Think Beyond Chilean Cabernet


Every wine producing country has strengths and weaknesses, some more than others. Chile has many high points that make it a go-to country when looking for outstanding wine. The number of unique regions that feature diverse soil types and microclimates is simply astounding. Chile has three thousand miles of coastline north to south as well as mountain ranges and plenty of inland regions to boot. The nature of their varied terroir allows them to plant a stunning number of grape varieties in appropriate areas that they’ll flourish in.

Chile has traditionally been best known for Cabernet Sauvignon with good reason -- they excel with that varietal. However, a host of other grapes thrive in Chile. For starters, Pinot Noir, one of the most fickle grapes in the world, is being produced in a genuine style that speaks to the grape itself and the terroir it comes from. Syrah has seen an uptick in production and there are some terrific examples. Carménère has found its most natural home in Chile and it does well as a varietal wine as well as excelling in the myriad of terrific and distinct red blends that seem to be emerging from just about every corner of this nation. Aromatic whites and small lots of old vine grapes, both indigenous (such as Pais) and international are producing lovely wines too.
The sheer number of great values coming out of Chile is head-spinning. These are not the “bargain basement” wines of 20 years ago. What we’re talking about is world-class wines produced from innumerable grapes in every region of Chile that overdeliver in their price tier time after time. Twenty years ago it was easy to find a $6 Cabernet that was tasty and a good bargain, but not of premium quality. Today if you spend $12-$22 on wine from Chile it’s likely going to destroy the quality-price ratio from any other country. The diverse, terroir-driven bounty that is emerging in greater numbers year after year from Chile is a delicious boon for wine lovers. Here’s a look at some awesome current releases, ranging from $15 to $150, from Sauvignon Gris to red blends and more, which I highly recommend.

Ventisquero 2013 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
Yes, this article is a look at Chilean wines other than Cabernet. However, I just had to share this one Cab so you won't miss out on the amazing value. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (85%), some Syrah (15%) was blended in. All of the fruit came from the Maipo region. A mélange of berry aromas dominate the nose along with pepper spice. Cherry, blackberry and strawberry flavors are present on the palate along with plenty of spice, bits or earth and a touch of bay leaf. The finish shows off sweet dark chocolate, tobacco and continuing spices. Most of the world can’t complete with Chile on solid, everyday Cabernet Sauvignon under $15, this is exhibit A.
Montes 2016 Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc ($15)
This is the first Sauvignon Blanc of the harvest to reach our shores each of the last 2 years. It’s entirely Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda Valley. A bit of jalapeno leads the nose along with oodles of citrus and yellow melon. The exceedingly fresh palate is studded with tropical and citrus fruits to spare. The crisp, clean finish begs you back to the glass for another sip. If you’re looking for a welcome wine for your next party, this is it. The fresh, young drinking style this is crafted in will be hard for anyone to resist.

Santa Rita 2015 Medalla Real Chardonnay ($18)
Composed entirely of Chardonnay from the Ledya Valley, this is one of the standard bearers of Chilean Chardonnay. Toasted hazelnut, green apple and a hint of citrus emerge from the nose. The palate is studded with fleshy yellow fruit flavors and a nice dollop of minerals. Stone fruits, bits of toast and more spice are all evident on the above average finish.
Casa Silva 2015 Sauvignon Gris ($20)
This is 100% Sauvignon Gris from Colchagua Valley. The vines are 112 years old. The nose here is intense and layered with both fruit and floral aromas. The palate has a remarkable combination of freshness and concentration. Yellow melon, citrus and spice elements are all present. The finish here is long enough to be note worthy and features hints of mango and lemon curd.

Viña Koyle 2015 Costa Sauvignon Blanc ($24)
All of the fruit here is from the Paredones section of Colchagua 9 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. The fruit comes from 3 different exposures and each is fermented separately in Stainless Steel, Burgundy Barrels, and Concrete Eggs. Yellow melon and citrus aromas present on the nose. Lemon zest and fleshy yellow fruit flavors fill the palate. Minerals, sour fruits, and spice are all present on the prodigious finish. The remarkable texture and mouth-feel gives this Sauvignon Blanc a weight, complexity and gravitas that scream elegance. If you love Sauvignon Blanc, you must try Koyle’s.

