At the risk of inviting the wrath of an entire continent, can we just say that South American wines leave a lot to be desired? It is not that South American wines are bad (Chile, for one, has a number of big, bold reds and leads the way in organic wines). Instead, these wines are guilty of something much worse: They tend to be maddeningly uninteresting. They all seem to show the same flavor profile: lots of ripe fruit, a soft texture, and (in the case of the red wines) innocuous tannins – they are the wine world's answer to elevator music.
That's why the emergence of Louis-Antoine Luyt is such a refreshing and exciting development. A native of France who trained under the late, great Beaujolais winemaker Marcel Lapierre, Luyt is making the finest South American wines we've yet tasted. Based in Chile's Maule Valley, Luyt works with a couple of different grapes: carmenere, carignan, and an indigenous variety called país (known locally as Huasa). Luyt uses organically farmed fruit and native yeasts to produce low-alcohol, earthy reds that exude a quality sorely lacking in most other South American wines: character.
The 2010 Louis-Antoine Luyt Huasa de Trequilemu ($22) is a terrific example. It sports an inviting nose of red berries, leather, black olives, and incense. In the mouth, it is cool, chewy, and spicy, with excellent structure and a long aftertaste. It is a very satisfying and distinctive wine, and as such is a beacon among the dull, formulaic reds and whites coming out of South America.