Plenty of press has declared the value and quality coming out of South America and the wines from Chile are shining brighter than ever. Check out Chile's famed grape, Carmenere, to break out of the traditional grape varietal pack or take a peek at Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, a true Chilean wine treat. Syrah and Pinot Noir are quickly coming up to speed as Chilean winemakers continue experimenting with both varietals and terroir. Sauvignon Blanc is as refreshing as ever with ripe fruit and awesome acidity, thanks to Chile's unique pockets of soil, stunning topography and dramatic climate.
This fresh fruit-filled Chardonnay from Chile's cool, coastal Limari Valley brings some serious citrus fruit to the forefront both on the nose and doubling up on the palate. The palate profile reveals a heady mixture of minerality and creamy textures, with plenty of supporting acidity and an enduring finish.
Ahhh Carmenere, Chile's grape, and Tarapaca puts forth a pretty gutsy ambassador of this particular varietal (that once was lost, but now is found... but that's another phylloxera-driven story). Tarapaca's Gran Reserva Carmenere is a delicious blend of five vineyards in Chile's Maipo Valley. On the nose you can expect some sweet and spicy paprika aromatics, a generous dose of dark fruit and a touch of mint. The palate profile goes deeper with well-ripened fruit - some cherry and blackberry surrounded by black pepper, cinnamon and warm vanilla on the engaging finish. The tannins are soft, pliable and the overall balance is well-maintained. A lovely introduction to Carmenere.
Vina Errazuriz is a stunning winery located in the heart of Chile's Aconcagua Valley. They do a terrific job with their Cabernet Sauvignon as well-demonstrated by the 2010 Max Reserva Cab, which offers up rich, ruby colors, fragrant red fruit (think cherry and raspberry) wrapped in peppery spice. The flavors of this Cab push towards a resurgence of red fruit and warm spice with plenty of integrated tannins for structural support, nice balance and an ongoing, spice-laden finish.
Lapostolle was founded in 1994 as a joint venture between the Marnier Lapostolle family (same family that produces Grand Marnier and owns Chateau de Sancerre in the Loire Valley) from France and the Rabat family from Chile. Today it is owned solely by the Marnier-Lapostolle group. All to say, a compelling French influence shapes this stunning, organically grown Syrah from Chile's Cachapoal Valley, just outside of Santiago. The '09 vintage is the first run of organic wines from Lapostolle, so far so good! The intensity of the nose brings plenty of rich fruit with loads of mocha aromatics and more subtle sweet tobacco tones. On the palate a mix of red and black fruit play extremely well together with tea-like tannins on the racy finish.
Neyen may be a bit harder to find, but it's well worth the effort. The 2006 Neyen Apalta, a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon to Carmenere, opens up easily in the glass, with little to no need for decanting. This is a fruit-forward, ultra elegant wine with lovely, feminine touches throughout - beginning with engaging aromatics, soft fruit and an opulent finish. One of my all-time favorite wine finds from Chile!
A Bordeaux blend consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Carmenère, Primus shows the synergy that can be crafted by merging complementary grape varieties into an enticing everyday wine. Expect engaging aromatics - dark fruit, savory, dried herbs and a decent dose of oak. Flavors meld nicely into blackcurrant, dark cherry, raspberry and dusty dark chocolate all hosted by well-woven tannins and boasting both power and an alluring elegance.
The 2009 Montes Alpha Syrah offers compelling evidence and varietal inspiration for experimenting with this grape in Chile's Colchagua Valley. The nose is ripe and lively with plenty of florality, black licorice and subtle leather tones. On the palate you can expect some serious fruit - cherry, blackberry and blueberry claim the initial spotlight with well-honed structure, a full body and tangible tannins dominating the evolution. This would be a wine to pair with roasted lamb, grilled game, duck or pepper steak.
This ultra-fresh Chilean Sauvignon Blanc dazzles with intense aromatics, lively acidity and bursting with citrus and melon fruit. Lots of minerality, clean lines and a crisp, refreshing finish give this Sauvignon Blanc plenty of pep.
Making Malbec in Chile, while not unheard of, is not all that common, especially given the Malbec madness taking place next door in Argentina. However, this Chilean Malbec, made from 80 year old vines, is one to track down - a delicious assortment of dark fruit - largely blackberry and black cherry, a touch of tobacco and smoky undertones. Fine, integrated tannins and deep concentration with an impressive overall balance make this a top pick wine.
The 2009 Carmenere from Concha y Toro is a terrific introduction to the Carmenere grape. A full body, gorgeous ruby red color and engaging aromatics bring on the fruit and floral medley - expect blackberry, currant and a dash of fresh ground, black pepper spice followed by a decent dose of dark chocolate to round out the nose of this feisty Chilean red. On the palate, dark fruits - mainly blackberry and plum, play center stage with backup vocals coming from well-integrated tannins, silky smooth textures and an enduring, vanilla-laced finish. Plenty of depth, character consistency and an unmistakable balance characterize this solid Chilean red wine.