27 Apr 2011
Earlier this year I made the observation that I’ve tasted a lot of wine from Washington. While I’m a huge fan of Washington Wine, I made the comment that I needed to expand my horizons and tasting experiences. So far, I’ve been fortunate this year to enjoy wine from Bordeaux, South Africa, Beaujolais (notes coming soon), Chile, and Italy. In 2010 only 1 non-American wine made my top 10 list – a Chilean red blend of Syrah, Cabernet, Carmenere, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Mourvedre. Chile makes a lot of wine. In fact, they are the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world. In all, I’ve officially explored about 20 Chilean wines in regular tastings and Wines of Chile tastings.
I’m impressed by the focus on engaging wine bloggers to “get the word out” about the various regions of Chile. While I recently participated in a Chilean wine tasting called #redblends, the following wines were sent by Vina Santa Carolina winery. With over 125 years of history and heritage in seven Chilean wine regions, Vina Santa Carolina showcases quality wine at a value.
Approximately right in the middle of the long narrow country of Chile is the region of Maule Valley. This 100% Pinot Noir is fairly substantive in the glass with a thicker than expected crimson color. The cooler climate Pinot starts off like many of the Chilean wines I’ve had lately with hints of burnt rubber. After letting this wine sit for about an hour the magic shines through. A very soft perfumed blueberry is shy in the glass. Subtle candy aromas come out as well. In the mouth the wine is soft on the front palate but offers a touch of sweetness, light tannin and pepper on the back end and finish. The 14.5% alcohol is well balanced with the acidity. A little research shows that this wine is available online for around $10. A fantastic value even at $20. Easily a 3+/5 and a tremendous buy for any Pinot Noir lover.
- 88pts Robert Parker and Best Buy from Wine Enthusiast
Hailing from the HOT Maipo Valley is the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The weight of the muscular heavy bottle shouts strength and power. In the glass the wine is dark, thick and inky. The 12 months in new French oak help to impart a nicely balanced aroma of dark chocolate and toast. EVEN more aromas of dark red fruit jump out of the glass along with hints of holiday baking spices (think pumpkin). In the mouth this wine is a full bodied delight of fruit, cedar and oak. While lacking an evolving flavor profile the straight forward approach is tastefully done. Put Napa on this wine and you’ve got a price tag of $39. This Chilean wine comes in at under $20. 3+/5
- 88 Pts Wine Enthusiast
Chile’s flagship grape, previously mistaken for Merlot, shines bright in this wine. The 12 months in French oak are not overpowering and offer the perfect balance of fruit and thickness. After a brief decanting the wine loses the notable burnt rubber aroma and gives way to a beautiful minty blackberry aroma. Smelling this wine was almost as enjoyable as drinking it. The wine is dark and intense in the glass. A slight herbaciousness on the nose gives way to a very complex flavor of red fruit, baking spice and thick plum. A light tannin joins the medium finish on the back end. I often describe wine as being ‘one note wonders’ or just offering ‘two dimensions.’ This Carmenere is the full package of aroma and complex flavor. Again, under $20, scores a strong 4/5.
- Robert Parker 90 Pts
In conclusion, these are three wines that I will not only keep my eyes out for, they are wines I will strongly endorse in the good tasting under $20 range. Go Chile – keep up the great work!
22 Oct 2010
Viva la Chile! On Thursday, October 14 I was watching two broadcasts from Chile. Both broadcasts were marvels of modern technology (although one was of slightly greater importance). Live from Copiapo, I watched with the world as the last of 33 mine workers was resurrected from the depths of a mine that left them trapped for 69 days. At the same time I virtually tasted wine with eight wine makers via live satellite feed from Santiago hosted by Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer, for 50+ wine writers and bloggers located across the country. I was able to experience both of these events without leaving the comfort of my office chair and pink fuzzy slippers (I don’t really have pink fuzzy slippers, but if I did no one ever would know).
