Brand val­ues: best at £ 8-£13

The qual­ity of­fered by its big brands has long been a strength of South Amer­ica’s wine in­dus­try – great for wine lovers, since it means a good choice of widely avail­able, well-priced wines. We asked two of our ex­perts to taste through 74 wines from the bi


CON­FI­DENT, CON­SIS­TENT, CON­VINC­ING – con­grat­u­la­tions to the wine­mak­ers! This tast­ing showed just why South Amer­ica’s brands are so suc­cess­ful on the UK high street. They have an un­de­served rep­u­ta­tion for anonymity, yet the best wines tasted here pro­vide char­ac­ter as well as value. Two-thirds of our se­lec­tion scored 90 points or more – this meant they charmed us with their in­di­vid­u­al­ity, de­spite be­ing pro­duced in many thou­sands of cases.

What came top? It was a dead heat be­tween Ar­gentina and Chile in terms of num­bers, and Brazil made the list with two sparkling wines, prov­ing that it is carv­ing out a dis­tinc­tive niche in that cat­e­gory. Uruguay, a rel­a­tive new­bie on the UK high street, did well with two wines from Fa­milia Traversa, one of them an ex­cep­tional Caber­net Franc – the only one in the line-up, but it un­der­lines the va­ri­ety’s po­ten­tial in South Amer­ica. In­evitably Mal­bec did well, and well done to the Zuc­cardi fam­ily for mak­ing the grade with three Mal­becs in our se­lec­tion. But – buyer beware – twice as many Mal­becs failed to make the cut as passed the test. Qual­ity is not con­sis­tent.

On the other side of the An­des, Chile’s Carmenere dis­ap­pointed us. Only one made the grade: the Max Reserva from Er­razuriz. All the rest were blends and, as an in­gre­di­ent, Carmenere showed it­self an awk­ward bed­fel­low with other va­ri­eties. Much more in­ter­est­ing were the Pinot Noirs from Montes and Cono Sur. There were also two fine Chilean Caber­net Sau­vi­gnons, which de­fied the va­ri­ety’s rep­u­ta­tion here for be­ing all bell pep­per and eu­ca­lyp­tus. Chile’s Mer­lots on the other hand were drab by com­par­i­son.

Any sur­prises? Yes, that we only se­lected one Sauvi­gnon Blanc out of the four sub­mit­ted and one Chardon­nay out of eight. Once upon a time th­ese were head­line-mak­ers. Still, we were pleas­antly sur­prised by the Chilean Carig­nan from Luis Felipe Ed­wards, which was full of char­ac­ter, as was the Trapiche Bonarda.

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