Hard to believe that an entire month has passed since we hosted Wine Blogging #51 (“Baked Goods”) here on 1WineDude.com.
But passed it has, and another WBW is now upon us – this time hosted at CheapWineRatings.com, with the theme “Value Reds from Chile!”
I am stoked for this WBW. Because Chilean wines, for the most part, kick all kinds of ass.
I recently featured a Chilean stalwart, Concha y Toro’s 2007 “Casillero del Diablo” Chardonnay Reserve, as part of an article I posted at the 89 Project. Because it kicked ass (I mean that the wine kicked ass, not the article… actually you could also take that sentence to mean that the 89 Project kicks ass, which it does… ah, forget it….).
Which begs the question, of course, Why does Chilean wine kick so much gluteus maximus?
Here are 5 reasons:…
- Ass-Kickin’ Geography
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to grow fine wine grapes than Chile. Sure, they grow plenty of the lowly Mission grape
destined for cheap Pisco[editor's note: wrong, Jack! Mission isn't used for Pisco!]. But Chile is also starting to realize its huge potential to grow classic Bordeaux varietals. Chile’s wine regions are varied in climate and soil types, giving it a diversity in quality wine that few other countries posses. That nasty pest Phylloxera is nowhere to be found, because it faces natural borders to the north (desert), south (ice), west (the Pacific), and east (the Andes).
Cool air from the mountains, as well as the influence of the Pacific’s Humboldt current moderate the growing temperatures, while plentiful water from the Andes provides irrigation. Grapes love this place.
- More investment smarties than Warren Buffett
Since opening its agricultural doors to the outside world in the 1980s, Chile has seen an influx of winemaking smarties and significant fiscal investment from wine companies far and wide. This means that Chile is getting a state-of-the art crash-course in modern winemaking and viticultural techniques, which benefits the wine.
- Set the Wayback Machine for the late 19th Century…
When the nasty pest Phylloxera was devastating the fine wine vineyards of, well, the entire world, many a European brought winemaking know-how – and, importantly, vine clippings – to Chile.Since Chile never had Phylloxera mucking about, it never had to resort to using grafting (onto American rootstocks) for its imported vinifera vines to survive and thrive. This means that Chilean wine is a bit like a trip back in time to the mid 19th century, because (theoretically) they taste like, well, wine from ungrafted vines. Presumably, not unlike what wine would have tasted like in the pre-Phylloxera days.
- Ass-kickin’ quality
Chile has lots of interesting wines across the entire price spectrum (a high-end Chilean wine recently garnered Wine Spectator’s 2008 wine of the year accolade), but it’s nearly perfected the cheap, mass-market wine offering (more on that in a bit).
- Ass-kickin’ prices
You can get a decent everyday quaffer from Chile for under $10 USD. I will assume further comment on this point is entirely unnecessary. But I will add that the concept seems to be popular in the U.S. – according to WinesOfChile.org, Americans consumed nearly 1.9 million cases of Chilean wine in 2007, and that was just in NY, FL, and NJ alone!
My example of Chilean value red is Concha y Toro’s Xplorador Merlot. You can regularly find this wine for well under $10. It’s from the Central Valley (good area in Chile, not so great in CA), and I really dig the fact that it’s got 10% Carménère (which seems to reach unique excellence in Chile), and is under 14% abv.
The wine is all plum and thyme spice. Is it complex? No. Is it good? Hell yes, for $8 it’s damn good. Amazingly, Concha y Toro seems to be able to make consistently good and cheap wine year on year, which is something that SouthEastern Australia’s equivalent mass-market wine, Yellowtail, has yet to master.
Tasty, fairly well-balanced, and ultra-inexpensive. Hard to argue with that.
BUT… Chile has a LOT more to offer than just value reds - more to come on that in an upcoming post.
(flickr.com/bridgepix, winesofchile.org, snooth.com)