The Chilean mine worker rescue was a triumph of the human spirit, the fight for survival, and brought hope and joy to an entire nation. The Chilean wine tasting was just a yummy surprise. In a very rushed hour we swirl, sniff, sip, spit (mostly) through eight unique red blends from four of Chile’s wine growing regions. To briefly sum up the night; Chile is making some damn fine wine! There wasn’t a single one of these wines that was disappointing, and more than a few were quite surprising. While the wines were provided as a sample for a winesofchile.org tasting, I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for these labels.
From a broad stroke perspective, these red blends all seemed to offer a great deal of complexity with vibrant aromas of violet, eucalyptus, wild flowers and tobacco. In the mouth each wine seemed to be quite velvety with an earthy minerality in the finish. Each of these components seemed to offer a sense of place, or terroir for Chilean wine. I was impressed with the winemakers approach to unique blending of Syrah and Carmenere or Pinot Noir and Syrah. Rather than bore you with detailed notes on each wine, I’ll share a little about each, highlighting my favorites.
If you feel like reading some other thoughts on the event, check out my friends here:
- 1WineDude – http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/2010/10/21/badges-of-honor-and-wine-in-chile-wines-of-chile-red-blends-tasting/
- WinePeeps – http://winepeeps.com/2010/10/19/wines-of-chile-exploring-chilean-red-blends/
2007 Emiliana Coyam
The blend of 38% Syrah, 21% Cabernet, 21% Carmenere, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Mourvedre exploded with massive aromas of fruit, flowers and spice. I loved the fragrant eucalyptus and violets juxtaposed with the spilled spice rack. The wine is also full of flavor in the mouth with a powerful, yet soft dark fruit and evergreen tree. The oak treatment is very well integrated and the 15% ABV does not come across as strikingly hot. The finish on the wine is thick without being chewy or tart. This Bordeaux style wine is top notch wine for just $29 suggested retail. 4+/5
Emiliana is 100% organic and biodynamic.
*As an example of diversity of tastes, my wife didn’t care for this one so much. Joe and Kori, referenced above, gave it lower marks than I as well.
2007 Casas Del Bosque Family Reserve
The unique use of Pinot Noir as a blending grape (13%), along with the primary use of Syrah (61%) and Merlot (26%) was intriguing. The blend saw an extended time on skins with a total of 33 days of maceration and fermentation before resting for 22 months in new French oak barrels. The result is an intensely dark and black glass color. The amazing complex aromas offer something different with each sniff. In the beginning I picked up lavender, and sour fruit, but as time elapsed there were additional fragrances of campfire, cocoa, and exotic spices. In the mouth this wine is strong and sexy, refined and powerful, confident and playful. There are blasts of blueberry and vanilla that compliment the bitter baking chocolate and minerality very nicely. While built to cellar and age, this wine will taste remarkably better in 10 years, but is no slouch for the less patient too. At $50 it was the most expensive wine of the night, easily worth the expense. 4/5
2008 Montes Limited Selection
While not the best wine of the night, it certainly did surprise as the best bang for your buck. At only $15 the simple blend of 70/30 Cab/Carmenere was full of coco, minerality and herbs on the nose with a very full mouth feel of dark fruit and leather. This wine plays well with its bigger brothers in quality and price. 3+/5
One of the more enjoyable moments of the night was when winemaker Aurelio Montes Del Campo was explaining the feng shui layout of the winery, saying, “Happy people make happy wine.” This wine certainly made me happy, so maybe he’s on to something.
