SEATTLE, May 29, 2013 — Many consumers are looking for value in everything they buy, especially when it comes to wine. On a recent trip to the country of Chile, there was the opportunity to dive head-first into a world of wine value that waits for those who are feeling a bit adventurous.
While many of us think of Chile as nothing more than a long, thin country in South America, a great deal of consumers don’t realize just how diverse the various kinds of climates are in the country. Even though some of its wineries were established in the late 1800s, Chile still has a new-world “feel” as an upcoming, world-class wine producing region for many Americans.
Carmenere is the main varietal produced, closely followed by Cabernet Sauvignon for the red and for the whites, it’s Sauvignon Blanc and then Chardonnay.
All four of these grapes flourish in numerous regions of Chile and are produced of varying degrees of quality and price points. (Click here to see a map of Chile’s wine regions: http://www.winesofchile.org/chilean-wine/wine-regions/)
By the admission from some of the top grape growers from Chile, they are very much in an experimental phase, figuring out which varietals grow the best in the various regions. And while there is a general consensus that grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenere thrive in specific regions, what seems to be a bit more up in the air are relatively new varietals to Chile such as Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and some Rhone whites.
Many Chilean wines are fashioned in an old-world style – i.e. higher acidity and alcohol that was “in-check”. Once you start to dabble into Chilean wines, you are sure to find wines of very good quality for the money and some that aren’t worthy of purchase (as is the case with every wine region).
If there was a single word that could be taken away from spending time with Chilean winemakers, it would definitely be “passion”. The passion in which they conduct their process of winemaking is as contagious as that “rash” you get from certain-said trips to Las Vegas. You’ll find much of that passion translates into very approachable wines – quite a number of which are very age-worthy and will actually improve with another 10-20 years in the bottle.
Some of the note-worthy wines to look for are (in no certain order):
2012 Cono Sur Gewurztraminer – $10
This wine exhibits a great deal of complexity – its notes of fresh blossoms, ginger pear and golden apple are very appealing. The wine is very balanced between fruit and acidity – a no-brainer wine at its price point.
2010 Cono Sur Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon – $15
Flavors of black cherry, black raspberry combine with notes of dark chocolate and a hint of spice. Good mid palate and finish.
2012 Terroir Hunter Sauvignon Blanc Leyda Valley – $17
Classic Sauvignon Blanc flavors of grapefruit and hay that are mixed with some nice tropical notes like papaya and kiwi. Very nice mid palate with a lingering, clean finish.
2011 Terroir Hunter Carmenere $17
Blackberry, peppercorn, licorice with black plum and spice. Nice integration of tannin, acidity and oak. The finish is rather pleasant and lingers well.
2010 Undurraga Vigno – $30
A blend that we don’t see too often – 88% Carignan / 12% Cinsault – but well worth seeking out. Plums, blueberry, marionberry, black cherry, leather and spiced cocoa. Smooth all the way from the front to the back of the palate.
2009 Undurraga Altazor – $45 (Blend of 68% Cab Sauv, 22% Carmenere, 6% Syrah and 4% Carignan)
An extremely well-integrated wine that shows very well right now – black currant, allspice, raspberry, cherry cola, leather, dark cocoa and peppercorns combine to make a very elegant wine. Sure it’s a bit higher priced but well worth it.
2009 Valdivieso Blanc de Blancs – $25
Notes of fresh-baked scones, poached pears and golden delicious apples integrate to make a very delicious bottle of bubbly that’s prepared in the methode champenoise tradition.
2012 Valdivieso Chardonnay – $15
A very clean Chardonnay that balances flavors of pear, green apple and some nice minerality with good acid and a bright finish.
Baldivieso Blanc de Noirs – $25
Big League Chew bubble gum is in full effect here but is complimented with refreshing notes of sour cherry, rhubarb and baking spices.
2012 Santa Carolina – Oceanside – Sauvignon Blanc – $12
Saline-laced kiwi, grapefruit, and star fruit with a slight hint of some peach – also some lemon zest and hay. Easily one of the most enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc’s I’ve ever had at this price-point.
