Chilean and Argentinian wines with a sense of place

De Martino Gallardia Cinsault Itata, Chile 2018, £14.95, The
Great Wine Co When we think of France and wine, we think of regions. We are comfortable generalising about Bordeaux, and comparing it to Burgundy or the Rhône, and wary of making sweeping statements about a monolithic ‘French wine’. The same is true of Italy and to a lesser extent Spain. But it’s a different story in South America. While most of us will have a generic idea of what to expect from the wines of Argentina or Chile, the identities of both countries’ vineyard areas are nothing like as well known as their European (or Australian and Californian) counterparts. That’s starting to change, however. In 21st-century Chile, the wine industry has made a priority of exploring and working out which areas of this long, slim country are best suited to which grape varieties, and regional identities are really starting to emerge. The cool southerly Itata Valley is one place to look out for: it has a real penchant for producing fragrant, crunchily red-fruited and refreshing light reds, such as De Martino’s Gallardia Cinsault.

Pedro Parra y Familia Pencopolitano Itata Valley, Chile 2017, £18.10, Vinvm De Martino has been an important player in exploiting the potential of the Itata Valley and in the process helping to raise the profile of two hitherto unfashionable grape red grape varieties: cinsault, a southern French variety that has recently enjoyed a revival in South Africa as well as Chile; and the much-maligned local Chilean workhorse país. Both varieties combine beautifully in another fine Itata red from the globe-trotting Chilean viticulturist Pedro Parra: Pencopolitano has a little more depth, power and grit to the texture than the Gallardia, while still having plenty of lift and liveliness. It reminded me a little of a the more serious end of Beaujolais, which is no surprise, as the French region shares with Itata a preponderance of decomposed granite soils. As well as his own projects, Parra has also brought his deep knowledge of soil to countless other Chilean clients, including Viña Ventisquero, who have shown the potential for winegrowing in the far north of the country, with their gorgeously slinky Atacama Desert Pinot Noir, Tara Red Wine No 1 2016 (£39.50,

Altos Las Hormigas Colonia Las Liebres Mendoza, Argentina 2020, from £11.29, Hay Wines Argentina has had to work even harder than Chile to persuade the world’s wine drinkers that it has more than one string to its bow, so powerful is the association between the country’s Mendoza region and the bold fleshy reds it produces from the malbec variety. Much of the work has been focused on diversifying the range of malbec, emphasising the very different styles of malbec produced in the various sub-zones of high-altitude Mendoza (the traditional Lújan de Cuyo and Maipú; and the fashionable Uco Valley and its own sub-zones such as Gualtallary, Vista Flores and Altamira) as well as further south in Patagonia and to the extreme altitudes of the north in Salta Province. But there’s been an effort to emphasise different grape varieties, too, among them the red bonarda which, in the case of Altos Las Hormigas’s example sourced from vines in Mendoza’s Medrano and El Carrizal de Abajo sub-regions, is bursting with vivid cherry fruit.