Since most of us can’t travel right now, I’ve decided to craft a world tour of wine values.
Let’s start in South America. The high-altitude landscape of Argentina’s Mendoza region at the foot of the Andes Mountains is home to the 2018 Domaine Bousquet “Gaia” Red Blend ($20). Imagine this backdrop as you enjoy this malbec, syrah and cabernet sauvignon blend.
Next, consider Chile’s wine-growing regions, which are surrounded by the Andes, the Pacific Ocean, the Atacama Desert and ancient glaciers, as you sip the 2017 Cono Sur “Bicicleta” Viognier Reserva ($12), a surprisingly tasty wine from an unexpected grape grown in unexpected soil.
Then, on to New Zealand’s South Island. Sauvignon blanc from the Marlborough district is its most popular wine. The distinctive profile is dominated by things green — namely gooseberry, lime, herbs, even fresh grass. Picture cruising the Marlborough Sounds viewing the winding coastline while quaffing the bracing 2018 Spy Valley ($20) or the brisk 2019 White Cliff Winemakers Selection ($16). Pinot noir from the Central Otago district has emerged as New Zealand’s signature red. Conjure the district’s mountains near Queenstown or the ocean from Dunedin as you savor the bright red fruit and spice accents of the 2018 Loveblock ($30).
Now, over to South Africa’s Western Cape region. Anchored by Cape Town and bordered by the Atlantic and Indian oceans, the region features incredible views of water to the south and mountains to the north. Relish a succulent 2019 Aslina Sauvignon Blanc ($19), from the first black woman winemaker in South Africa.
Chenin blanc though, is the country’s most successful white wine. From the Paarl district north of Cape Town, conjure the nearby slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains as you delight in the tangy citrus and melon of the 2019 Bosman “Generation 8” ($25) and 2019 Backsberg Estate ($14).
We’ll finish the tour on the Iberian Peninsula, first in Portugal where we will enjoy wines from Symington Family Estates. Their base is in the Douro River Valley, home to the famous port wines and the winding river lined with steep terraced vineyards. Visualize this as you imbibe the heady 2015 Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port ($24). Portugal has long been a fine source of table wine values, like the firm, full 2017 Dow’s Vale do Bomfim ($13). Under the Prats + Symington label, the structured 2017 Post Scriptum de Chryseia ($27) is more expensive but a lot more wine.
And Symington’s new Quinta Fonte Souto estate in the southern Alentejo region has made a big splash with its inaugural releases. Since “souto” refers to the chestnut grove on the property, consider that while you appreciate the aromatic, crisp 2018 “Branco” ($25) – 75 percent arinto/25 percent Verdelho – and savor the 2017 “Tinto” ($25), mostly alicante bouschet and trincadeira.
Across Portugal’s northern border in Rías Baixas, Albariño produces Spain’s best white wine. Known as “Green Spain,” imagine the breathtaking views of the Atlantic as you savor the bracing, persistent 2019 Pazo Cilleiro ($20). Tempranillo is Spain’s best red grape, and Rioja the most famous region. Imagining views of the Sierra de Cantabria Mountains, enjoy the fabulous value 2016 Vina Real “Crianza” ($17) for its expressive fruit and fine tannins. The 2018 Kirkland Reserva ($10) is supple, earthy and fresh.
For comparison, try the tempranillo wines of neighboring Ribera del Duero rival Rioja. The lively, supple 2017 Bela “Crianza” ($19) is a good introduction.