Luxury Wines from a Land of Value

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 11-28-2012

Vinos de Terroir Chilean Wine Tasting

Last weekend at my sister’s wedding, my family served a lot of wine to a lot of people. Our vino of choice was an everyday Concha y Toro from Chile, poured out of magnums, helpfully plastered with American-friendly varietal names like Cabernet-Merlot, Malbec, and Chardonnay. The wines were undemanding, easy drinking accompaniments to the party.

Many people view Chilean wines as an inexpensive, approachable budget alternative. However, the industry as a whole has been trying to shake this image and stand on equal footing to some of the world’s other high-quality, luxury wine labels. (Mike Veseth wrote about this challenge on Tuesday.) It’s a difficult journey, as most people who are going to spend $100+ on a bottle don’t want to take a gamble on an unfamiliar producer from a region that has historically billed itself on bulk wine.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the high end of Chile at a fantastic tasting and lunch hosted by Wines of Chile at New York’s Colicchio and Sons. It was a really special, well executed event featuring ten equally special Chilean wines. I left with three main takeaways.

First, I’d rather have a one bottle of $70 high quality Chilean wine than 7 bottles of $10 good quality Chilean wine. For me, the jump in quality is exponential relative to the jump in price.

Second, Chile, unsurprisingly, is a land of tremendous diversity, both geographically and with its wines. It is a joy to explore, even with the chance that you’ll come across those crazy green Carmeneres sometimes.

And finally, while Chilean cuisine hasn’t quite come into its own, Chilean wine is worth inclusion on wine lists at fine restaurants. The high-end treasures are worth exploring and worth sitting next to the plate of a great meal.

Below the fold are my tasting notes and highlights. I encourage you to seek them out.

The Line-Up
  1. Cipreses Vineyard 2011, Casa Marin (Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley): Herbal lime and a little grapefruit on the nose; spicy herbs, saline, and freshness on the palate. Really nice Sauv Blanc & one of the crowd favorites. (SRP: $28)
  2. Casa Real 2009, Santa Rita (Maipo Valley): From one of the oldest wineries in Chile; a strange descriptor but I smelled warm clay & blueberry; a sensual perfumed flavor palate of spicy dark plum. (SRP: $85)
  3. Don Melchor 2008, Concha y Toro (Puente Alto, Maipo Valley): Dark, brooding, and beautiful wine with dark chocolate, a little cedar, cigar box, light & toasty vanilla, integrated tannins and an after taste of coffee. Not for everyone. (SRP: $95)
  4. Carmin de Peumo 2008, Concha y Toro: Intensely concentrated nose of deep plum; the palate matches in a mouth-coating finish; just a tiny bit green. (SRP: $150)
  5. Altair 2007, Altair (Alto Cachapoal, Cachapoal Valley): Spicy and cedar on the nose; graphite, licorice, very old world profile on palate. (SRP: $75)
  6. Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2007, Errazuriz (Aconcagua Valley): Really big bright acidity, integrated tannins, dark fruits, blueberry bomb; a decidedly food wine. (SRP: $110)
  7. Sena 2007, Sena (Aconcagua Valley): Gamey, black pepper, tobacco, chocolate; and a little green to me, but not unpleasantly so. (SRP: $110)
  8. Alpha M 2010, Montes (Apalta, Colchagua Valley): Rustic tannins, searing acidity, BIG, but I think it has a lot of room to open up over time. (SRP: $90)
  9. Clos Apalta 2009, Lapostolle (Apalta, Cochagua Valley): Pencil lead, minerality, mocha, dark fruits, baking spices and pretty perfume; really nice blend. (SRP: $90)
  10. Folly 2009, Montes (Apalta, Colchagua Valley): Gamey, opulent dark fruit, spice, balanced tannin/acidity; enjoyed! (SRP: $90)

Comments (6)

  1. Hey Rebecca! It sounds like this was a great tasting and you enjoyed a lot of nice wines. One of the things I have recently discovered about some of the high-end Chilean reds is that they actually age remarkably well. In particular, Montes Alpha M in most vintages has enough acid such that when the ripe fruit fades a bit, the wine remains beautifully balanced. A 1999 earlier this year was brilliant. Likewise, Don Melchors seem to benefit from at least 5-7 years (ideally even more), when the oak has a chance to integrate (probably the cause of the vanilla and coffee notes you found?). I tasted a 2000 just this past weekend, and while there was still a bit of coffee there, it was just part of a vast spectrum of complex flavors including bright red fruit that isn’t always present in younger vintages (maybe hiding behind the oak). Anyway, this is my soapbox moment: People, buy some Chilean icon wines and hide them in the back of your cellars! You won’t be disappointed!

  2. Awesome comment – thanks, Scott! I agree 100% with that assessment, although I haven’t had the pleasure of drinking older, high end Chilean wines (new goal = get some). I could definitely see a lot of aging potential in the Montes though.

  3. This is an exciting invitation to discovering luxury wines on our continent. I hope to see more reviews and availability soon. I am now paying attention!
    Christine Burdine in Seattle Washington

  4. This is an enticing invitation to discover luxury wines in my hemisphere. I hope to hear more soon and I am now paying attention! Christine Burdine; Seattle USA

  5. Thanks, Christine! I’m planning a trip to Chile this winter, so more info about the region to come soon. :)

  6. Rebecca, enjoyed the article and fascinated to see what you discover when you are in Chile.