Tag Archives: reds

South American wines are ‘muy bueno’

There was a time when wines originating from South America were just cheap commodities, often scarcely palatable. Back then, if your friend served you a South American wine, either he or she had fallen on hard times or it was time to find a new friend.

History gives us a rationale for such plonk. Spanish monks who helped colonize the continent brought with them clippings of vitis vinifera, which they planted and cultivated largely for use as altar wines, an enterprise less concerned with capitalizing on the character of the grapes. The 19th century saw an influx of French varietals, but the vintners’ expertise remained rudimentary, with an emphasis on quantity over quality.

That all started to change in the 1980s. Expertise developed and new winemaking techniques like stainless steel vats and oak barrel aging were introduced. More wine was exported and more of it was worth exporting. As time passed, the reputations of South American wines, particularly those from Argentina and Chile, steadily improved.

At the end of the 20th century, an influx of French immigrants into Chile and investments by French and American winemakers turned the trend into a seismic shift. Chile and Argentina’s oenological advances are now the wine world’s best-kept secret. 

Better wines from the two countries have become mainstays on local restaurant wine menus and in bottle shops thanks to the higher quality and continued lower prices of the product. Today, if a friend serves you South American wine, he or she may still be cost-conscious, but also on the cutting edge of an emerging movement. And that’s someone you may want to get to know better.

Here are some suggestions to consider next time it’s your turn to pour:


Like neighboring Chile, Argentina’s wine industry dates back to the 16th century and is strongly influenced by Spain. Argentina at one time was the world’s fifth largest wine producer, but 90 percent of its output was consumed locally because the quality was too low to export.

In the 1990s, Argentina’s financial needs encouraged an increase in the export market, which boosted the quality of the country’s wines. South American economics, including the 2002 devaluation of the Argentine peso, also have helped keep prices low, making the country’s wines an excellent value.

Argentina’s best-known winemakers hail from the Mendoza province. Consider Antucura, which grows its grapes in the region’s Uco Valley. Head winemaker Herve Chagneau’s 2014 Antucura Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) is characterized by bright fruit and soft tannins, both of which make the wine more approachable. Aged three months in French oak, the wine delivers red fruit, spices and licorice notes to the nose and the palate.

More distinctive, perhaps, is Chagneau’s Cherie Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé ($15). Expect the bubbles to deliver floral aromas of yeast, toast and candied fruits, all of which reappear on the palate. Sparkling rosés come and go, but one is worth trying.

Mendoza also is home to Bodega Luigi Bosca, established in 1901 and Argentina’s oldest family-owned winery. The winery’s Finca La Linda brands offer both a red and a white of intriguing taste and sound characteristics.

The Finca La Linda Torrontés ($12) draws on Argentina’s white specialty grape, similar to muscat in its characteristics. The wine has floral aromas, reminiscent of lavender and rosehips, and delivers a slightly sweet taste of peach and orange peel. Its balanced acidity makes it suitable either for sipping or supping.

The Finca La Linda Bonarda ($12) may be a little more interesting. Unrelated to the three types of bonarda grapes grown in Italy, the Argentinian bonarda is in fact genetically identical to France’s douce noir and California’s charbono. The Finca La Linda version pours a ruby red, with aromas of red fruit and figs. The rounded, full-bodied wine arrives velvety on the palate, with ripe tannins providing backbone to the wine’s lingering finish.

Luigi Bosca cranks it up a notch with their 2012 Pinot Noir ($21). Vinted from grapes grown in Bosca’s east-facing El Paraiso vineyard in Lujan de Cuyo-Maipo, the wine pours ruby-red, with aromas of strawberries, chocolates and red fruit. The wine is full-bodied and fresh, vigorous in its approach and elegant in its finish.

Casarena, another Mendoza vineyard, weighs in with a truly notable wine, the 2011 Single Vineyard Jamilla Malbec ($38). The rocky limestone soil of the Argelo and Perdriel vineyards in the Luján de Cuyo give the wine a pronounced minerality, which nicely tempers its floral and fruit tendencies. Expect flavors as diverse as blackberry, licorice, bitter chocolate and even crushed rock, with a good acidity to strengthen the wine and temper the palate. This one is a keeper.


Although its trajectory closely followed that of Argentina, Chilean wines gained a foothold in the United States slightly ahead of its neighbor. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world and the ninth largest producer. The climate of the narrow, mountainous country, which runs roughly half the length of South America’s Pacific coast, has been called a cross between California and France, which makes it prime winegrowing country.

