Is it just me or was everyone in South America over break? Or if your Espanol isn’t too bueno maybe you went to Australia (mine is mucho bueno, clearly)? It’s as if we collectively said “hey, these birds are onto something with their whole migrating south thing. Let’s try that too”…but with planes…and nice hotels…and frequent flyer miles…and lots of wine. Thank you, birds, for helping us master vacationing!
And then we came back to Philly, swapped out 30 degrees Celsius with 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and got slapped in the face by our return back to “real life”. And just like that, all the “PHL—>LAX—>SYD—>MEL—>ZQN—>PHL” Facebook posts disappeared, only to be replaced by the worst airport code of all: FRP.
But fret not my friends! If there’s one habit we picked up that’s able to cross international borders, it’s this one: LOTS. OF. WINE. And I am here to help. Below are reasonably affordable wines to help you get through vacay withdrawal. Or depending on where you went, will give you a chance to try something tasty and new. You can get most of these either at the 21st and Market store or online from wine.com.
When talking about South American wine, we’re mostly talking about Chile and Argentina. Think of Chile as a mirror image of California across the equator, so you’ve got a big range of wines—Cabernet, Syrah, Carmenere, Pinot…and that’s just the reds! Argentina is much more focused on Malbec and a few other grapes which can be harder to come by (but of course, if you find a good bottle of Bonarda in Philly, be sure to give me a call).
Hailing from the Colchagua Valley region, the Estampa Reserve Assemblage ($16) is a blend showing off a few of Chile’s heavyweights — Carmenere (a grape almost exclusively grown in Chile), Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here you have fleshy bing cherry flavors and bright acidity to keep it fresh. Match this with slight black pepper spice, earthiness, and just a ‘lil vanilla on the finish. Great option to pick up for restaurant week at your fave BYOB.
One of the most consistent, crowd-pleasing, affordable wines I’ve found is the Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon ($14), also from the Colchagua Valley. Michael Kuritzky, Dana Rosenberg, and I have actually declared this our “House Wine”…so you know, stop by for a glass This wine has plenty of dark fruit, black cherry flavors balanced by sufficient earth and acidity. The touch of vanilla oakiness is not at all overpowering or cloyingly sweet. Best paired with a trip to DiBruno’s.
Missing Mendoza? Get your Malbec fix with the Graffigna Centenario Reserve ($12) — a great value option and perfect for big dinner parties. This botella de vino has savory, almost soy-like scents (perfect to pair with a piece of meat). On the palate, ripe cherry and raspberry flavors balance the earthy undertones. Since this wine has mellow, well integrated tannins, feel free to drink it by itself too. You have my permission.
What might be helpful before you get immersed into the Australian wine scene is that the most commonly planted grape there (Shiraz) is the exact same grape as Syrah, but simply has an edgier name. Whether from Australia, France, Chile, or Cali, you can usually expect nice black pepper notes and grippy tannins.
One of my favorite Aussie wines—for the name and the stuff inside—is the Mitolo Jester Shiraz at just shy of 20 bucks (I actually brought this wine back from Sydney not knowing how widely available it was in the States…whoops!). This dry wine give an initial burst of acidity that mellows out over time and a healthy dose of tannins. And typical of Syrah, you get delicious spicy black pepper notes balanced by dark cherry flavors. I recommend having some food around with this wine. Or at least a reasonably sized hunk of cheese.
For more of a value option, the 2up Shiraz McLaren Vale ($13) had much sweeter, almost chocolatey scents. Starting with bright cherry fruit, this wine transitions to tasty baking spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg. The smooth tannins allow for easy drinking—with or without food. Ordering BBQ to get over the winter blues? Considering adding a bottle of this to your cart too.
For those of you rockin’ white wine in January, I got 2 things to say to you. 1) Props. 2) Try the Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough. This New Zealand bottle has greener flavors—think lime, green pepper, and even jalapeño—which keep it super interesting. If you’ve been on the everlasting journey to find a wine that pairs with Chipotle (we’re all on that journey, right? Not just me…) this is a pretty solid contender. Load up that burrito bowl with pico and some cilantro rice and you’ve got a fiesta on your hands!
Salud amigos! We’re going to get through this!
**Okay, okay. If you’re really in a jam, and need to buy Yellow Tail, my only advice is to buy responsibly. My prior research indicates that the Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are your best bets. You can thank me later for tasting through the ‘tail and figuring this out.