2008 Hacienda Aruacano
31% Syrah, 29% Cab Franc, 23% Cab Sauv, 17% Carmenere; 14.2%ABV – With elegant ruby colors in the glass the wine has great aroma of evergreen, clove, dark berry fruits and a subtle hint of exotic spice. Starts very thick in the mouth and then evolves into lots of layers of flowers, blackberry, and meat. The wine has a bright finish that is thrown off by a slightly disjointed minerality. At $23, a bargain. 4/5
2006 De Martino Las Cruces
A single vineyard field blend of 66% Malbec and 34% Carmenere; 14.7%ABV. The color starts dark in the center and shines with pink and purple hues toward the edge of the glass. My notes say, “love, love, love the nose. Like a field of wild flowers and rocky soil.” The wine has nice flavors raspberry and flowers. Hints of licorice and earth come through but the wine finishes long and strong with many layers of flavor. At $45, I score it 4/5
2006 Estampa Gold
57% Carmenere, 23% Cab Sauv, 12% Cab Franc and 8% Petit Verdot; 14.7% ABV – In the glass, nice deep plum color with candied edges. Soft blueberry aroma on the nose with hints of tobacco and spice. In the mouth the wine has a slight sweet candied berry and a full thick palate. At $22 3+/5
1WineDude gave a “B” and WinePeeps rated it their favorite of the night
2005 Valdivieso Eclat
The oldest wine of the night and the most unique blend of 56% Carignan, 24% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah was light with translucent ruby colors in the glass. A tight nose that has a grip on the wild flower and mineral aromas. Flavors of light fruit combined with a rich earthy mid-palate give way to a slight cocoa finish and good crisp acidity. $27, 3+/5
2006 Lien Maquis
42% Syrah, 30% Carmenere, 12% Cab Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec; 14.5%ABV – Dark and thick plum in the glass with fragrance of spice, mint, and bright red fruit. A lush mouth feel with nicely integrated oak and a thick back end. At just $19 a well made wine 3+/5
14 May 2010
Eight winemakers in Santiago Chile, one Master Sommelier in New York City, fifty-one bloggers scattered all across the country, all unified through the technology of video chat and twitter. Wines of Chile organized this massive tasting to bring awareness to Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Chile’s seven wine regions stretch the massive 2600 mile length of the icicle shaped country. With a variety of terroir, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile offers a climate for every vine. From WoC info – “Even today, Chile remains the world’s only wine-producing country to be entirely free of phylloxera” (an aphid type pest that feasts on grape leaves and roots causing significant destruction.)
Why would Wines of Chile reach out to 51 non-traditional media? Is the influence of 51 bloggers worthy of sending 34 cases of wine at a potential retail cost of $7000 (not to mention the added cost of technology, hiring the host, arranging eight wine makers to meet, and shipping). Cost of an event like this could run upwards of $10,000! For me the impressive part is trying to analyze the potential impact that the initial tweet storm / chat generates and then how far of a reach the potential blog posts and future references / recommendations will have. As blogs are written and shared through Twitter, Facebook, etc., the potential reach could easily exceed one million people. This effort, combined with traditional media reinforces the brand and creates a consumer acceptance of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Brilliant use of Social Media!
This tasting video is done differently than most of my others. Watching me swirl, sniff, sip through 8 wines could get pretty tedious (not to mention lengthy). I tried to edit the video so you could capture the essence of the event. Refer to the NectarView below for the official tasting notes and scores. Each of the wines presents a very similar swirl and they are all from the 2009 vintage at
Very special thanks to Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier, for being a very gracious, patient and knowledgeable host for the event! Follow him on Twitter @FredDexMS. To view the entire Twitter transcript, click here.
2009 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva
- The Stuff: 100% Sauv Blanc from Casablanca Valley; 13.5% abv
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color
- The Sniff: Citrus and minerality on the nose with mild effervescence
- The Sip: Citrus, Kiwi, Lime, minerality and moderately tart. The acidity is slightly off balanced but the wine remains a nice crisp drinker.
- The Score: At $11, this is a fantastic deal and definitely a wine to consider for seafood, spicy dishes, and poolside sipping. I can score this a 3+ out of 5
2009 Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauv Blanc from Casablanca Valley; 13.5% abv; cork
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color, hints of green apple
- The Sniff: Slight vegetal elements with a good amount of grapefruit and white tropical flowers
- The Sip: Fruit attack is mellow orange blossoms that open up to minerality and crisp acidity. Well balanced flavors with coy nuances that provide lasting interest.