The Casablanca Valley, in Chile’s Aconcagua region, is one of the country’s best known wine-producing areas, and Casas del Bosque winemaker Grant Phelps is doing some good things with locally produced grapes.

Phelps’ 2013 Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc ($17) draws on two different clones of the grape grown on nine-year-old vines in a hillside vineyard planted in red clay mixed with granite. The soil suitably stresses the vines, resulting in a wine with a nose of grapefruit and smoke tempered by a hint of salted sea air. A palate of guava, kiwi and other tropical fruits is tempered by a zesty acidity that adds to the wine’s structure and strength.

A similar brightness follows in the 2014 Reserva Rose ($13). Produced from deep red syrah grapes, the wine boasts a nose of key lime, grapefruit and other fruits, again tempered with a little salinity. Expect flavors of citrus and ginger, with a mineral backbone and sufficient acidity to give it character. 

The syrah reappears at full strength with the 2012 Gran Reserva Syrah ($19). The deep red wine wines arrives with aromas of strawberry and spice, delivering a palate of plum, fig and black olive flavors, with chocolate and spice on the back palate for a richly textured finish. A strong oak backbone and well-integrated tannins make this an exceptional wine.

One cannot talk about Chilean wines without at least mentioning Concha y Toro. The historic winery’s Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere ($23) is just one of the reasons why. The deep red wine arrives with aromas of ripe black fruit and spicy black pepper. Flavors of blackberry, chocolate and oak-induced vanilla fill the palate for rich, luxurious mouthful.

This wine is the perfect place to end this South American wine tour, but it may be an even better place to start a journey of your own.

French vs. American wines? Vive la différence!

In 1976, a handful of California winemakers entered a wine competition in Paris hoping to gain attention from the elites who governed the European wine trade. No one was more shocked than the French judges themselves when the series of blind tastings resulted in overwhelming wins for American viticulture.

The so-called “Judgment of Paris” had immediate and enormous ramifications for the global wine industry. American producers continue to win awards worldwide and have never looked back.

As you schedule your parties this holiday season, consider hosting your own “judgment,” pairing U.S. wines with their French counterparts. Your goal should not be to find one wine better than the other, but to look for complementary pairings that expand your tasting horizons as well as those of your guests.

Here are five complements to get you started:

One of the most consistent, yet versatile varietals is sauvignon blanc. The 2013 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($27) hails from France’s Loire Valley, considered the home of sauvignon blanc. Along with Pouilly Fumé, Sancerre is considered one of the region’s finest brands. The Pascal Jolivet winemakers practice their own version of biodynamic winemaking, using 100 percent sauvignon blanc grapes. The result is a bright, youthful wine with refined fruit flavors, subtle sweetness and vibrant acidity. It’s an excellent accompaniment to lighter foods.

Our corresponding California wine, the 2013 Duckhorn Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($29), calls to mind New Zealand’s vivid, flavorful sauvignon blancs. The nose and flavor palate offer strong essences of grapefruit, melon and lime zest. The wine, which also contains 16 percent sémillion grapes, benefits from its time in French oak barrels, giving it a rich undertone that complements the wine’s natural flintiness.

As ubiquitous as sauvignon blanc has become, nothing beats chardonnay in a white wine popularity contest. It can be bright, light and reedy, or fully oaked and filled with vanilla overtones. Our complementary pairing strikes a middle ground between the two styles.

The 2012 J.J. Vincent Bourgogne Blanc ($19) comes from France’s Mâconnais area in Burgundy and is named for the chateau’s winemaking patriarch Jean-Jacques Vincent. After the grapes are harvested, 70 percent are vinified in stainless steel tanks, while the remaining wine spends six months in oak barrels. The blended result is a straightforward wine, more fruit-driven than many French wines, with a light acidity and tropical overtones.

The 2012 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay ($28), JJ’s partner wine, paints a brighter picture both in terms of nose and palate. Having been fermented in both casks and concrete tanks — in the later case sur lie, or resting with the dead yeast and other grape byproducts to extract more flavor — the resulting wine is clean, with notes of slate, peach and citrus on the palate. Balance and acidity combine to make this a great wine for seafood.

Sometimes wine varietals don’t have to match exactly to make a good impression. Consider pairing the 2012 Chateau Fuissé Juliénas Domaine de la Conseillere ($29), from France’s Beaujolais region, and the Wollersheim Domaine Reserve ($30), grown in the Lake Wisconsin viticultural area just north of Madison. 

