When I returned from my latest trip right before Thanksgiving, I noticed I had a couple of problems on my hands. The first was that I was saddled with a rather nasty cold, which aside from feeling like I had been hit by a truck, meant that I could not smell much of anything. That first problem only exasperated the second: I was accumulating dozens of samples that I could not try and there were more and more arriving daily.
As I started to feel better last week, I have made a concerted effort to get through the mountain of bottles that are dominating our kitchen. Here are several wines from South America that I tried over the last week or two:
2016 Amalaya Malbec Salta, Argentina: Retail $17. There are a few brands that I would not hesitate to buy before having tasted the wine, and Amalaya is near the top of the list. Every one of their wines I have tried has been both tasty and reasonably priced. Big jammy blackberry paired with black pepper on the nose. Past the lips? Good fruit, ample tartness, reasonable depth. Not a world changer, but it will impact your Tuesday night. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Concha y Toro Sauvignon Blanc Terrunyo Los Boldos Vineyard Block 5, Casablanca, Chile: Retail $26. The vines that produced this wine are planted at nearly 1,300 feet above sea level, and this block of the Los Boldos Vineyard produces perhaps the best fruit from the vineyard. This wine is not for fans of the light, insipid style of Sauvignon that one finds on the bottom shelves at the local wine shop. No, this is a full-throttle, flavor-packed Sauvignon Blanc with tropical fruit, mango, fresh-cut grass, and traces of cat-pee (yes, once more, that is a good thing). On the palate, the intensity continues as the fruit and acidity immediately compete for your attention, and both seem to win. That tartness remains throughout, lingering well beyond the finish. Big, bold, racy, and just short of a Whoa. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Concha y Toro Marques Casa Concha Carmenère, Chile: Retail $20. Plenty dark in the glass as well on the nose–cassis, blackberry, dark raspberry, coffee grounds. Fruity on the palate as well–this is an easy drinker, with a brooding disposition. Before you pop the cork on this bottle, be sure the barbecue is red hot and eager to singe a bunch of animal flesh–you will be glad you followed my advice. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Concha y Toro Marques Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Chile: Retail $20. Darker still than the Carmenère, but this is more red fruit than dark–more raspberry than blackberry, but still ample amounts of cassis. A bit more austere, with even slight green notes, but it works. More of an Old World style with high acidity and some tannin. For the price? This is a sophisticated wine and an asset to any table. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Trivento White Orchid Reserve Torrontés, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $11. 85% Torrontés, 15% Pinot Grigio. Over the last few years, I have become a big fan of Torrontés—it packs in a ton of flavors and aromas, it usually has a brilliant tartness, is generally affordable, and it is a lot of fun to say with your best Spanish accent (go ahead, give it a spin—I’ll wait). Acacia flower, white peach, and guava are all over the nose here, and that acidity is front and center on the palate. As is tons of fruit and a splash of verve. I am not sure you are going to find a more expressive wine at this price. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Trivento Argentinian Blend Cabernet-Malbec Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $12. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Malbec. The Malbec lends considerable color to the wine that exudes dark berry fruit, mocha, and just a touch of funk. Plenty of juicy fruit on the palate, mostly raspberry and cassis, with a tartness that provides plenty of structure. There is a slight grip on the finish that suggests the ability to age in the short-term, but there is really no point—this is plenty tasty right now. Grab a bottle for the holiday table or the neighborhood barbecue. Heck, for the price? Grab two. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2016 Trivento Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $11. Here is another example that solid wines can be made for around ten bucks. No, this will not change your life, it will not convince someone to marry you, it will not impress your boss sufficiently to result in that well-deserved promotion. But on a Tuesday night with burgers or nachos? You bet. Dark and red berry fruit, coffee grounds, shaved chocolate on the nose, with ample fruit and acidity on the palate. Again, not a world beater, but who wants to beat the world every night? Particularly on a Tuesday? If you beat the world on a Tuesday, what are you going to do when the weekend rolls around? Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.