casablanca_valley1.jpgFirst it was Australia, then it was New Zealand . . . now the next New World wine region to capture the hearts and taste buds of New Yorkers is South America. What makes this region so spectacular for easy to drink, plush, fruity wines is the perfect climate. Grapes get to bask in the warm Latin sun – enjoying a particularly long ripening season. Kind of like the holiday we wish we could take. Rain and frost are non-issues and with plenty water from irrigation those lucky grapes are more spoiled then the tenants of 927 Fifth Avenue.

The two areas of interest in South America are Argentina (Mendoza Valley) and Chile (Maipo Valley). Argentina, the largest wine producing area in South America, has created worldwide buzz with their Malbec wines. Malbec a grape which was typically used for blending in Bordeaux has found its niche in the Mendoza Valley. These fruity red wines are bursting with black fruit like blackberry and boysenberry and the smooth rich texture makes your mouth feel almost as pampered as the grapes. Chile has found great success with the Carmenere grape as well as some classic French varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Some suggestions:

Bodega Cantena Zapata, Malbec Mendoza Alamos 2002, $11:This wine is a great value. Ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit, nice acidity and hints of mocha all for just $11.

Domino Del Plata, Malbec Mendoza BenMarco 2002, $20:Raspberries, check. Boysenberries, check. Smooth rich texture, check and check. This wine has it all. It’s plush, elegant and a great example of a sophisticated Argentinean wine.

Bodega Norton Barbera Mendoza, 2003 $10:Malbec isn’t the only grape in town. This wine made from the Barbera grape (from Italy) is bursting with raspberries, cherries, vanilla and spices.

Concha y Toro, Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Marques de Casa Concha, Chile 2002 $15:This wine has great intensity. The currant and berry notes are concentrated and leave a lasting impression.

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley 2003, Chile $10:The Casablanca Valley in Chile is one of the premier places in the southern hemisphere to grow Sauvignon Blanc - and this wine exemplifies why. The rich citrus fruit flavors are complemented by the lively acidity. This wine’s got bite!

While it looks like our South American holiday has to be put on hold for now, Gothamist will have to improvise a little with a great bottle of Malbec, some manchego cheese and our new sun lamp. Okay, maybe two bottles.