Discovering the Rich and Diverse Flavours of South American Wines: A Guide to the Best Varietals

If you want to know what wines South America has to offer, this guide can help. Here is everything to know about the best flavours of South American wines.
South American wines

Did you know that the citizens of Argentina drink over 9 hectoliters of red and white wines each year? They're surrounded by excellent local options for wine as well as other South American offerings.

You don't have to live in South America to enjoy different wine blends from the region. However, there is a staggering number of South American options, and it helps to know the basics before buying a wine.

From Chilean grape varieties to delicious Brazilian wine, the following guide will explore the best flavours to try.

Argentinian Wines

Argentina has an extensive history of winemaking and produces varieties such as Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec and Bonarda. However, Argentinian Malbecs are some of the best in the world and stand out among other offerings.

Malbecs have a robust and fruity taste and a very velvety texture and finish. The wine is dark, rich and has a flavour comparable to a plum.

Some of the best wine regions in Argentina include Mendoza, La Rioja, San Juan and Salta. Those areas have fantastic conditions for growing multiple types of grapes.

La Rioja wines typically use Tempranillo grapes for their tannins and savoury flavour. The wines are similar to Cabernet Sauvignon but much more fruity. Other grapes used in the region include Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.

Consider trying a bottle of El Esteco Estate Malbec or Trapiche Melodias Malbec to start your Argentinian wine journey. It's important to note that the prices of Argentinian wines continue to grow and some have even surpassed Bordeaux selections.

Chilean Wines

Chilean wines love to showcase their grapes upfront on their labels. The law in Chile even requires 3/4 of the bottle to use the grape stated on the label.

When choosing a Chilean wine, keep in mind that the term Reserva means that the wine has been oak aged and usually contains 12% alcohol. Terms like Gran and Especial typically mean that the wines experienced further ageing in oak in their making.

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular Chilean wine offerings and thrives in the Central Valley around Santiago. If you'd like to try out an affordable Cabernet Sauvignon, go with something from the Maipo Valley first.

If you want top quality, choose Chilean wine from the Puente Alto district. The area has gravel soils that have similarities to Bordeaux vineyards.

Other than Cabernet Sauvignon, the country also produces great Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir offerings. Consider trying Vina Echeverria or De Martino Lagado for your first Chilean Wines.

Brazilian Wine

Brazilian wines are expertly crafted and also have very affordable prices. The country is well known for its sparkling wines, but they have many other types to offer as well.

Brazil produces many important varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Keep in mind that despite their low prices, Brazilian wines are sometimes hard to find in other countries.

Wines produced in northern Brazil often come from Vale do Sao Francisco and don't make it out of the country. Wines from the south make up most of Brazil's exports and the soil makes for excellent sparkling wines.

The Charmat method of making sparkling wine includes a second fermentation using big stainless steel tanks for several weeks. Some Brazilian wineries use the method of Champenoise, which involves a second fermentation directly in the bottle, similar to Champagne.

The most planted white variety is Chardonnay which is why it's so easy to find sparkling wines in the country. You'll also find a lot of Moscato grown and used in sparkling and sweet wines.

Glera is another grape grown in Brazil for its use in Prosecco style wines. These wines are produced still, sparkling, and have a lot of Italian influence.

Consider trying a bottle of Casa Valduga Arte Brut or Casa Valduga Terroir Pinot Noir to get a taste of Brazil.

Wines in Uruguay

Uruguay sits between Brazil and Argentina and has its own unique wine production. It has a mild Atlantic climate that gives its wines a taste more akin to European offerings than Latin American offerings.

While it's not as popular as other South American regions, Uruguayan wines do not lack quality. The country's small wine production leads to many unique and surprising flavours.

Canelones is the biggest wine-producing region and sits in the middle of the coast. Wineries grow Tannat grapes and other varieties to produce their wines, such as Nero d'Avola and Pinot Noir.

Maldonado is a cooler coastal region that has different slope exposures than other areas of Uruguay. Because of the humidity in the region, wines have a distinctly European taste.

The historic Colonia region has a mild climate with sand, gravel, and calcareous soils, perfect for wineries. They produce both red and white wines with subtle aromatic flavours.

If you want to try wine from Uruguay, you cannot go wrong with offerings that use Tannat or Albariño grapes. The country also produces fabulous Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc wines to try.

Selecting South American Wines

Remember that Argentina dominates the world of Malbec and tends to have higher price tags than other countries. Try a Chilean wine for a more affordable option, but keep in mind that they can be harder to find.

If sparkling wine is your favourite, look to Brazil for the best choices. If you want something truly surprising and unique, give Uruguayan wines a try.

You can contact us at Great Wines Direct if you need more help finding your new favourite South American wine.

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