Wollersheim winemaker Philippe Coquard was born and raised in Beaujolais, and his Domaine Reserve has an extremely dry palate and a clean finish, much like wines from Chateau Fuissé. But that’s where comparisons end.

The French wine, produced exclusively with Gamay grapes, has a delicate, subtle nose that favors raspberries with a hint of smoke. Its American counterpart is bolder and deeper, made primarily of Maréchal Foch, with a touch of Millot grapes. The fruit-forward wine has a structure similar to the Chateau Fuissé, but with a flavor palate of blackberry and spice. Neither is truly better than the other, and they are a delight to sample side by side.

In addition to Burgundy, France’s other great wine region is Bordeaux, the source of Andre Lurton’s Chateau De Cruzeau Red ($27). Like so many of Bordeaux’s great growths, the wine is a blend — in this case, 55 percent cabernet sauvignon, 43 percent merlot and 2 percent cabernet franc. The result pours a deep garnet with a nose of black cherry and other stone fruits. The wine is well structured, with a velvety mouthfeel of blackberry, a touch of tobacco on the back palate and a lingering finish.

Not surprisingly, the 2011 Girard Artistry Napa Valley Red Wine ($42) is more fruit forward in its assertions. The blend is more complex, with 55 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent malbec, 9 percent petite verdot and 8 percent merlot, all harvested from different Napa Valley vineyards at different times. Expect a complex nose of licorice, cherry, cocoa and a little coffee when pouring this deep red beauty into the glass. A palate supported by fine tannins brings to mind dark fruits, such as plums and currants with bright cherry notes.

Your tasting wouldn’t be a holiday event without a bit of the bubbly to help ring in the New Year. Only wines that come from the French region of Champagne can be labled as such, but the U.S. bottles its own sparklers worthy of note. 

The non-vintage Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut ($39) is a product of one of France’s great Champagne producers and a multi-award winner in various global competitions. An extended maturation period provides the light, lacy bubbles that characterize the bright, golden wine. Its blend is a variety of dark, juicy pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes from more than 100 top vineyards in the region.

The nose is alive with the subtle presence of pears, apples and a light citrus-grape flush. Those notes carryover to a palate with a fine mouthfeel and flavors of pear, grape and even grapefruit. The wine’s finish is crisp, clean and leaves you wanting more.

Even though it can’t technically be called “champagne,” the sparkler J Cuvee 20 Brut ($19) from the Sonoma Valley’s J Vineyards & Winery is in the same vein. Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse alters the blend to include 54 percent chardonnay,  44 percent pinot noir and 2 percent pinot meunier, with the juice of each grape kept separate until blending.

The more complex mix adds greater character, with a nose of hazelnut and apricot. The flavors carry over to the palate, which offers notes of pear, lemon and lime zest, and even mousse, all bracketed by a lively acidity and a lingering presence.

When it comes to tasting French and American wines, vive la différence, but cheers to the similarities.

Taste tradition in red wines of the Old World

Next time you pour a glass of wine, consider how long the nectar of the grape has been filling drinking vessels around the world.

The first evidence of wine dates back to 6000 B.C. in the Middle East, and its progeny has been pouring forth ever since. Only during the past several hundred years, however, has a geographically-based wine industry created a spirited competition among winemakers worldwide.

Most U.S. wine drinkers are well versed in “New World” wines, which include those produced in the United States, South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Bright, zesty and fruit-forward, those wines trade on aromatic noses and abundant, vivid flavors.

Then there is “Old World” wine, a term for wines produced in Europe, the Middle East and points between. These traditional wines are generally less fruity and more subdued, because Old World wines were meant, first and foremost, as a complement to food. They were also often blended to remain cellared for extended periods, making the resulting wines refined and subtle. 

Treat yourself to some Old World wines this holiday season for a taste of tradition. Following are seven reds from five countries that provide great examples of traditional Old World wines that don’t break the bank.

Long noted for its fine port dessert wines, Portugal has recently emerged as a provider of fine table wines as well. One favorite we’ve written about before is the 2009 Grão Vasco Dão Red ($8.99). Grown in the Região Demarcada do Dão, a mountainous region in central Portugal whose climate is tempered by both maritime and continental influences, the wine is blended from touriga nacional, tinta roriz, Jaen, alfrocheiro and tinta pinheira grapes. 

