Over the last decade, Argentina has made a name for itself by producing world-class reds, including malbec and cabernet sauvignon.
The country, among the top five in production and consumption, can be considered a world leader in the production of malbec.
This grapey style red came to Argentina from Bordeaux, France, in the mid-1800s. Cuttings came from vines prior to the phylloxera epidemic, which wiped out most of the vineyards in France.
Bordeaux has shifted away from using malbec, while Argentina has planted extensive vineyards of this grape in the Western section of the country. Near the base of the Andes Mountains, many vineyards in the Mendoza region are harvested at elevations above 300 feet. This area is very dry, pest-free and sees more than 320 days of intense sun. The result are grapes with intense fruit and great color, not to mention great values.
Argentina's most famous white grape is torrontes, which comes primarily from La Rioja, its oldest grape-growing region. It's a white that's light, refreshing and priced right.
Andeluna 2007 Torrontes
From the Mendoza region, this medium-bodied white has a tropical note while displaying ripe peach and apricot aromas. Flavors combine a mango and apple notes. Nice acidity gives it a clean, refreshing finish. A good shellfish wine. About $12.
Alta Vista 2005 Malbec
Nicely structured red showing a dark berry color along with rich blackberry fruit. There is a ripe and rich texture to this malbec. Six months in oak barrels adds some tannins but does not take away from the ripe fruit flavors. About $12.
Saurus 2004 Malbec
A perfect example of this varietal. Nice black cherry aromas. More fruit than oak, it is nicely layered with blackberry, plum and liquorish fruit. About $10.
Wine picks are from Tom Bender, wine instructor at Columbia College and wine steward for O'Brien's Market, 4120 Dale Road, Modesto, 545-8100.