- The Score: At $17, this is a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc. It provides the traditional flavor profiles while maintaining a crisp balanced acidity. I score this a 3+ out of 5
2009 Undurraga T.H. Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.5%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow straw color
- The Sniff: Green peppers, chilies and honeydew melon on the nose
- The Sip: The fruit on the T.H. is melon, lime and chilies. Blogger, swirlsmellslurp wrote “Chiles, honeydew melon, and a tequila shot with lime and salt.” I agree with their assessment. Big acidity makes the whole thing feel slightly disjointed to me. Screams for food!
- The Score: At $16 the flavors are intriguing and complex. The acidity on the back end throws it off a little. I can score this a solid 3 out of 5 with the warning to pair with food!
2009 Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.5%abv, wild fermentation with no added yeast. Barrel aged in large French oak for 6 months; cork
- The Swirl: Yellow apple color with hints of pale green
- The Sniff: A dramatic departure from the traditional citrus Sauv Blanc, this wine jumps out with sour orange, herbs, and a sugary sherry smell (almost like a port). A yeasty break component rounded out the aromas.
- The Sip: Funky yeast, bell peppers, and a strong herbaciousness make this a distinctively different wine. Some palates may enjoy the flavor profile because of its unique presentation. If you’re looking for a traditional Sauv Blanc, this is not it.
- The Score: At $22, this is an out of character Sauv Blanc. I give it a score of 2 out of 5. The profile is off, disjointed and out of balance. That, coupled with the higher price for its variety, brings the score down.
Many people during the tasting indicated thoughts of an off bottle. Across the board the wine was definitely intended to be crafted in this way.
2009 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley; 13.7%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Traditional mellow yellow pale Sauv Blanc color
- The Sniff: Floral and lemon peel with a hint of earthy grass
- The Sip: A very focused bi-dimensional flavor profile with only grapefruit and green peppers coming through. The wine is very well balanced with a good acidity and quickly diminishing finish.
- The Score: At $20, I can give this wine a 3 out of 5. It’s a good wine, but there is nothing spectacular about it. At the price range, this only comes across as an average offering.
2009 Cono Sur Organic Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% organically grown Sauv Blanc from the San Antonio Valley; 13.5%abv; screwcap
- The Swirl: Very pale yellow green color
- The Sniff: Very tight on the nose with only slight floral blossom and citrus present
- The Sip: What was lacking on the aroma comes out to gently play on the palate. The Cono Sur is what you would expect from a traditional Sauv Blanc. Tropical fruit, pineapple, good minerality. Wine blogger, winefoot, described this wine as a grassfield creamsickle. I couldn’t agree more.
- The Score: At only $13, this classic presentation of Sauv Blanc showcases the potential of this Chilean variety. I score this wine a 4 out of 5. Easily the best value Sauv Blanc I’ve had in a while!
2009 Haras de Pirque Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Sauvignon Blanc; 13.0%abv; cork
- The Swirl: Light yellow gold tones
- The Sniff: Light flower and citrus. This wine does not open up on the nose. It seems to be wearing a long sleeve turtle neck on a hot day.
- The Sip: Subtle tones of melon and lemon lime. Very singular focused flavor profile. Strong acidity that desires food.
- The Score: At $12 this is a wine that provides good value and doesn’t have any off putting flavors. Because it lacks anything significant, I can only score it a 3 out of 5.
2009 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc
- The Stuff: 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Colchagua Valley; 13.5%abv; screw cap
- The Swirl: Pale yellow straw and green apple
- The Sniff: This wine is a smack in the nose with grapefruit, pineapple, and other citrus. Take too deep of a sniff and you’ll burn your nose
- The Sip: A full on drink of dry crisp grapefruit and lemon. Tart finish with medium acidity. A mild hint of minerality on the finish
- The Score: $23; If you like grapefruits, you’ll score this high, but for an overall score of the balance of the wine in comparison to like varietal characteristics, I can only score this a 3 out of 5.
The overall synopsis for me is that seven of the eight wines displayed Sauv Blanc varietal tendencies of citrus, grass, bell pepper, and acid. Four of the eight wines presented very good values and flavor profiles. My favorites were wines 1, 2 and 6.