Updated: Feb 23
We’re venturing into a topic that we love so much, the South American wine regions.
So today, I’m so excited to share the interview I had with the wine writer and specialist in South American wines, Amanda Bernes. Amanda is the author of South America Wine Guide, A comprehensive guide to the South American wine regions of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru.
We did this interview last year, but I thought it was worth sharing it with you now that we can visit the Wine regions in South America Again.
Although born and raised in the UK, Amanda has been based in South America since 2009. She is a specialist in the wines of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Brazil. She writes for several wine magazines and books in the UK and USA, including Decanter and The World Atlas of Wine, and is the editor of The Circle of Wine Writers' monthly publication.
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Amanda Story with the South American Wine Regions
Before we went into the South American wine regions, I Asked Amanda How being British, and she ended up Falling in love with South American wines.
"I was born and raised in Hampshire, but my mother is from the US, and both my parents always loved to travel, so I guess travel fascinated me from a young age"
Amanda studied Literature and focused on Latin American literature, and she blamed Borges and García Márquez for making her fall in love with a continent from afar.
"I had never been to South America, but in 2009, after a couple more years of finishing my master's in journalism and working in the local rag, I moved there – seeking adventure, magical realism, and hoping to learn about wine from the ground, or vineyard roots, up."
"I couldn't seriously write about food without understanding wine better, and I thought you had to understand wine to be a good gastronomy righter.
Amanda came to South America with my mission to spend three months in Argentina writing and learning about wines, three months in Peru writing and learning about food, and three months in Colombia focusing on travel.
"So I realized that wine had everything that I loved about travel and food, but they also had history, culture, geology, and biology…"
Amanda told us Why she decided to live in Mendoza.
"It was because I fell in love with wine. I realized it was a great place to learn, and I still love being there! "
Your preferred Spot in The south American Wine Regions
We asked Amanda to Imagine her preferred spot in the wine region in South America…Where would that place be? what would she be doing, watching, eating, drinking?
"That is a tricky question to answer. I have lots of spots I like, and my book is all about the favorite places I have in South America wine regions"
"But, truthfully, the wine region closest to my heart is Mendoza. Because I’ve lived there for so long. There is a small restaurant, “Tupungato Divino” is the name, and the owner has an incredible collection of wines from Uco valley. A great place to go because you can try so many different things"
"They have this beautiful garden area, a terrace area with a small swimming pool, this fantastic backdrop with the mountains, and Tupungato volcano, the iconic image of Mendoza’s Andes backdrop."
"I would love to sit there in the sunshine with some of my best friends, drink some bottles of wine, eat its delicious food and delicious steak, and walk my way to different new wines with this fantastic view…."
"I also have incredible friends, and its people are genuine and kind, the lifestyle is so relaxed, the weather is always sunny and fabulous, gorgeous blue sky…"
"Living in Argentina was the best decision I took in my life…without thinking"
"The way of life. The value you give to spending time with your family, your friends. I love the freedom of just spending 5 hours having a barbecue. That, for me, is quality of life. The enjoyment of long moments with people. And that is what Argentineans do."
SOUTH AMERICA WINE REGIONS, WHAT MAKES THEM SO UNIQUE?
Amanda says that South America has its identity in wines and that each country is very different and unique.
South American Wine Regions: Argentina
Argentina is the biggest producer. And has the richest wine culture.
We can summarize Argentina's wine destinations for its reds, mountains reds....Malbec, in particular, this kind of bold, vibrantly fruity and approachable wines which has made Argentina so famous in the world.... “
And it is perfect for a nice, juicy steak.
Check out this hot air balloon ride over the vineyards in Mendoza…It is Simply Amazing. Framed by breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains…if you like adventure, it can be one of the highlights of your trip.
South American Wine Regions: Chile
Chile is incredibly thin, and all the wine regions cover quite a long distance from north to south. But the diversity comes from west to east. Wich is between the mountains and the freezing pacific sea. What is incredible in Chile is the diversity you get in such a small strip of land. If you go 50 km from west to east, you can have a great variety in a tiny area.
