I’ve been talking a lot recently about value wines, and where you can find good value and good wine. Chile happens to be one such place. I’ve written about that here, here, here and here. Oh yeah, and here too.
Recently, RF Binder and the Wines of Chile people put together a premier tasting for bloggers, where we had the winemakers, the wine players, and the wine bloggers participating in an online tasting including a video uplink to Chile. I have to say, this was one of the most enjoyable live tasting events I’ve done in a while.
We blew threw them extremely quickly, but here are my tasting notes:
Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – this wine is from the Casablanca Valley in Chile, which is one of the fastest growing areas for viticulture in Chile, especially for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. These varietals thrive in the cool growing region, which is known for high acidity and fresh fruit aromas. The proximity to the ocean make the climate mild, with no extreme temperature extremes.
I found this wine very enjoyable, and a GREAT deal at $10.99, and even better deal for less. It was grassy on the nose, reminiscent of New Zealand sauvignon blancs, but was followed by crisp citrus fruit and green apple. My Aussie friend who was tasting me is normally a NZ Sav Blanc drinker, but she said “super yummy!” which is high praise indeed! This bottle did not last the night, because we kept going back to it. Emiliana has two lines, and the Natura is from the Organically grown line. They are certified organic grapes, and this is one of the best examples of a successfully made organic wine that I hvae had in a while. Run, don’t walk to stock up on this summer sipper.
Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008 – say what you will about California Pinot Noir, this wine was NOT good. I don’t find it old world, and I don’t find it good. I’ve had several Pinot Noirs from Chile to see if I can find ONE that I like but alas, I still have not.
The Colchauga Valley region is the 2nd largest appellation in Chile, and is typically known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec and Syrah.
I did not find much complexity in this wine, and found it flat and dusty. It had notes of sour cherries, and I found it muddy. It was decidedly better at the end of the evening in a 2nd taste, but even at $15, I’d have to give this wine an avoid.
AVOID if you like New World Pinot
Los Vascos Reserve 2006 – interestingly, this is one of the wines I tasted a while ago and found to be terrible. It goes to show you, that anything can happen in transport, and I can clearly say that the previous bottle i tasted was off because I really enjoyed this wine. It is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, 10% Syrah, and 5% Malbec so it’s a bit of a mutt. However the $20.99 price tag makes it’s an affordable luxury in a Bordeaux Blend not from Bordeaux. It is also from the Colchuagua Valley, and is a house of Domaines Barons de Rothchild Lafite.
I found it to have a lot of red fruit, followed by a strong backbone of tobacco and earth, with a touch of green pepper. I normally don’t like green pepper in my wine, bu tthis was balanced. There was a lot of dusty cocoa and deep dark brooding personality under there. The second day, i had a glass of this with dinner. It was even smoother, and had mellowed out nicely
Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2007 - let me start out by saying that Carmere is not a personal favorite of mine. I find them too smokey and vegetal for my liking, but I actually did enjoy the Santa carolina. With 5% Petite Verdot thrown in, I think that the overwhelmingness of the Carmenere was subdued. This wine comes from the Rapel Valley, which is the largest of the fine wine areas in Chile. The climate and soil types vary widely, so we really have several micro-appelations in one larger one, much like the greater Napa Valey. Merlot is the classic varietal grown here, and the Colchagua valley sub-appelation is within the Rapel appelation. The fruit for this Carmemere is grown in two vineyards, from different sub-appellations of the Rapel, and is aged in French oak for 12-14 months.
This is a HUGE wine! I wish I had decanted it for a while, instead of just opening it 30 minutes prior to tasting. There was a lot of dark fruit, and spicy pepper and black licorice. It was quite smooth, and I actually liked it – surprising for a carmenere! It lacked the overwhelming smokiness that I don’t like, and at $14.99, I would try this wine again after decanting for a while.
Errázuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere 2007 - for the 2nd carmenere of the evening, we move to the Aconcagua Valley. This is a new regoin, planted in the early 1990s, and is known for it’s extended dry season and moderate summers. This is primarily Carmenere country, and winemakers here strive to keep the fruit ripening well in to the fall, to minimize the herbaceous tendencies of Carmenere and expand the fruit flavors.
The Single Vineyard Carmenere is 3% Shiraz, and was aged in 100% Oak which was split between American and French for about 12 months. I found it less enjoyable than the Santa Carolina, and much more smoky. It was very peppery and had tons of green pepper. At this price point – $26, I would prefer a differetn selection from Chile. I like my green veggies on my plate not my glass!
BUY ONLY IF ON SALE
Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2007 – ok yeah. YUM! I loved this wine, even if it was a bold fruity syrah and not terribly complex. It was the 2nd bottle that completely gone on the tasting night. It comes from the Limari Valley, and even with it’s $24 pricetag, I think it’s worth it. The Limari Valley is 250 miles north of Santiago, and just south the driest place on earth. Because of the dryness, drip irrigation is the rule. The limestone bed under the valley’s clay soil is ideal for white wines. the cool climate helps grapes to ripen slowly, producing classically crisp and acidic wines.
I really loved this wine. It had huge red berry flavors, followed by chocolate and cocoa. It was soft and lush, with a vibrant undertone.
Haras Character Cabernet Sauvignon – Carmenere 2006 - This is an interesting blend, of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Syrah. It comes from the Maipo Valley region, with is located between two mountain ranges: the Andes and the Coastal Mountains. Most vineyards are located above 2000 feet, where the temperature variants develop rich and complex wines.
It had a ton of smoke, tobacco and leather. It was very vegetal, and not bad but not really my style. For $21, there were other Chilean Cab blends that I would buy over this. This was ok, but nothing to write home about
BUY IF ON SALE
Veramonte Primus 2006 – this lvoely Cab-Syrah blend was 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Syrah, 17% Merlot, and 16% Carmenère. It alos comes from the Colchagua valley, and I really enjoyed this blend. The 2006 season produced intensely concentrated fruits, and this wine really shows that off.
It was rich and bold, with tons of spice. I also tasted lots of dark fruit and full raspberry flavors, with a big body that was beautiful the next day. It was well worth the $20 price tag.
All in all, Chile has some GREAT finds! I encourage you to get out and try several to see what your style is. In the Bay Area, some great resources are Cost Plus (World Market) and Costco, but also try your local retailers. Chile is HOT!