These two countries have been making wine for a very long time. The reason Chile and Argentina seem new to Americans is that historically, they consumed what they produced. Surprisingly, Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest wine-producing country and Chile eleventh. They produce higher quality wine than ever, at very affordable prices, and export most of it to the United States. You can find true bargains while not compromising on the taste of your favorite grape. Remember that the vintages are a half-year older than domestic or European wines, as the harvest is in March in the Southern Hemisphere.
Selections available at The Little Wine Shoppe, 2236 Carter Ave., St. Paul, 651-645-5178
La Palma Chardonnay 2004 (Cachapoal Valley, Chile) $7.49
This medium-bodied wine is a crowd pleaser, offering good fruit and a little vanilla on the finish. Have a glass after work or try it with fresh melon and lighter cheeses.
Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (Mendoza, Argentina) $9.99
There’s a lot going on for the price. Lemon and basil on the nose with a hint of oak. Light enough to drink on its own, but I would pair it with fresh halibut or other mild fish.
Famiglia Bianchi Malbec 2003 (Mendoza, Argentina) $17.99
This one takes about half an hour to open up, so pour it before you serve the appetizers. This Malbec is spicy, big, full of tannin, and should be a treat to the checkbook for California-cabernet lovers. Drink this one with food—a grilled steak would be perfect.
Casillero del Diablo Cabernet 2004 (Central Valley, Chile) $8.99
This medium-bodied treat has flavors of plum, vanilla, and a bit of oak. It’s a wine that should be consumed young, not aged. Once in a while, it’s nice to have a recent-vintage cabernet that’s drinkable today. If you’ve had a hard time finding an everyday cabernet, your search is over.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at email@example.com.