Apaltagua 2015 Rosé ($13)
In addition to Carmenere (85%), some Syrah (15%) is blended in to this wine. All of the fruit was sourced in Maule. The perfect salmon hue of this Rosé is striking. Red fruit and violet aromas light up the nose. A bit of orange zest is at play alongside ripe wild strawberry and red cherry on the easy palate. Finely ground spices and a bit of pomegranate emerges on the finish. This is basically summer in a glass.

Falernia 2012 Reserva Syrah ($13)
This offering is composed entirely of Syrah sourced in the Elqui Valley. In the glass it looks like grape juice. Stick your nose in, plum and violet aromas greet you. The palate is stuffed with juicy dark fruit flavors such as blackberry and raspberry along with white pepper and a hint of thyme. Sour cherry and bits of dark chocolate are present on the finish. It goes down easy, it’s very clearly Syrah (not always the case) and it pairs with a myriad of foods. In short this is hard to beat for $13 particularly since it’s so proportionate.

Santa Rita 2013 Reserva Merlot ($13)
In addition to Merlot (90%), some Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Maipo Valley. Black berry and plum aromas are joined by hints of black olives. Cherry flavors dominate the palate along with black raspberry and an array of spice notes. Roasted espresso, vanilla bean and dried black cherry flavors dominate the solid finish. This is a very representative example of Merlot, for a remarkable price.

Boya 2013 Pinot Noir ($20)
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir from fruit sourced in Leyda. The fruit was harvested early and oak aging took place over 9 months in barrels that had been used 8 to 10 times prior. Strawberry, cherry and other red fruits lead a fresh, expressive nose. The refreshing palate is similarly strewn with all manner of red fruits accompanied by spices and a touch of bay leaf. Wisps of red clay and mushroom are present on the solid finish. Racy acid adds to the mouth-watering appeal here. Boya is delicious and well-priced for everyday drinking in its youth.

Ventisquero 2015 Grey GCM ($24)
All of the fruit, Garnacha (50%), Cariñena (25%), and Mataro (25%) was sourced from Block 80 of the La Roblería Vineyard in Colchagua Valley. Aging took place over 6 months in neutral French oak. Freshly picked red fruits aromas are accompanied by wisps of black tea on the nose. The substantial and juicy palate is stuffed with raspberries, cherries and more. Spices, chicory and hints of Kalamata olive are in play on the more than substantial finish. This blend will pair well with an astounding array of food types.

Hacienda Araucano 2013 Clos De Lolol ($25)
Syrah (55%), Carménère (18%), Cabernet Franc (18%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (9%) from Colchagua Valley were blended together to create this wine. This wine was produced entirely from Estate Fruit. Dark fruit aromas and hints of leather lead the nose. The palate is brimming with fresh, black fruit flavors and a host of spices. Earth, bits of savory herbs, black plum and raspberry flavors are all present on the lip smacking finish. All of the varieties here come together to form a cohesive offering.

Alcance 2013 Vigno Carignan ($35)
This wine from the Maule region is largely Carignan (90%) along with a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon (10%). The Carignan came from 60 year old vines. Red plum, raspberry and a groundswell of savory herb aromas dominate the nose. Dried red fruits, chicory and plenty of spice elements are present on the deeply layered palate. All of those characteristics along with bits of earth and a dusting of cocoa show up on the long finish. This wonderful, structured, food loving red wine is a great example of the terrific, off the radar things that Chile simply nails.

