As mentioned previously, I’ve been on a “money diet” these past months, but still want to be tasting interesting wines to go with meals I have with friends.

Sometimes force of circumstance leads to happy discoveries. I wanted to share some new finds with you, in the hope that you will enjoy them as much as I have.

Several articles back, I mentioned an Argentinian Marcus James Cabernet Sauvignon a friend introduced me to. This was a very satisfying red wine that I thought was a steal at only $10.80!

This made me think there must be other equally good reds, and perhaps a white or two, coming out of that southern land, so I have been digging into some Argentinian wines priced at $12 or less.

I have also been reading up on more of the wine history of Argentina. I knew that the Malbec grape was brought to Argentina in the 1850s by French immigrants, but I have also learned that subsequent waves of Italian immigrants also brought their grapes.

These have added to the wealth of Argentina’s viticulture, the science, production and study of grapes that deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard.

A number of regions in Argentina have emerged as great vine-growing areas, the first of those being the province of Mendoza, which is responsible for producing 70 percent (more than a billion litres annually) of Argentina’s wines.

Vineyard acreage in Mendoza alone is greater than that of Australia and New Zealand combined.

This region, in North Central Argentina, runs west to the Chilean border, along the spine of the Andes Mountains. This unique geography contributes in part to the quality and success of Mendoza wines.

From what I read, the vineyards of this region are irrigated with melt water from the snows of the Andes, which are incredibly clean and pure. At the same time, the vineyards, set on the lower slopes of the Andes, enjoy other benefits.

As an article in Wikipedia explains, “…due to the high altitude and low humidity of the main wine producing regions, Argentine vineyards rarely face the problems of insects, fungi, molds and other grape diseases that affect vineyards in other countries. This allows cultivating with little or no pesticides, enabling even organic wines to be easily produced…”

The first wine I tried was the Marcus James Malbec 2011 ($10.80).

Like the cabernet sauvignon I had previously tried, I was quite pleased with the taste and quality of this very modestly priced wine.

Marcus James is the largest Argentine wine brand, more than twice as big as its next largest competitor. Their Malbec alone is the 8th largest seller out of the top 100 Malbecs.

The wine is a product of the FeCoViTa co-op of wine producers in Mendoza that produces over 200 million litres of wine a year from 32 different vineyards.

I have to admit, when I first opened the Marcus James, I got a blast of fruit smell that was a little like Welch’s grape juice.

When I let it breathe for five or 10 minutes, it settled down, and I was getting some cherry and white pepper smell on the bouquet, and in the taste. Served with grilled sausage and veggies over pasta, it was a very satisfying wine, picking up some of the smoke notes from the barbecued vegetables and meat.

A tasty little number and well worth a try!

The second find that I recommend is the Pampas del Sur Shiraz/Malbec 2011 ($10.45), another bargain basement winner that might be a fun accompaniment and contrast to the Marcus James.

Here Shiraz (or Syrah) grape juice is blended with Malbec in a 60:40 ratio, to deliver a fruity but dry blend that really works well as a food wine.

I could both smell and taste hints of plums and an almost coffee note that was both unexpected and interesting in such a moderately priced wine.

Again, allowing the wine to breath for 15 minutes really enhanced it. If you don’t have a decanter, just turn the bottle upside down and pour the wine into a pitcher. The action of the wine splashing into the pitcher will oxygenate it, mixing air with the wine.

It will be frothy and foamy for a minute or so, but will settle down, and you’ll immediately smell much more of the bouquet, and the wine will taste far more open, allowing you to sense more of the flavour.

It’s great to find good, interesting, drinkable wines. Even better when they’re wine bargains as well!

I’ll keep exploring more South America offerings, as I am turning up some real values that I want to share with you. I’ll keep you posted on what I find.

Cheers!