Everyone has heard about the devastating earthquake that shook the foundations of Chile just a short while ago. While most wineries were left standing, they still took a hit. There were reports that after the quake you could smell wine in the streets from the distributing and shipping areas that got rocked by Mother Nature’s hand. So the best way to help support Chile, without donating of course, is to go out support their wine industry!!
Chilean wines overall are some of the best values around. A lot of people seem to be turned off by them because the really inexpensive ones tend to have an earthy, almost dirty, bouquet right off the bat. Even some of the really good ones tend to have this same characteristic. But in the better made wines, this scent eases up after the wine opens for a bit, and blends nicely with the spice and dark fruit that are common in the Chilean reds.
The best reds tend to come from the Maipo and Colchagua Valley. Even though most varietals are now grown in Chile, Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenere are still the Big 3. The cooler climate in the Casablanca Valley lends itself more to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
There are some brands to look for that deliver quality in both red and whites that you can usually find for under $10. Some of them include Veramonte, Santa Rita, Los Vascos, Cono Sur and Concha Y Toro. Concha Y Toro is a monster in Chile and produces wines that can run anywhere from $5 to $100. The Casillero del Diablo for around $8 is probably the best value, but they are pretty solid across the board.
To make the next move up to the $10-20 a bottle range, Casa Lapostolle has some of the best selections out there. Their entry level wines run around $10-12 while their next level up, their Cuvee Alexandre, will run closer to $20. The Cabs and Merlots are very fruit forward, soft and just well made wines. The Chards and Sauvignon Blancs are not to be looked over, but as far as value the reds are really the way to go.
Veramonte makes a Bordeaux style blend called Primus that is just under $20 and is outstanding. It has that earthy nose at first, but if you decant it or just let it sit out for 20-30 minutes you can tell what a well crafted wine it is. I should also mention the Montes Alpha label, as their wines that run from $15-25 are also well worth a try. My favorite of their selections is the Syrah, not a typical grape grown in Chile but they do a hell of a job with it.
If you are looking for real value and can afford to spend a few bucks, there are a couple of wines from Chile that stand up to the best in the world. The Clos Apalta from Casa Lapostolle was the #1 wine according to Wine Spectator in 2008, and deservedly so. Year in and year out this Carmenere, Cab and Merlot blend just plain kicks ass…and at $60-70 a bottle it better! The other standout is the Concha Y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet. This is just pure pleasure and always gets ratings in the mid 90’s. Not cheap either (around $50-60), but I would take this one over most of the big California “Cult” Cabernets just on sheer value alone.
Most of the wines listed above are pretty widely available, but below are a few links to some local and online places to purchase.