The wine pours a medium ruby red, with hints of plum and black cherry on the nose. Those notes, including a hint of balsamic, carry over to the palate, which is characterized by elegance, smoothness and well-balanced tannins and acidity.

Spain also offers fine selections, one of which stands out for its character and value. Fans of “old vine” wines will find the 2010 Finca Museum Vinea Cigales Crianza ($21) a special treat, because it’s produced from Tempranillo grapes grown on vines estimated to be between 60 and 100 years old.

The garnet wine is elegant, even a bit velvety, with dark cherries, cocoa, plums and vanilla on both the nose and palate. Well-structured tannins provide a framework that gives the wine a lingering, pleasing finish.

The great chateaus of France produce some of the world’s greatest wines, but they are beyond many wine drinkers’ price reach. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a wealth of affordable options waiting to be sampled. The 2011 Hecht & Bannier Minervois ($24) may be one of the more unusually pleasing ones.

Minervois is a name for distinctive red wines from the Languedoc region in southwestern France. The grapes used in these wines benefit from long days of Mediterranean sunshine. The wine itself is a blend of syrah (45 percent), grenache (45 percent) and touches of both mourvèdre and carignan. The result is fruity, with flavors of blackberry, blueberry and spice. Firm tannins give strength and structure to the wine, which has a slight minerality and finishes with a hint of chocolate on the back palate.

Equally good is the 2012 Domaine Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge ($24). The wine is blended from pinot noir grapes sourced from vineyards in Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune and Côte Chalonnaise. The resulting wine offers a palate of bright red fruits and a refined finish that speaks to its high Burgundy pedigree.

Austria isn’t known for its red wines, and those it does produce are usually reserved for local consumption.
Thankfully, such is not the case with the 2011 Biohoff Pratsch Zweigelt Organic Wine ($15).

Grown in the Weinviertal region near Vienna and produced entirely from organic zweigelt grapes, Austria’s favorite red wine grape, the wine offers a bright blend of fruit and spice. Its nose of dark red fruits gives way to a palate of cherry, raspberry and black pepper; a good structure and light acidity make it a compelling complement to food.

Finally it’s on to Italy, where we have saved the best for last. 

Vintners still make chianti in the traditional wicker-wrapped bottles, but the best ones eschew the tourist trappings and stand on their own character. The 2005 Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico Riserva ($28) stands taller than most.

A fragrant nose of sweet cherry and berry fruits gives way to a well-balanced palate of red fruits with hints of tobacco, figs and white pepper. The wine’s flavors linger in a long, refined finish.

As good as the Ruffino is, it doesn’t quite stand up to the 2010 Farina Amarone della Valpolicella ($47).

Amarones are the pride of Valpolicella, because of the process by which they are made. The grapes used in the wine — in this case corvina (70 percent), rondinella (20 percent) and molinara (10 percent) — are sun-dried on wooden trays for up to six months after picking, a process that concentrates the fruits’ natural sugars and, consequently, the wine’s rich flavors. The grapes are pressed and the wine barrel-aged for three to four years, then bottle-aged for an additional year.

The result is a rich red wine of great depth and character. Fruit flavors and earthiness blend to give it a spicy, even slightly bitter quality that clearly tells of its terroir and the volcanic, gravelly soil in which the vines were raised and the traditional processes by which the wine was blended.

An amarone is decidedly for special occasions, or for turning a decidedly ordinary day into a very special one.

‘Wines by northwest’ pour excellence

California gets all the attention when it comes to wine produced in the United States. With wineries concentrated mostly in regions such as Napa and Sonoma, the state produces almost 90 percent of  the wine made in the nation.

But turn your western gaze a little more northwesterly. Washington and Oregon have winemaking legacies nearly as long as California’s, and those states’ pinot noir, chardonnay and excellent vintages are pushing them further into the limelight. The states rank as the third and fourth highest-producing states in the nation behind California and New York.

Washington boasts an $8.6 billion wine industry, more than half of which comes from wine tourism. More than 50,000 acres of vineyards (owned and operated by about 800 wineries and 350 ancillary grape growers) produce 12.5 million cases of wine in the state. Production is more or less evenly distributed between red and white varietals.

Oregon lags its northern neighbor but still boast $2.7 billion industry that’s built largely on the reputation of its pinot noir. The state’s 545 wineries produce 72 varieties of grapes, and production numbers continue to increase. 

