Last week, I had the pleasure of “attending” a tasting meeting with a handful of Chilean winemakers. “Attending” meaning I followed along via video while tasting a handful of samples (all red blends) made by that handful of talented winemakers – me and a handful of other wine bloggers, at the invitation of Wines of Chile for their fourth Blogger Tasting / Q&A to promote wines from the region – roughly a year after the last such event that I was able to attend with the Wines of Chile crowd.
The wines, though quite good, were not really the highlight of the evening; nor was being able to see, and (sort of) chat with, the Chilean winemakers via video during the event. The highlight, for me, was that during the tasting the last of the 33 trapped Chilean miners was rescued. That news brought cheers and high-fives from the winemakers, but their actions belied something much bigger and more emotional. It was a bit strange and wonderful to be connected (even if virtually) to the country of Chile while that long-awaited moment was taking place – the country of Chile is wearing badges of honor, relief, and well-deserved pride after the rescue, and it was great and touching to have had some (even minor) direct exposure to that.
Not that the wines were totally out-shadowed by the news – the Wines of Chile selections, for the most part, showed a continuing upward trend in the level of winemaking artistry of which Chile is capable. Chile still has its red wine detractors, and I for one seemed to be in the minority of those who found the level of pyrazines (nettle and green bell pepper aromas) still more distracting than appealing.
But… where Chile is getting the balance right, they’re getting it soooo right. There were three standouts from the tasting for me that I wanted to highlight, two of which can be had for prices that make them real bargains:
08 Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol (Colchagua Valley): 140 chars don’t really do this elegant & refined red blend beauty due justice. $23 B+ –>
Araucano’s head winemaker Luca Hodgkinson was a hit with the lady bloggers during the tasting, but it was his wine that was a hit with me and from a personal-preference standpoint was my fave of the night. Luca cut his winemaking teeth in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and the Rhone, and the French influence is remarkably clear in the wine (a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenere), which goes for elegant subtlety (and achieves it, despite a 14.2% abv). Tomato leaf, supple blackberry fruit, and a hand-in-hand balance of black and white pepper that might as well have been singing “Ebony & Ivory.”
07 Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Private Reserve (Casablanca Valley): If the nose were more complex it’d be a quantum physics equation $50 A- ->
The most expensive wine of the tasting (another Syrah-based blend, with Merlot and Pinot Noir – yes, really, Pinot as a blending grape) was also the most complex and best-constructed. While it was a bigger wine than I prefer, the nose alone was enough for me to consider it Kick-Ass material: dark chocolate, herbs, pepper, smoke, cedar, toast… you could write a dissertation on the complexity of this wine. The mouthfeel was silky-smooth and if this wine could actually speak it might well have said “me honran, porque yo soy impecablemente hecho.”
08 Montes Ltd Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Colchagua Valley): At this $ it’s like hitting a tobacco & black fruit lottery. $15 B –>
The lowest-priced wine of the night was easily the biggest bargain for those who like their Cabs to be like Shaft – bad-ass, serious and black (there’s a 30% smattering of Carmenere in here, too to keep things interesting). Black fruits abound, but there dense rather than in-your-face, followed by leather, tobacco and oak. If not a “big” wine, it’s certainly a “big-ish” wine and certainly could fool many a blind taster into thinking it was more expensive.
Full list of wines and reviews after the jump…
- 05 Valdivieso Eclat (Maule Valley): Brambly, lively & fruity, it’s Carignan for Syrah-lovers, & from Chile to boot (whodah thunk it?) B $27 ->
- 06 De Martino Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines Las Cruces (Cachapoal Valley): Enough cocoa-game-plum complexity to justify a long name. $45 B+ ->
- 08 Estampa Gold Assemblage Carmenere (Colchagua Valley): Aroma Hide & Go Seek w/ spice & black fruit hiding behind green herbs & booze $22 B ->
- 08 Montes Ltd Selection Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Colchagua Valley): At this $ it’s like hitting a tobacco & black fruit lottery. $15 B ->
- 08 Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol (Colchagua Valley): 140 chars don’t really do this elegant & refined red blend beauty due justice. $23 B+ ->
- 07 Emiliana Coyam (Colchagua Valley): Textbook Chilean Bord’x-style blend, but it’s holding a master clinic on smooth silky mouthfeel $29 B+ ->
- 07 Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Private Reserve (Casablanca Valley): If the nose were more complex it’d be a quantum physics equation $50 A- ->
2 thoughts on “Badges of Honor (And Wine) in Chile (Wines of Chile Red Blends Tasting)”
Dude, I'm right there with you on the distracting and distatsteful level of pyrazines I find in many of the south American reds that I've tried over the years. It doesn't seem to make much difference as to variety of grape (cab., merlot, carmenere, or even blends), I still find disturbing levels of green, stemmy, bell pepper notes throughout the wines. I'm the first to admit that it's my problem, as I seem to be a bit more sensitive to it than most folks but I find that unless I spend more money of the "Reserve" level of wines from any given house OR look specifically to high-altitude vineyard designates, I won't enjoy the wines.
The fact that I can enjoy the less expensive wines from high-altitude vineyards seems to me to be the tip off here. The higher altitude grapes get more direct UV, which leads to full physiological ripeness of the grape, not just sugar production. Then it seems there is no trace of the objectionable flavors.
Thanks, Sherman – interesting observation on the higher-alt. wines. I've got another post on the Chile/pyrazine topic coming up later this week (the week of Oct. 24) and from what I can tell, you and I are in pretty good company on our views. Cheers!
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