Everyday: A few years back, I had high hopes that carmenere from Chile would come to rival Argentinian malbec as a go-to red from South America. That still could happen if we get more wines like the Concha Y Toro Xplorador Carmenere ($8). Like most malbecs, it’s soft (but not too), juicy and approachable, with friendly red fruit and a bit of spice at the end. It’s not going to change the world, just make it a more pleasant place at a swell price. Spring lamb or ham would make a nice accompaniment, as would most Mexican dishes. This is also a very amiable happy-hour sipper.
Occasion: Can a moscato actually be elegant? To my palate the Two Hands Barossa Valley Moscato ($20/500 ml) qualifies. After a bracing, zingy start, this lush white coats the palate with multi-fruit and -spice deliciousness that lasts for days. The sweetness/tanginess balance is spot-on. After all that sensual assault, the finish is light on its feet. It might look spendy for a moscato, but this wine more than delivers for the price. Try it with spicy foods but mostly at the beginning or end of a meal, it’s a fantastic palate-refresher after a night of big red wines.