The wines of Chile are a value—consistent and good—and some are even world-class. Chile produces mostly classic French grape varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay, as well as blends. One unique grape to the nation is carmenere, which is approachable like merlot, with more spice and essence of the soil. Chile’s wine region is located almost the same distance south of the equator as Napa Valley is north, and has a similar climate and almost identical soil—a promising start for making great wine. Chile’s vineyards are the most isolated and protected in the world. As a result, they have not been devastated by the grapevine pest phylloxera (as have many of the wine world’s vineyards). Chile hopes to keep it that way.
This month’s selections are available at Sam’s Wine Shop, 218 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-455-1045
Carmen Reserve 2006 (Valle de Casablanca, Chile), $13.99
Sauvignon blanc. Fresh, full, and clean with bright lemon and pineapple flavors. Perfect after work or paired with grilled fish or roasted chicken.
MontGras Reserva 2006 (Colchagua Valley, Chile), $9.99
Carmenere. Carmenere is a seventeenth-century transplant from France that has taken on a life of its own in Chile. Due to its appearance on the vine, it’s often confused with merlot. This wine offers good body and flavors of spice, mint, and herbs, finishing big with vanilla and a hint of smoke. Try with lamb, either chops or gyros.
Cousiño–Macul Finis Terrae 2003 (Maipo Valley, Chile), $19.99
Cabernet sauvignon, merlot. This wine is big and robust—if it were from Napa, it would be $40. Blackberry and cassis notes are present along with great acids, so this wine needs food—such as a grilled pork chop or some earthy cheese—for the acids to be palatable. I think I drank it a couple of years too soon. It will be even better in 2012.
Casa Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2003 (Colchagua Valley, Chile), $64.99
70 percent carmenere/merlot vineyard blend and 30 percent cabernet sauvignon. Chile is in the game for you Big Red lovers. This one is complex, rich, lush, and a bunch of other adjectives. There is much going on—from tastes of blackberry to plum to oak to spice—your favorite rib eye has been waiting for this wine. Aging will not be a problem—2011 will be fine. A great wine worth twice its price.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.