it is the hint of earth and depth that shows up briefly. Or maybe it is simply the price. $10? A crowd and wallet pleaser. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.
2014 Trivento Cabernet-Malbec Reserve Mendoza: Retail $10. A similar nose to the 100% Malbec, but perhaps with a little more red fruit. Another really fun wine–put this out at any party, and most people will be happy. Fruity and full, with some depth and a sharp focus. On the second day, this was even better as the acidity expressed itself even more. I rarely say this about a sample that I receive, but honestly, this is a wine that I would go out and buy tomorrow. $10? Buy a bunch and keep this in your cellar. Pull it out anytime in any company, and you will be fine. Very Good. 88-90 Points.