We reviewed wines from the Pacific Northwest and created a mixed list of favorites grouped by color and varietal.


Although not as well-known as some of its counterparts, the pinot gris grape has been producing top quality wines worldwide for generations, largely in cooler climates. Known for a honey-like flavor palate, Pacific Northwest pinot gris also has a spritzy, fruity quality that makes it one of the region’s most successful varietals.

Two wines from Oregon stand out. The Acrobat 2013 Pinot Gris ($12), produced by King Estate, offers a palate of citrus and green apple backed by a youthful effervescence that makes the wine ideal for warm fall days. 

The winery also offers a stronger version under its own brand. King Estate 2012 Domaine Pinot Gris ($25) pours with a bit more authority. A similar fruit-and-acidity approach brightens the palate, which is then treated to essences of pear, citrus and tropical fruit backed by a honeyed apricot nose, giving the wine more character and grace than its lower-priced sibling.

Chenin blanc, which originated from and is still cultivated in France’s Loire Valley, is undergoing a resurgence in popularity. Try wines like Pacific Rim 2013 Chenin Blanc ($11), from Hilary Hahn Vineyards in Washington’s Yakima Valley. The wine’s floral aromas lead to flavors of melon and Key lime while suggesting traces of minerality underneath its refined surface.

Chardonnay looms large in the Pacific Northwest, and the Columbia Winery’s Chardonnay ($11) offers a nicely oaked version of the familiar varietal. A balanced palate blends acidity and a vanilla sweetness from its oak aging that’s augmented by apple, pear and tropical fruit overtones.

Cooler climates also bode well for Riesling production, and the winemakers at North by Northwest find subtle expression in fruit from vineyards on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River Valley.

The NxNW 2011 Horse Heaven Hills Riesling ($10) offers a drier expression of the familiar white wine. Golden straw in color, with aromas of peaches, jasmine and even graham cracker, the wine pours with flavors of apricot, mango and citrus, offering a good balance of fruit and acidity, with a lingering, satisfying finish.

The same winery offers a late harvest varietal, the NxNW 2011 Riesling ($15 for 375 ml) that is richer, sweeter and more viscous than its younger sister. With a nose of summer berries and bubblegum, the dessert wine offers essences of mandarin orange, blackberry and sour cherry on the palate. 


Although technically not a red, the 2013 Acrobat Rosé of Pinot Noir ($16) serves as a fine crossover to heartier wines. Lively acidity balances with bold fruit in this fruit-forward Oregon wine. You’ll find surprising notes of spice, strawberry and even a touch of kiwi on the palate.

We can’t mention Oregon wines without immediately thinking of the state’s rich and vibrant pinot noir profile. The opportunities are almost too many to mention, but here are two worth trying:

The 2012 Iris Vineyards Oregon Pinot Noir ($20) pours a deep garnet with aromas of anise, plum, black cherry and a touch of smoke. The cherry and plum appear on the palate of the medium-bodied wine along with dark chocolate baking spices and maybe even a little graham cracker, finishing long and clean.

The 2012 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir ($25) offers dark fruit aromas balanced with earthiness and spice. Those essences carry through to the flavor palate, which offer good balance, mellow acidity and nice complexity.

Pinot noir does not play a role in the 2011 g3 Red Wine ($15) from Goose Ridge Estate in Washington’s Columbia Valley. The red blend, composed of (in descending order) cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, malbec, mourvèdre, petit verdot and cabernet franc grapes, combines elements of red fruit and crisp red apple on the palate. Its oak aging adds notes of vanilla and spice to the wine’s long and supple finish.

Other Columbia Valley reds are gaining attention, including the Columbia Winery Merlot ($12). Blended with small percentages of syrah and cabernet sauvignon, the wine pours a deep red with a distinctly purple edge. The merlot’s rich, almost plush mouthfeel offers highlights of cherry and plum with notes of toasty oak and vanilla from its barrel aging.

But Skyfall Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) was one of our most pleasant surprises. Only 5,000 cases were produced, but the resulting vintage has a boysenberry and dark chocolate nose matched to flavors of black cherry, butterscotch and maybe even a hint of crème brûlée. This one is often tough to find, but it’s worth the search.

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Wines to flatter your grilled food

Does anything say summer dining more than grilled burgers and cold beer, with maybe a little potato salad on the side?

Of course not, but beer packs on the calories, as do burgers — which, unless you’re an experienced griller, can wind up dried out or underdone. And leaving mayonnaise-based potato salad in the sun too long can create more problems that most stomachs can handle.

