Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Values from Chile

Sign identifying Sauvignon Blanc Clone 242 in a Leyda Valley vineyard
(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I love the wines of Chile and I’ve done my share of writing about the qualities of this country’s efforts, especially with the vibrant white wines of San Antonio and Leyda as well as the gorgeous reds from Maipo and Colchagua Valleys. These wines represent the upper tier of Chile’s wines and frankly are not as well-known as they should be.

What everyone knows about Chile are the moderately priced wines that are well made and offer fine values. While I don’t want to perpetuate a myth that Chile only produces these values offerings, well, I don’t want to dismiss these wines either, especially today, when so many people have to save money to make it through difficult times. So here is a brief list of some notable values from Chile.

2008 Leyda Sauvignon Blanc “Classic” (Leyda Valley)
Close by the Pacific Ocean, San Antonio Valley and the sub-zone Leyda Valley have become the home of some amazing examples of Sauvignon Blanc. Here is one of the finest values from this area; a wine that offers aromas of grapefruit and Anjou pear, has good richness along with lively acidity and textbook varietal flavors. A great match for shrimp and clams, this is a great way to discover the characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda Valley and is an amazing value at $12! I can’t imagine a better example of Sauvignon Blanc for the price from anywhere in the world.

2008 Carmen Sauvignon Blanc Reserva (Casablanca Valley)
This has been one of my favorite Chilean Sauvignon Blancs for some time and the 2008 is another lovely bottling. This has a nice note of spearmint along with flavors of lime and grapefruit and is very round and elegant in the finish with cleansing acidity and excellent depth of fruit. Drink over the next 2-3 years with sautéed shrimp or risotto. ($16)

2008 Santa Rita Chardonnay “Medalla Real” (Limarí Valley)
The grapes for this wine come from the cool northwestern zone of Limarí Valley, only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful lemon custard, spiced pear and ginger aromas with tropical fruit flavors on the palate, this is quite rich with nicely integrated oak and a rich, lightly spicy finish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years with a variety of seafood, from tilapia to sea bass. ($16)

2007 Calcu (Colchagua Valley)
Here is an excellent blended red from Colchagua Valley, home to so many flavorful, bold offerings. A mix of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, this has plenty of red cherry and currant fruit along with notes of red pepper. Medium-bodied with tart acidity, this has moderate tannins and a clean, round finish. A fine match for most red meats or stews over the next 2-3 years. A steal at $12!

2007 Ventisquero Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere (Colchagua)
This blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon/30% Carmenere is a nicely balaned, middle-weight red with red cherry, cedar and sage aromas. This is not a powerhouse, but a nicely styled, subtle offering for foods such as pork chops, grilled meats or ligher game over the next 2-3 years. ($12)

2005 Maycas Cabernet Sauvignon (Limarí Valley)
At $23, this is priced higher than some consumers want to spend for a value wine, but to me that word is relative; this is a wonderful value. Deep ruby red, this has perfectly ripe black currant fruit with notes of menthol and subtle oak. The tannins are refined and ultra smooth, giving this wine a graceful and elegant finish. This has ideal strucure for aging another 5-7 years (or perhaps even longer). While filet is a natural match, I love this with roast duck, especially with the big fruit flavors of this wine. Mouthfilling and delicious, this is a great success and proof that a cool climate such as Limarí can be an ideal zone for Cabernet Sauvignon.

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