Matetic Vineyards 2013 EQ Pinot Noir ($40)
All of the fruit for this wine (100% Pinot Noir) was sourced at the winery’s Organic Vineyard in the Casablanca Valley. Bits of bay leaf and hints of tobacco leap from the nose along with a blend of red fruit aromas. The palate is loaded with depth and wave after wave of red fruits such as cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Wisps of earth, cranberry and more are present on the above average finish. Matetic’s EQ Pinot is a fine example of the heights being reached with Pinot Noir in Chile.

Ventisquero 2012 Pangea Syrah ($60)
This is composed entirely of Syrah from the Apalta Vineyard in Colchagua Valley. Aging took place over 22 months in a 50/50 split of new and previously used French oak. Pangea is striking from the word go. It’s deep and inky in the glass. Stick your nose in and a bevy of bold black fruit aromas leap out. Blackberry, raspberry and dark plum flavors are ever-present on the stacked palate along with bits of earth and hints of smoked meat and tar. The finish is earthy and rich with continuing black fruits, wisps of dark chocolate and a cornucopia of spices. This is an exceptional example of Syrah.

Apaltagua 2011 Grial Carménère ($75)
All of the fruit came from their 60 hectare estate in Colchagua. Grial is 100% Carménère. The vines had 60 years of age on them at harvest. Barrel aging took place over 12 months in new oak. A mélange of spice aromas are present along with red and black plum on the nose. The dense palate is stuffed with juicy red fruit flavors tinged by hints of black fruit. Savory herbs such as rosemary and thyme are in play as well. The succulent lip-smacking finish shows off bits of toast, vanilla and continued fruit flavors. There is an inherent freshness to the flavors here that really rule the day.

Maquis 2010 Franco Cabernet Franc ($85)
Franco is composed entirely of Cabernet Franc from a riverside vineyard in Colchagua Valley. The fruit was hand-picked and after fermentation it was aged for 14 months in French oak. Big, boisterous red cherry aromas are supported by wisps of leather and spice. Both red and black cherry characteristics are at play throughout the palate along with hints of cinnamon and black pepper spice. Savory herbs, chicory and continuing red fruit flavors dominate the impressively long finish. This top-shelf example of Cabernet Franc will age well for the next dozen or so years.

Viña Vik 2011 VIK ($140)
This blend which is produced from the winery’s Estate in the Millahue Valley is composed of Cabernet Sauvignon: (55%), Carménère (29%), Cabernet Franc (7%), Merlot (5%), and Syrah (4%). Viña Vik is an impressive Estate sitting on nearly 11,000 acres. Their goal is to make the best expression of their Estate possible as well as one of the best wines in the world. Everything about Vik screams proportion. It starts from the nose which is expressive without being ostentatious with red fruit aromas, toast and spice all in harmony. The palate is similar with a tremendous array of flavors all in balance. A collection of fresh and dried red fruit flavors such as strawberry and raspberry are joined by gentle hints of black fruits such as currant. The exceptional finish has remarkable length, depth and even-keeled persistence, with fruit, spice, and minerals all pulling together to form a beautiful union. A handful of vintages into their existence the folks at Vik are making a red wine that elevates the reality and perception of what can be accomplished in Chile.

Santa Carolina 2012 Luis Periera Icon ($150)
The fruit was sourced from a host of areas in Chile. Vines had an average of 70 years of age on that at the time of harvest. In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), Cabernet Franc (5%), Malbec (2%) and Mixed Blacks (3%) were also blended in. This wine, which is named after their founder, uses methodology that would have been employed 50 years ago. The result here is an impressive and elegant wine. The nose is a bit reticent at first but becomes more boisterous with some air. The palate is sophisticated and loaded with charm and grace. Layer after layer of red and black fruit flavors emerge along with spice, minerals and hints of black tea. The prodigious finish goes on for an unbelievably long time and all of the fruit, spice and other characteristics continue to reverberate at the back of the throat long after the last sip is swallowed. This inaugural offering from Santa Carolina is very impressive and serves notice to other producers of high end Cabernet the world over that Chile can make grow Cabernet Sauvignon as well as anyone.

Mentioned in this article


Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network