South American Wine Regions: Uruguay
Uruguay, I love its wine country, and it is very close to my heart. It is one of the best-kept secrets in terms of wine and as a country to live in. The kind of Sensibility and European kind of world attitude people have is also translated into the wines.
They are very intellectual, and Tannant is the most important variety and is an intellectual wine to discover. It is not easy drinking, and I think sophistication is what you can find in Uruguay.
South American Wine Regions: Bolivia
Bolivia is one of my favorite wine region countries to visit, but it's so extremely high altitude that it is pretty challenging to see.
It is extreme in so many senses.
It is a kind of “lost world vineyards“ in certain places. You get very distinctive Artisanal small production wines, and some of the international varieties can reflect the intensity of the high altitude and the hot sunshine.
South American Wine Regions: Peru
Peru was the first leading wine country in South America, and most of the production is along the coastline, in Ica, and Lima.
You have sandy soils, and sometimes you are in the middle of the sand, and you have these vineyards. It is also quite extreme.
The wines are pretty approachable but with a maritime character.
You get some salinity that works excellent with Peruvian cuisine, and they're always very low in alcohol which also works nicely with spicy Peruvian cuisine.
South American Wine Regions: Brazil
Brazil is such a massive country, and its wine regions are much more widely spread than most people think. In the South, next to Uruguay, Rio Grande do Sur is the central wine region, but many vineyards are all over. One of the things I loved discovering from the research for my book was Serra da Mantiqueira outside of San Pablo and Minas Gerais, High altitude vineyards there.
Brazil has an Italian tradition because many immigrants to the central wine regions were Italian. One thing that gets nice done is sparkling wines.
Brazilian Wines are very approachable and easy to drink, which goes along with how Brazilian are.
A lot of the wines from South America don't get exported. So the experience is about being there, seeing the incredible vineyards, meeting the wonderful, vibrant people you find there, and falling in love with these wine regions.
If you have a friend coming to South America, where would you recommend them to go if they only have 15 days?
Amanda says that she will focus on Chile and Argentina because they are the more significant producers and where you have the most concentrated wineries.
"In Argentina, I will say Mendoza, where you have most of the wineries, beautiful hotels and lovely restaurants, and many remarkable wineries to discover. Also, in Argentina,
I recommend going up to Cafayate in Salta. You will have a very different vision and it is a beautiful town surrounded by mountains and much more like a kind of Andean Experience"
"In chile, right outside Santiago, you have Maipo valley, Casablanca, and San Antonio.
Casa Blanca valley, you can reach Valparaiso simultaneously and try the coastal wines, a more white wines focus visit.
Maipo valley is a kind of royalty of Chilean wines in terms of the incredible Cabernet Sauvignon you get, and you have historical states to visit.
It is worth going further South to the Colchagua valley, where you have these great wine roots. All around, between inland hills and coastal hills, beautiful states.
And if you have time, I recommend going down to Maule, which is part of the heritage of South America. With ancient vines, you will see how people have been making wines for hundreds of years."
What are the best wineries in South America?
Finally, I asked Amanda which are those wineries we needed to go to in South America.
Take a look at this great list! ( is in order of destinations)
Maule valley, in Bouchon winery
Colchagagua valley: La postolle, Montes
Cachapoal Valley Vik
Maipo Valley: Santa Rita
Casa Blanca Valley: Bodegas Rey
Cafayate, Pieatelli and El porvenir
Mendoza Casa Vigil in Maipo; Susana Balbo in lujan de Cuyo, Viña cobos and Catena Zapata. In Uco valley, Salentein and Clos de los siete.
Amanda left us with the following Wine recommendations for next weekend – “Any Argentinian Malbec from 2019 will be fantastic. You can't go wrong!
Did you enjoy this interview us much as I did? I hope you start falling in love with South American wine regions just like me 😊
P.S. Take a look to our "Luxury Food & Wine Adventure in South America" suggested custom Trip. This sample trip is a perfect 15 days trip for wine lovers who want to discover the best of the wine regions of South America.