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Wine Guy: Both sides of Andes Mountains produce fine wines

Time:2017-10-18 22:26wine - Red wine life health Click:

Wine wines fine both Produce

Caption + In this March 20, 2017 photo people have dinner at a restaurant during an activity called "The Argentine Experience" in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Tourists participating in "The Argentine Experience" have the chance to learn about the local cuisine, wine and traditions during a dinner in Buenos Aires. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

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South America's two best-known wine production regions - Argentina and Chile - are separated by about 100 miles over the majestic Andes Mountains, which is why the one-hour flight is more than 200 miles and five-plus hours by car.

Malbec is Argentina's signature grape. Most of the best come from Mendoza's high-altitude - roughly 3,000 to 5,000 feet - vineyards. Bodega Catena Zapata, arguably the country's most influential winery, produces high quality and value at every price level. The 2013 Catena ($24) is a beautiful wine at a fair price, precisely what makes Malbec so popular.

From nearby Salta, Bodega Colomé produces Malbec in a pure, precise style from vineyards at 6,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level, the world's highest vineyards. (Colorado's range from 4,000 to 7,000 feet.) The enticing, elegant 2014 ($25) is another dandy. Amalaya, Colomé's sister winery, focuses on fruit-forward wines with crisp acidity like the 2016 ($16).

Bridging the mountainous divide, Chile's Montes family produces fine wines using biodynamic production methods. Their 2015 Kaiken Ultra "Las Rocas" ($20) offers firm structure and lush texture. California's Gallo family also has interests in Mendoza. Their 2015 Gascón Reserva ($25) is savory and spicy. The supple 2016 Alamos Malbec ($13) is a fine everyday value, while the 2015 Selección ($20) is more complex and intense.

And there's more. I was impressed with the 2013 Antigal "Uno" ($18) for its structure and refined palate and the 2014 Ruca Malen Reserva ($19), a plump, satiny wine. From Bodega Argento, the 2015 Malbec ($14) and 2014 Reserva ($18) are typically reliable values from this solid producer.

Argentina also produces distinctive white wines, most notably from the torrontés grape. My favorite was the brisk, juicy 2016 Colomé ($15). If you prefer wines with a hint of sweetness, you will enjoy the 2016 Alamos ($13).

I also really enjoyed two torrontés blends: a tangy 2016 Trivento "White Orchid" Reserve ($11) with 15 percent Pinot Grigio; a racy 2016 Amalaya Blanco ($12) with 15 percent riesling. Finally, I was surprised at how good the 2016 Kaiken "Terroir Series" Sauvignon Blanc ($15) was.

On the other side of the Andes, you can find some of the best Sauvignon Blanc values on the planet. I was especially impressed with the 2017 Montes "Spring Harvest" ($15) for its freshness and intensity. Nearly as good, the concentrated 2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc ($18) is made with organically grown grapes.

But Chile, like Argentina, built its reputation on red wine. For instance, there are countless solid, everyday Cabernet Sauvignons, such as the 2016 Casillero del Diablo ($11). At the other end of the spectrum, the 2013 Viña Maipo "Protegido" ($50) is flavorful and complex.

And, as I wrote earlier this year, Carmenere is making a bid to become Chile's signature wine. The toasty, chocolaty 2015 Montes Alpha ($22) is a fine example. Finally, Chile also has shown it can produce tasty Pinot Noir, with the tart red fruit and supple texture of the 2015 Ritual ($20).

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