The Southern Hemisphere


bruce cochran

Hello Everyone,

Now that the new year is in full swing, I’d like to extend a hearty “Welcome Aboard” to the many new readers. If you’re a new eWine reader, here’s a brief history.

Nearly seven years ago, I started this weekly “mini wine lesson” as continuing education for former students of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wine courses, which I taught for 26 years.

The classes turned into a newsletter, which turned into tastings, dinners and trips to France, Italy, Spain, Chile and Argentina.

Learning about wine is easiest in small sips. A brief lesson each week, backed up by tasting, is the best way I’ve seen.

Happy New Year!


El Conde Merlot

There’s a lot going on in the southern hemisphere’s winemaking countries, and it’s been going on for a while. In fact, some of the biggest trends in the world of wine have begun down there, and some are gaining momentum.

Vineyards pretty much circle the globe south of the equator, much like they do north of it. Beginning to our immediate south, Chile and Argentina are huge wine producers. Moving west across the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand and Australia, little known for wine only a generation ago, are today household names in the world of wine. Past them, and just across the Atlantic Ocean from Argentina, South Africa remains one of the world’s largest wine producers, and though we don’t see much of their wines locally they’re popular in many places.

Most of these countries got vines from France during the 1800s, about the time the same varieties were first taken to California. It seems that each country found something that really worked for them. Hearty syrah (aka Shiraz) in Australia, zippy sauvignon blanc in New Zealand, deeply colored malbec in Argentina. In South Africa, they like a hybrid called Pinotage. That one hasn’t really caught on in the U.S.

Chile seems to succeed with a variety of grapes, mostly the same ones we see in California (they’d like us to like their Carmenere, and many of us do, but better-known varietals still outsell it a lot. Styles are similar, probably because both Chile and California lie along the Pacific coast and share similarly moderate growing conditions. While both countries make excellent wines in high price ranges, I think Chile probably does a better job with wines for less than $10.

For many years I’ve noticed that in Chile I especially like sauvignon blanc and merlot. For some reason, those two grape varieties seem to excel in that country. The sauvignon blancs are often similar to those from New Zealand, just a bit toned down — not a bad thing, to me. I call it a Pacific Rim style.

And merlot, a grape whose fortunes seem to be ascending now, also thrives in Chile. They tend to be deeply colored, rich in fruit, balanced and smooth, hints of dark berries, and in the best ones a touch of mocha and spice. A really good merlot that I found recently is called El Conde, sort of a big brother to the popular Conde line. It’s an upgrade, at a higher price point, $15.99 as opposed to $8, and I think worth the extra money.

Categories: Legacy Archive