Ramblings – Comparing Argentine & Chilean Wines to Napa Wines


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Joe Becerra

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We are back from our three-week jaunt in Argentina and Chile. We visited several wineries and had plenty of wine to drink with both our lunch and dinner meals. When we met and chatted with Americans in Argentina and Chile, we were invariably asked the question, “How do Argentine (or Chilean) wines compare with those of the Napa Valley?” Our answer would come without hesitation: “The premium wines of Argentina and Chile are as good as any wines we’ve tasted from the Napa Valley.” These are quality wines with great structure and flavors and what we are talking about is the shear enjoyment of a wine. When you taste a well-made Argentine or Chilean wine you can appreciate it just as much as a good Napa Valley wine. But one thing for sure, as I have pointed out previously, the big advantage for Argentine and Chilean wines is the price. A very good Malbec from Argentina or Carmenere from Chile is in the $10 to $20 range.

Here is an example of what I mean. We visited the Tapiz/Zolo winery in Argentina. It is a big production winery with the latest and greatest state-of-the-art winemaking equipment (This winery was originally owned by Jackson Wines and sold in 2003). One of the entry-level wines at this winery is a series of wines called Tapiz. We learned that the winery made a huge deal with Beverage & More to be the sole importer of the Tapiz label for Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. When BevMo puts this wine on sale, it sells for less than $9. It is a terrific wine at that price and what is most interesting is that in Argentina it costs between $10 and $12. Another interesting fact, the best wine in this series isn’t even imported into the United States, the Malbec Rosé. This wine is just absolutely the most refreshingly dry and flavorful Rosé we have ever tasted. Please, BevMo, bring some of this wine to your stores! There is nothing like it here.

Tapiz Winemaker Fabián Valenzuela
Tapiz Winemaker Fabián Valenzuela

Bodega Salentein makes a delicious Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec. This middle range of wines sells for about $15 to $17 in the U.S. These wines are just absolutely wonderful at that price. The owner sank over 30 million dollars into this beautiful winery. I have never seen a stainless steel tank room so luxurious or a barrel room as unique. From the main floor, you can look down two stories and view the circular barrel room centered with a tiled compass.

Barrel Room at Bodega Salentein
Barrel Room at Bodega Salentein

One of the least-known Argentine wineries is Tempus Alba. It is small winery producing some 5000 cases per year. We loved their wines but one of them stood out from all the wines we tasted on our trip. The Tempus Pleno. The 2005 we tasted was a blend of 60% Malbec and 40% Cabernet. The winery exports wine to the U.S. under the label Preludio. I will search high and low for the Tempus Pleno. At the winery, it sells for $30. Believe it, this wine is worth three times its price compared to premium Napa Valley wine.

A friend of mine asked in an email, “Are you finding the wines just so-so there?” Perhaps this is the perception of many in the U.S. about these wonderful South American wines. I know it may be very cool and chic to serve your guests a Napa wine, but I think is it even more so to serve your guests something a little unknown that will really wow and impress them. Search out a delicious Bodega Salentein Reserve Malbec or a Tempus Alba (Preludio in U.S.) Malbec and serve it up with a grilled steak. Oh my!

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

3 thoughts on “Ramblings – Comparing Argentine & Chilean Wines to Napa Wines”

    The Tapiz wines are all very well made and the Rose is in a class by itself. We tasted a number of other Roses and this was head and shoulders better. It will be coming to Bev Mo in June…. Try a bottle, and get ready for the perfect time of year to drink Rose. There is a lot of $$ being invested in Mendoza, by wealthy people who know a good deal when they see it. High quality fruit, free water, cheap labor, few pest problems, excellent way to invest profits, potential for huge world wide sales. One winery we visited exports 80% of their product. Does that tell you something?? Malbec will challenge Shiraz as the new darling of wine. Different, yes- but it too has great flavors and deserves a place in your home/cellar.
    Mike Beltran

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