The World’s Most Undervalued Wines: Chilean Pinot Noir


Everyone wants a good deal. It doesn’t matter what you’re buying, we all like to save a buck. In the wine world there are several ways to save money and get a good bottle of wine. One in particular is to shop in categories that aren’t as popular, well known or highly scored as some others. There are a multitude of reasons a particular category might not be as highly valued as it should be; too often it’s simply public perception or consumer awareness. My goal here is to uncover those smoking gun classifications that are criminally underrated and report on them. If I do my job well, they’ll eventually just be good wines at a fair price.
Chilean Pinot Noir is one of the most criminally undervalued wine categories on the planet. Quite frankly I can’t believe it’s still the secret that it is to so many wine lovers. Pinot Noir is one of the single most popular grapes in the world. A “truism” people like to throw around is that there is no such thing as a good deal in Pinot Noir. Well Chile puts the lie to that pretty easily. One of the things that sets Chile apart from other wine growing countries is the large number of different microclimates, elevations, soil types and such that exist. With more diversity in their terroir than most countries they have the ability to do well with a wide array of grapes. Another specific thing they have in their favor is some 3,000 miles of coast line. Pinot thrives in cooler climates and Chile has numerous vineyard sites that are tailor made for growing this notoriously difficult to master grape. Add to that the fact that most wine drinkers simply have yet to wrap their brain around great Pinot Noir coming from South America and you have a somewhat perfect storm of incredible values on terrific Pinot Noir loaded with varietal typicity.
As with any other category, not every offering is a winner. Likewise not every Pinot coming out of Chile is great or worth drinking, but many of them are. The price points vary too, but the common denominator in the selections worth seeking out is the relationship between the level of quality in the bottle and the price they’re selling for. In every case below these exact wines would and could sell for much higher prices if more people realized how great Chilean Pinot can be, or if they were from an area somewhat better known for this grape. With all of this in mind, I recently tasted through an array of Chilean Pinot’s looking for wines to help prove my theory. I present them here for your drinking (and money saving) pleasure.
The fruit for this wine comes from Chile’s Central valley. Black cherry aromas dominate the nose. Layered black and red fruits fill the palate along with bits of savory herb. Continued red fruits and a touch of earth are present on the finish. This fresh and easy going Pinot simply has much more varietal typicity than you will get out of most selections in this price category. This is not benchmark Pinot, it is however a nice everyday Pinot; for $10 that’s precisely what I’m looking for.
This is produced from fruit sourced in various areas of Chile. Bright red cherry aromas and a bit of sage burst from the nose here. The palate is stuffed with ripe wild strawberry and continued cherry character. Cinnamon, clove, hints of anise and more red fruit flavors are all part of the finish. This is a straight forward and relatively light bodied expression of Pinot with good typicity. I found this particularly enjoyable sipped alone.
The Central Valley of Chile is the source of the fruit for this wine. Red fruit aromas emerge from the nose along with savory herbs and a bit or earthiness. Red plum and cherry flavors are in strong evidence on the palate along with a touch of raspberry. The soft and silky finish is stuffed with minerals and hints of kirsch liqueur, as well as a bit of chocolate. This Pinot has tons of clean, fresh fruit flavors. It’ll work splendidly with a wide range of foods. There is a lot of Pinot here for very little money.
The Aconcagua Valley is where the vineyards for this wine are situated. The coastal mountain area has different exposures to the sun. The nose is dotted with red and black cherry aromas. Raspberry, black cherry and a hint of truffle are present on the somewhat weighty palate. An impressive spice component plays along as well and leads right into the finish which shows off plum, black tea, sour cherry and minerals. If you like a Pinot with a touch more heft and body while still remaining purely Pinot, this is the offering for you. It really benefited from 45 minutes in the decanter.
The fruit comes from Casablanca Valley, a cool area less than 30 kilometers from the ocean. It spent 12 months in French oak; 30% were new. One vintage after another I have been drinking this wine and always find it to be delicious, well made and an exceptional value; the 2014 is no exception. Ripe wild strawberry and a gentle hint of cola explode from the nose. The palate is studded with tons of fresh fruit flavors. Cherry, strawberry, light plum and a hint of red raspberry are all present. Earth, chicory, bits of thyme and light sour red fruits are all present on the long finish. You’re going to have a hard time doing better for $20 than this selection.
This is a single vineyard wine from the Limari region. Hints of dust, oodles of cherry and a touch of rosemary are all present in the nose. This offering is spectacularly dry with red and black fruits, spice and black tea elements all dancing together on the solid palate. Heaps of earth, sour black fruits, and mineral elements are all in play on the above average finish. Firm acid keeps everything in check. This one is tasty on its own, but shines with roasted white meats, mushroom heavy dishes, and the like.
The fruit comes from two of the wineries organic vineyards. 16% comes from the Valle Hermosa located 10 kilometers from the ocean. The cherry red hue is precisely the color I think of when Pinot comes to mind, the enormously fragrant nose is filled with red fruit, spice and hints of savory herb. Strawberry, red cherry, and wisps of red apple dominate the gently layered and enormously expressive palate. Cinnamon, clove and continued red fruit flavors fill the long finish. This wine is incredibly irresistible and hard to put down. It’s so light and perfect on the tongue while being stuffed with wave after wave of pure Pinot character. If you want to see the great levels Pinot can achieve in Chile, this is a fine place to begin.
A vineyard site that is situated just five and a half miles from the Pacific Ocean is the fruit source for this wine. Two separate exposures, one north the other south exist at this property. Each is harvested and vinified separately; concrete eggs for one, French oak for the other. After 12 months of aging they are blended prior to bottling. The nose is deeply layered with red and black fruit and a bit of pleasing funk. The palate is jammed with both fresh and dry fruits; mostly red, some black. Rhubarb, sour cherry, black tea, and wisps of cocoa appear on the long finish. The texture, weight and mouth-feel of this selection elevate an appealing wine to a higher, more sophisticated level. When I think of the stunning values of Chilean Pinot out there at the high end, examples like this come to mind.
Each of the wines above showcases different sides of Pinot Noir. They’re made from a host of places, in a variety of styles, and with different intents. What connects them all together is that each of them does a fine job showing off Pinot character, they’re all good values relative to their price points and quality levels and they’re all purely Chile. Drink them up, while Chilean Pinot is still a steal. 

Gabe Sasso is a freelance writer. In addition to his own blog,, founded in 2007, he has been the wine columnist for since January of 2009, and writes a weekly Wine & Spirits column for The Daily Meal. In 2009 he founded Drink Dry Creek, dedicated to that appellation in California. His curiosity about wine stems from, in no small part, his large Italian family. Most of his uncles, his father and his grandfathers were home wine makers. With that and many childhood trips to Italy as his baptism into wine, his wine interest flourished. 

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