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The Cellar: Wines of South America

Friday, May 02, 2014


At the most recent ‘Evening with Wine’ event at the Providence Wine Academy participants tasted 11 wonderful wines from all over South America, many of which are available locally. The evening kicked off with Santa Digna’s 2012 Estelado; a sparkling Rosé of País from the Maule region of Chile. The workhorse grape variety País used to be Chile’s most widely planted before being overtaken by Cabernet Sauvignon. Difficult to find domestically and often criticized for being thin and bland, wines made from the naturally high-yielding variety País can make great wines when serious efforts are put in and yields are kept low.


Among the whites sampled were two Sauvignon Blancs tasted blind, head-to-head. The battle pinned Casa Casablanca’s 2013 Nimbus Estate Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca, Chile) against the 2012 ‘Sur Lie’ aged Sauvignon Blanc from Bodegas Carrau (Cerro Chapeu, Uruguay). The crowd favorite was the refreshing example from Chile, which was praised for its freshness, nerve and bright citrus fruit. While interesting and different, the ripeness in fruit and weight of the Carrau was a little too much for some people to appreciate.


In the ‘red wine - single variety’ category TintoNegro’s 2012 ‘Uco Valley’ Malbec (Uco Valley, Argentina) narrowly defeated Ventiquero’s 2010 Grey ‘Single Block’ Camenere (Maipo Valley, Chile). Uco Valley is cooler than most other sub-regions of Mendoza, which makes for a brighter style of Malbec with more acidity. The Malbec grapes from this region do fully ripen however, so there is no shortage of ripe dark fruits – there is even a hints of chocolate and oak. The Carmenere was a touch lighter and greener, a tad herbaceous with flavors of espresso – a profile I personally adore.

Red Blends

The last blind tasting pinned two red blends against each other; the 2009 Tikal ‘Patriota’ 60% Bonarda / 40% Malbec blend made by Ernesto Catena (Mendoza, Argentina) against one of Chile’s top red Meritage blends; the 2006 Veramonte, Primus, (36% cabernet sauvignon, 31% syrah, 17% merlot and 16% Carmenere from Colchagua Valley, Chile). When big and bold South American blends are aged for a few years they take on a new dimension as the fruit mellows out and the secondary flavors start showing. Both of these wines were from my private stash and wines I think are drinking great right now. Current vintages are available locally.

For a full list of the wines sampled click here. To sign up for May’s tasting featuring the varietals Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Grenache or June’s tasting where participants will tour the wines of Central and Southern Italy, click here.



Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy.


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