2012 MontGras Reserva Carmenére – $12
A good example of just how well this grape can translate into a really good value wine. Lush layers of Marionberry, leather, plums, pepper and a hint of green bell pepper – just the right amount of zest. Solid mid palate and a lingering finishes that entices you for more.
2012 MontGras Reserva Merlot – $12
A total “steal” for a merlot of this complexity for only twelve dollars – it offers up notes of a plum reduction sauce, peppercorn, tobacco, leather and spice. A very tasty wine on the palate that has a good finish.
2012 MontGras Quatro $20
Now we’re kicking the word, value, into high-gear as this ripping bottle of tasty red comes to use at a price of $18 and could quite easily best most other wines at this price. In a blind tasting, it’d be easy to think it costs 2-3 times its asking price. A very harmonious wine that layers on deep, dark fruit flavors with a good amount of red fruits as well from the cab. This one has it all, fruit, acid, tannin, mouthfeel and a finish to die for.
2009 Ninquén (60% Syrah, 40% Cab Sauvignon) – $45
Although it’s at the higher-end of the price spectrum for many people, this is a wine that’ll greatly reward you with a great experience. Lush flavors of bacon fat, black plum, cigar box, dark chocolate and raspberry-laced leather with spice. Smooth all the way down the hatch as well.
2012 Montes Sauvignon Blanc – Leyda Valley – $20
Another clean, fun, approachable Sauvignon Blanc that does a good job of paying homage to what this varietal should taste like with its sense of grapefruit, tart peach and a hint of grass. A no-brainer for fresh shellfish.
2010 Montes Purple Angel – $50
For this wine, Montes takes an equal amount of Carmenére from its two estate vineyards, Apalta and Marchigue and toss in 8% Petit Verdot. The culmination of these efforts makes a wine that offers good ageability, complexity and richness. Notes of a cedar cigar box, dark chocolate, plums and blackberry – Very good now, should be stellar in about 8 years.
2010 Lapostolle Cunée Alexandre Carmenére – $15
A very tasty, inky Carmenére that explodes to life on the palate with a good texture, cherries, raspberry, dark chocolate and blackcurrant. Lush mouthfeel, nice acidity and explosive fruit with a solid finish.
2010 Lapostolle Apalta Vineyard Carmenére $25
A brilliant mixture of both black and red fruits going on here with hints of tobacco and 75-percent dark chocolate. A delightful red that’ll give you a nice mix of complexity and value at its price point.
2010 Le Dix de Los Vascos $45
If ever there was an iconic wine that expresses how well Chile can do a Cab-dominate red wine, this is it. Le Dix will simply floor you – in a good way – it represents everything great about a well-made wine. Its sublime balance of fruit, tannin, acid and mouthfeel will make it seem like its price is a bit too cheap (shh, don’t tell the winery that).
2011 Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir – $18
Hands-down, the best value in Pinot Noir I’ve had from any region – in fact, it could easily go toe-to-toe with some out of the Willamette Valley in Oregon that sell for $45 or more. It has an incredible sense of balance and place. It assaults your nose with cherries, forest floor and bacon. Incredibly elegant tannin structure marries very well with the fruit. If ever there was a “no-brainer” Pinot for under $40, this is the one to get.
2012 Natura Un-oaked Chardonnay – $12
Refreshing , elegant, very varietally correct – are words that come to mine when describing this wine. They managed to create a good mouthfeel from some lees action but it retains so much freshness from being un-oaked.
2011 Emiliana Signos de Origen Estate Pinot Noir – $35
Insanely good Pinot – dark plum-colored hue to the wine that exhibits notes of while berries, developed tannins, baking spices and a hint of eucalyptus. An incredibly balanced, food-friendly Pinot that does a great job underscoring how good this variety can be from Chile.
There should be little reason why you can’t find a quality wine at most any budget to satisfy your thirst for quality vino. Chile has come a long ways over the past decade with regards to delivering quality wines at ultra-competitive pricing. Sure it’s still “young” in terms of so many growers figuring out what works and what does, but that – combined with cheaper labor in the vineyards – means you get to enjoy exceptional wines at every-day values.
For more information, check out the winery’s websites:
*Note: All pictures taken with a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS30