Argentina & Chile

Hard to beat value

Argentina is the world's fifth-largest wine producer, and for 200 years the Spanish, the Italians and, more recently, the French, have been making wine there. However, a per capita domestic annual consumption of 90 litres had long prevented Argentinean wineries from looking beyond its country's boundaries. Now, with a rash of high-quality plantings of interesting varieties such as Malbec, Cabernet, Bonarda, Tempranillo, Torrontes and Sangiovese, together with a host of fine home and foreign winemaking talent who are heavily investing their time and money, Argentina's potential is being unlocked. Its ever growing presence in both the on and off trade is thanks to great producers such as the Cassone family, who first arrived in Argentina from Piedmont in the 19th Century. Their enthusiasm, investment and top class 90-year-old vineyards, situated in the prime Drummond area of Luján de Cuyo in Southwest Mendoza, 950 metres above sea level, has resulted in wonderfully rich, ripe wines of complexity and substance that could be considered to be some of Argentina's true flag-bearers. Exports of Chilean wine to the UK last year have been growing for several years now. Chile still remains the benchmark for reliable, affordable wine and seems to consolidate this position consistently, year after year. A great example of the quality Chile can achieve at an affordable level are the Ochagavia wines. Simple but packed with intense soft fruit flavours; it is easy to see why Chilean wine has so seduced consumers. Not to be pigeonholed as simply a producer of ‘cheap and cheerfuls’ Chile has started to explore its qualitative potential with great rigour. Many wines from the cooler coastal regions have gained wide recognition for their quality, in particular Lleyda and Casablanca. 20 km from the sea in the Casablanca valley, the Diaz family’s small ‘Loma Larga’ estate is a relative newcomer to the Chilean wine scene but in a short space of time has become one of its most admired producers. Their varietal wines from Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon and Chardonnay each boast their own individuality and, whilst showing typical varietal characteristics, also exhibit a freshness and complexity rarely found in other Chilean wines.