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South American Scavenger Hunt PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Citara - BT Contributor   
February 2012

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

Vino_pix_1The depth and diversity of South America’s cuisine is really quite amazing. The gloriously fresh tiraditos and ceviches of Peru, the grilled beef and matambre of Argentina, the appetite-busting feijoada of Brazil, and the over-the-top chivito of Uruguay -- they’re not just popular in South Florida, but are making hungry mouths drool all over the country.

Unfortunately, even in South Florida, it’s a lot easier to find a stellar tiradito or juicy, succulent vacio than it is to find varietals outside the usual oenological suspects from countries other than the continent’s two biggest players, Argentina and Chile -- especially within our $12 price point.

Not that Vino didn’t try.

Shopping on the white-wine side of the aisle, we were hoping to find sparkling wines from Brazil and still wines from Uruguay, perhaps some dry or off-dry Rieslings, a juicy Pinot Gris, or interesting blends of several different grapes. No luck. Amid an ocean of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, we found a single Riesling, a Viognier, and a handful of Torrentes, all from Argentina and Chile.

Sigh…

Tasting results were kind of sigh-ful, too, with a pair of wines exhibiting a distinct “petrol” aroma. One was the Anakena 2010 Single Vineyard Riesling. A noticeable petrol or “diesel” aroma is actually beloved by fanatics of aged German Riesling. In young Rieslings, however, even the grape’s most devoted fanciers say it represents a flaw in either the growing or winemaking processes.

And it wasn’t just the aroma. The Anakena tasted of petroleum, too, though if you squinched your taste buds up really hard you could make out faint peach and apricot flavors. That’s too much work for me; I’ll have a beer instead.

The other petrol offender was the 2010 Trivento Torrontes. At $7.99 it was cheap, all right, though still more expensive than a gallon of unleaded. Which, in fact, is what it smelled and tasted like. I know there are people who say they enjoy this sort of thing and, well, God bless ’em. But I’d prefer my wine not to have the same characteristics as the stuff I put in my gas tank.

Thankfully, things got better after that. Another Torrentes, the 2011 Mendoza Station, lulled you into thinking it would be a rich, creamy, tropical fruity wine with its lush, beguiling aromas of mango, papaya, and honeysuckle. But once in your mouth it was as crisp as a winter morning in Chicago, with only a hint of that floral-tropical character peeking up from beneath tart, fresh flavors of just-squeezed lemon and lime.

Same could be said of the 2010 Porto Reserva Viognier, which hails from the Bio-Bio region, Chile’s southernmost wine-producing appellation and one not often represented in local wine shops. With the area’s cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunshine relative to Chile’s other wine regions, it’s no surprise that this Viognier has much more muted, honied-floral-tropical aromas and flavors than is typical in Viognier made in warmer, sunnier climes. Still, like the Mendoza Station, those characteristics, even muted, make it a willing partner for both seafood dishes and lighter meats like chicken and veal.

Of course, if you really want a great seafood wine, Chilean Sauvignon Blancs are the way to go. Curiously, though, both SBs in this tasting -- the 2010 Veramonte and 2010 Lapostelle Casa -- were actually a little fuller-bodied and a little less austere than either the Torrontes or Viognier.

The Veramonte is one of my all-time go-to wines. Well made and reliable vintage to vintage, easily available, and a pretty decent deal at $11, it has the bright, crisp acidity to balance out a meal of rich fish and shellfish, yet enough body and texture not to get lost in the process. It’s a very pale color, almost clear, with herbal aromas and flavors of citrus and green apple tweaked with an underlying limestone minerality.

The Lapostelle is a little richer and fuller bodied, its citrusy character mellowed by flavors of apricots, melons, and pears, finishing with lemon-lime, minerals, and a bit of spritz on the tongue.

Then there’s the Chardonnay. There’s always a Chardonnay. This one is the 2010 Montes Classic Series, a very affordable wine ($10.49) from a producer probably better known for more up-market offerings. Aged in new and old French oak, it hints at vanilla, pears, and tropical fruit, with a lush, creamy texture and citrus and minerals on the finish, perfect with one of those spicy tiraditos or ceviches, which sound pretty good right about now.

 

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