Many people who enjoy good wine often defer to others to pick a bottle for a meal or party. The various terms used to describe wine – from wet grass to wet dog as well as the more common berry, citrus, and even tobacco overtones – admittedly can be intimidating, and don’t help to  encourage a curiosity about trying new wines.

As a lifelong wine lover, my philosophy has always been the following:

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Do you like it? Then drink it! If not, then don’t. Simple as that. After all, there are plenty out there to play around with.

And play is the operative word when it comes to Latin American wines, also known as New World wines, in contrast with those from Europe, a/k/a the Old World. The most popular wines in Latin America come from Argentina, Chile, and of course, Spain. There are indeed surprises, including countries that are not commonly thought of as producing good wine, if at all. Perhaps the biggest surprise is Mexico, particularly in Baja California. The climate is comparable to Napa Valley and Sonoma, and the only reason why it’s hard to find a Mexican wine on the shelves in the United States is because they generally can’t produce enough to meet the demand within the country.

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Sommeliers at restaurants and wine shops are welcoming the opportunity to introduce their customers to Latin American wines. Rafael Hernandez, sommelier at The Cellar www.cellardining.com in Orange County, has visited Argentina and Chile to observe winemaking firsthand and is a certified Spanish wine educator.

“Recently, the popularity of Latin American wines have been booming,” he notes. “Argentina and Chile are producing high quality wines at fair prices to compete with the finest wines in the world, specifically Argentinian Malbec and Carmenere from Chile. In particular, Argentina provides an ideal climate at a high elevation for cultivating grapes. Due to the conditions, the fruit ripens perfectly, producing a very elegant, fruit-driven wine that is also friendly to the pocketbook.”

This serves as the first column in a regular series on Latin American wine at Fox News Latino. To begin, I will spotlight each country before branching out to profile Latino and Latina sommeliers and winemakers both in Latin America as well as in North America.

Salud!

Lisa Rogak is a freelance writer and New York Times Bestselling author. Her latest book is "And Nothing But The Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert."

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