It’s time to upgrade your grilling with more sophisticated fare and replace those tall, cool ones with wines that operate in concert with your menu. That principle works indoors, so why not carry it over to your al fresco dining?

Matching wine with food on your patio follows the same guidelines that you’d use in your dining room. Red wines work best with heartier fare, while white wines complement more delicate dishes.

But grilled foods, especially vegetables, have unique flavor profiles. Zucchini and eggplant slices, which you might smother in cheeses and sauces in your oven, come into their own when grilled. Smoke from the grill also imparts a heartier flavor.

That means the traditional wine pairings you’re accustomed to choosing should be reconsidered. White wines, served chilled and pulling double-duty as refreshing aperitifs, can handle bolder flavors when matched with picnic fare.

Following are some pairing alternatives for grilled dishes:


The Biohof Pratsch 2012 Grüner Veltiner ($13) is Austria’s version of the more familiar German Riesling, but not quite as lush and fruit-forward. This lighter-bodied organic wine pours with a nose of apple, peach and apricot, delivering flavors of fruit, spices and white pepper to the palate. Serve chilled as an aperitif or with more delicate fish dishes.

Torrontes, Argentina’s native white wine grape, comprises 100 percent of Michel Torrino Torrontes Don David ($17). The wine can be wonderfully heady and refreshing. Expect a nose that’s almost floral, with tropical fruit notes and a flavor profile of citrus, peach and anise balanced by light acidity and pleasant character.

Viognier originated in France’s Rhone Valley, but the grape’s popularity in producing wine that’s a smooth, creamy alternative to oaky Chardonnays and snappy Sauvignon Blancs is gaining ground worldwide. The Fess Parker 2012 Viognier ($18), produced by the heirs of the actor who played Disney’s Davy Crockett, delivers the goods. The oak-aged Santa Barbara County wine offers both a nose and palate of soft summer fruits — peaches, nectarines and honeydew melons — with a bit of citrus and vanilla on the back of the palate. It’s one of the nicest whites around.


Few wines are as uniquely refreshing as a well-crafted rosé. The 2013 Hecht & Bannier Languedoc Rosé ($13) fits the bill. The blend of 40 percent Syrah, 35 percent Cinsault and 25 percent Grenache offers essences of gooseberry and cherry with bright flavor highlights and a mellow acidity. It’s a great blend for outdoor dining.


Since grilling often involves red meat, red wines seem to be a natural choice. Those who like red wines will appreciate the following selection.

Francis Coppola’s Diamond Selection 2011 Petite Syrah ($17) has become a personal favorite. Its dry flavor profile neatly showcases aromas of berries, cloves and currants and a palate of plum, cocoa and toasted oak, the result of its 12-month barrel-aging process.

Zinfandel has always been a summer favorite due to the bold, rustic style of this more-or-less native grape. The Kenwood Jack London Vineyard 2011 Zinfandel ($20) contains aromas of raspberry and fig, with significant fruit and spice on its palate thanks to the 10 percent of Syrah in the blend.

Argentina’s Trivento 2012 Amado Sur Malbec ($16) blends 70 percent of its namesake grape with 18 percent of Bonarda and 12 percent of Syrah. The result is an intense, fruity wine. Think cherries, raspberries and plums with hints of spice and vanilla from its eight-month stay in French oak.

Chile’s Primus 2011 Carmenere ($19) capitalizes on a wine grape that was all but wiped out from European vineyards during the 19th century. The flavor and aroma profile highlights plum, blackberry and spice notes in a well-balanced wine with a touch of dried figs on the palate.

Australian winemaker Bruno Tait takes wine drinkers on a wild ride with his Tait 2012 The Wild Ride Shiraz ($19). The blend of 60 percent Shiraz, 20 percent Grenache and 20 percent Mataro results in a bold wine with intense cherry and floral flavors seasoned with spices and what the winemaker describes as a “sneaky sweetness” sure to please.

For something completely different, try the 2010 Painted Wolf “Guillermo” Pinotage ($17) from South African winemaker Jeremy Borg. The South African hybrid grape delivers favors of blueberry, mocha and spice with ripe tannins and a long finish. According to wine critic Robert Parker Jr., the wine is impressively focused, “a little aloof and masculine, but with style and class.”

Parker says nothing about the wine’s use in grilling, but that will be something for you to decide.