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Wine Review: South America Has Answers to France’s Wine Problems

The French government is paying the wine producers in that country the equivalent of $216 million to destroy surplus wine that has gone unsold. That statement alone should be enough to send the California winemakers to their psychiatrists in droves. The operative words here are “wine that has gone unsold.”

I believe that the statement is a simplistic explanation and not a valid reason. Another excuse given is that the youth are not drinking anywhere the volumes as did their forebears, and so sales have dropped. I was trying to think of a good expression for all of this, but none of them that I came up with can be seen in print.

I believe the real answer is a rather simple one. Their wines are too expensive, especially in these times of worldwide inflation, rising prices and food fads. There are few, if any, low priced/affordable French wines that are being imported into this country – so there is another excuse for declining sales.

In this country, the slowing of sales of American-made, wines is more than obvious. In recent years, prices of American-made wines have doubled, then doubled again. In plain and simple terms, even, the American wines are also in the process of pricing themselves out of the business. Under normal conditions, there would be mumbling and there would be complaining, but the wines would still sell; therefore, there must be another answer, and I believe that there is.

I believe a cause of the decline may be due to Argentina and Chile, two countries that are producing outstanding wines and at considerably lower selling prices. It costs as much to make a South American wine as it does to make any other bottle of wine in most civilized countries. It is the cost of producing the grapes that determines the final selling price as all of the other costs in winemaking are well known, so there can be no surprises. My hunch is that the South American wines have arrived in Europe, and they sell at dramatically lower prices than do French wines throughout that heavy wine-drinking continent. At any rate, I doubt we’ll ever get the whole story from France.

The South American countries of Chile and Argentina are producing cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir varieties that are, in many instances, equal to the “old masters” of Europe and at much more affordable prices. Two Argentinian wines that I have previously reviewed and serve as good examples are Art of the Earth 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon ($12) and Art of the Earth 2022 Chardonnay ($12).

With all of that as a backdrop, I sample three wines from France’s other upcoming competitor, Chile:

Veramonte 2020 Pinot Noir ($14)
This pinot noir has been made from organically grown grapes in Chile’s Casablanca Valley, which is the equivalent to California’s Napa Valley, and it is also vegan in its production. The aroma is pure classical pinot noir with black cherry, blackberries and blueberries being the most obvious intermingled with an earthy element. What caught my attention was the faint background aroma of incense, an aroma that is usually only in the finest pinot noir wines. The flavor and aroma did not quickly disappear but remained in the glass and in the room for a very long time.

San Telmo 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Here is a softer, easy-to-drink cabernet sauvignon that needs no extra aging time because there is just nothing rough to age away. This wine comes from a top wine-producing district of Chile, the Central Valley. It displays upfront flavors that showcase cherry and blackberry, with a hint of dark raisins in the background. The flavor continues through to the finish, where it lingers in the mouth for a very long time, an unusual trait for a wine in this price range.

Caliterra 2021 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)
To begin with, a cabernet sauvignon reserve for under $30 is a rarity, and for it to be a really fine wine is a virtual impossibility. With the Caliterra 2021 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, the Chilean vintners have achieved the impossible; this wine is excellent. The deep ruby, medium-bodied wine presents a clean and open aroma of spice, black currants, vanilla and soft oak. There are no harsh tannins, so it is ready to be enjoyed right now without any further bottle aging. Another quality point is the finish, which is moderately long and very fruity. This wine is a true gem.

Source: SBJ