Malbec is king in Argentina. At least that is what you hear outside of Argentina. Our experience supports that. Now they do produce other Bordeaux type grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and some Merlot, but Malbec is the main varietal - particularly in Mendoza. We tasted a couple of wines from Patagonia, which is way south of Mendoza, and they weren't bad. But the best wines we had on the trip were Malbecs from Mendoza. It's not close. Mendoza is also at a pretty high elevation but many of the vintners use vineyards from different elevations. Interesting to see how that impacts the winemaking process and how specific wines age.
We had a pretty good idea of where we would be tasting in Mendoza, so while trying wines in restaurants, we wanted to focus on producers that we heard good things about from our friends but not visiting onsite. After a trip to the Rhone in 2004 (where Marc had his "I get it" moment about wine), Marc and I also make an effort to focus on learning about vintners that we can get in the States without too much difficulty as opposed to trying the most esoteric wines but are a nightmare to get imported to Seattle.
We absolutely enjoyed the wines from Catena Zapata, Zuccardi (the lunch at Zuccardi was beyond epic), Achaval Ferrer and O. Fournier. Yes, these are some of the "big dogs" of Mendoza production but the wines were of high quality and very enjoyable. I don't know how much I would age them but they were tasty. And of course, all of these wines went very well with the components of an Argentine 'parrilla' - read: RED MEAT.
On the road, we tasted wines from DiamAndes, Cheval des Andes, Dominio del Plata, Salentein and Alta Vista that were standouts. Most of these, we should be able to get stateside.
As for Chile, it was very hit or miss.... more often a miss. Part of the problem is that we were in remote towns for most of our stay in that country so the caliber of the wines available wasn't super strong. That said, we feel pretty strongly about trying wines from Chile so we have already picked up some wines from a local wine shop to start seeing what we like and do not like.
While we are on the topic of wine, I found some other articles worth reading.
Marc and I have a special affinity for Greece and it seems like their wines are starting to really take shape. We need to try more of these for sure. The title of the linked article is *SO* 'The Wall Street Journal.
I still miss Dottie and John, but Lettie Teague has done well here with some myths about wine in this piece. No question is dumb, so ask if you don't know. Real professionals want to make you feel part of things as opposed to making you feel stupid.
Thinking about joining a wine club? I agree with much of these sentiments. You need to do your homework. I did enjoy the selections from Italian Wine Merchants, when I was a member of their club. It really helped me learn about the types of Italian wines that I am a fan of, plus it helped Marc learn about some of the varietals he was interested in.
The best wine club we have been a part of was from the Sonoma Wine Shop in downtown Sonoma. They customized their selections for each member and really were proactive about taking feedback with respect to style of wines you enjoyed/disliked and price point.
We outgrew their club but we still recommend it when someone asks about learning about wine. Obviously cultivating a relationship with your local wine shop/grocery store (depending on the state you live in) also can bring great finds.
Questions? Please ask. We're not proclaiming that we are now experts on the wines of Chile and Argentina, but we are just relaying what we observed and learned.