Good as the wines from Chile and Argentina are now, they're going to get even better.
One has an established wine-drinking culture, the other has only recently started making decent wine in any quantity. But not only have both Argentina and Chile made astonishing progress in the last decade, both each has the desire and potential to improve even further.
It's a case of 'you ain't seen nothin' yet' with South America's wine heavyweights Chile and Argentina. Each has a signature - Malbec for Argentina, Carmenère for Chile - but both have plenty more to offer.
Chile still produces sizeable amounts of pocket-and-palate-friendly Cabernet Sauvignon, but now boasts increasingly sophisticated versions. Often these include a healthy dollop of the spicy, oily, blackberry-ish Carmenère grape, which by itself can be distinctive if a little over the top. Syrah is a newcomer, but already shows promise, while the few Pinot Noirs from cooler regions are among the best value you'll find. Whites are improving apace, and while some Chardonnays and Viogniers impress, the top wines are Sauvignon Blancs from the Leyda and Casablanca regions. Over the Andes in Argentina, Malbec is the forte. Styles vary from easy youthful gluggers to seriously structured and ageworthy, always with the violet-tinged berry and blackcurrant flavors in evidence. Malbec also blends very well with Cabernet Sauvignon, which by itself can be slightly one-dimensional. Promising Tempranillo also exists. Whites so far lag behind, but the occasional citrussy Chardonnay, peachy Viognier and fragrant, spicy Torrontes (a local speciality) can impress.
The highest commercial vineyards in the world lie at an altitude of nearly 8,530 feet in the province of Salta, Argentina.
Where does water for irrigation come from in Chile and Argentina?
Melting snow from the Andes.