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South-of-the-border Bordeaux


South American wines continue to carve out shelf space. And it’s not just the usual suspects, as Bordeaux makes inroads.

Greg Horton October 5th, 2011

South American wines are so much a part of today’s wine landscape that it’s hard to believe they’ve only been around for about 25 years.

That’s a very short life span in wine years. The brand was built on inexpensive, mass-produced wines, as Chile and Argentina both tried to use exports to help their devastated economies.

The first Chilean fine wine exported to the U.S. was Concha y Toro’s Don Melchor Cabernet in 1987. Concha y Toro is much better known for its value lines, but Don Melchor has established the winery as a serious contender in the production of high-quality Bordeaux wines in South America. During the 2000s, the wine never scored below 90 points on Robert Parker’s scale.

Argentina quickly followed suit, and as of last year, surpassed Chile in wine exports to the U.S. The flood of attention, excellent climate and vineyard-friendly conditions attracted the notice of world-class winemakers like Paul Hobbs and Agustin Huneeus, the former CEO of Concha y Toro who fled his native Chile in the 1970s due to political crises. Over the past decade, South American wines have occupied more and more shelf space in the valuewine category, but winemakers like Hobbs and Huneeus are producing high-quality Bordeaux-style wines in the middle and upper tiers now.

right, Luca Beso de Dante is a Malbec-Cabernet blend, shown with its white paper wrapper peeled down at Freeman Liquor Mart.

Luca Beso de Dante is a Malbec-Cabernet blend from Laura Catena, one of Argentina’s premier winemakers. Known for her remarkably balanced wines, Catena here offers cassis, red currant, raspberry, earth, cocoa and smoke in a medium- to full-bodied juicy wine. It’s available at Freeman Liquor Mart, 4401 N. Western.

Clos de los Siete from superstar winemaker Michel Rolland is a shockingly good wine for about $20. The Malbec-heavy blend of five varietals from Mendoza, Argentina, drinks like a far more expensive wine.

“Clos de los Siete is a serious yet affordable wine built for aging,” said Christie Luna, sales product marketing manager for Glazer’s. “It has flavors of cassis, dried black cherries and an earthy backbone.”

A little young, it would benefit from aging, but at $20, it’s also built to open, decant and enjoy now. Fans of earthy, austere Bordeaux most likely will enjoy it even young.

Luigi Bosca, another Argentine winery, is a popular name already in the metro, with three lines (La Linda, Luigi Bosca and Luigi Bosca Reserva) appearing frequently on wine lists and in stores. The Gala line is its middle tier, and the Gala 2 — a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet

Franc and Merlot — is one of the best introductions available to South American Bordeaux. It’s available by the glass at Bin 73, 7312 N. Western, and by the bottle at West, 6714 N. Western.

Clos de los Siete is a serious yet affordable wine built for aging.
—Christie Luna


One of the most widely available Bordeaux blends in the metro is Montes Alpha M, a Cabernet-heavy blend from Chile. A big, dense wine with violet, earth, blackberry, blueberry, leather and spice flavors, M is available at The Coach House, 6437 Avondale Drive; Spirit Shop, 1117 Garver in Norman; and three locations in Edmond: Boulevard Steakhouse, 505 S. Boulevard; Edmond Wine Shop, 1520 S. Boulevard; and Coffee Creek Wine Shop, 775 W. Covell.

Huneeus established his reputation with Quintessa, the Napa Valley winery known for its Bordeaux blend. Returning to Chile, he partnered with Veramonte to create Primus, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere. The latter was one of the original Bordeaux grapes, but seldom used after the 19th century. Huneeus incorporated it into Primus, both as an homage to old-school Bordeaux and because Carmenere has done remarkably well in Chile.

The wine, available by the glass at Mahogany Prime Steakhouse, 3241 W. Memorial, is a classic Bordeaux style, with cassis, blueberry, cinnamon and earth flavors. It’s a solid steakhouse wine and retails for about $21.

Photo by Mark Hancock

 
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