Top Chilean Wine

10 January 2013
Author: Jeannie Cho Lee

Chile 2


Flying nearly 30 hours to the other side of the world is physically and mentally exhausting. However, I made this journey twice over the past two years and when I arrive, weary, blurry-eyed with a buzz in my head, it is the breathtaking scenery and the wines that bring me back to life. Over four days, I had the opportunity to taste some of the best wines that Chile is making right now. The pace of change and the improvements echo the pace of change in Asia more than in South America. Sauvignon Blancs are no longer copycats of grassy New Zealand versions but combine the stony character of Sancerre with the vibrancy of New Zealand. Pinot Noir developments are under way and there is much promise in regions along the coast both south and north of Santiago.


It is the reds that impressed me and I really enjoyed discovering the old vine Carignans – there is real potential here and I plan to follow this variety’s development in Chile closely. Carmenere is being tamed and mastered under skillful hands and the best examples express the unique characters of this spicy, herbal-scented variety very well. Cabernet Sauvignon in places like Alto Maipo are flourishing with wines that express the depth possible from older vines and the elegance derived from understanding the vineyard.


Below is a small selection of my favourite wines from this recent trip:


1. 2008 Viña Seña, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
As always, this is a brilliant wine that always shows grace and poise. I always find this vintage superior to the flamboyant 2007 and consistently rate it higher. 2008 has more depth, savoury tobacco and spicy characters which I love. It is a baby that will be glorious in time.(95)


2. 2009 Concha Y Toro – Don Melchor, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, Chile
Balanced, elegant, with good depth of fruit. Harmonious components and well handled tannins. Beautiful composition with silky tannins. A fabulous 2009. Depth from older vines, many over 30 years now, is evident in the subtle intensity and lingering finish in this wine.(94)


3. 2005 Viña Errázuriz – Don Maximiano, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Subtle flavours are what I enjoy about Don Maximiano. The wine speaks softly and the there is a lovely restraint in its expression. There are hints of cocoa and fresh herbs here with all of its elements in harmony. Perfect to start enjoying now.(92)


4. 2006 Viña Errázuriz – Kai, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
This Carmenere is beautifully composed and just starting to drink well. Love the blackberry and plum notes accented by fresh herbs and green pepper flavours. The finish has a wonderful spiciness and there is no bitterness which is often found in many Carmeneres from Chile.(92)


5. 2008 Concha Y Toro – Carmín de Peumo Carmenere, Peumo, Rapel Valley, Chile
This classic Carmenere is from Colchagua, in a region called Peumo. According to top winemakers in Chile, Carmenere performs extremely well in this region. Leather and sweet spices in the finish reveals classic Carmenere flavours. Polished tannins and no greenness. Beautifully composed, elegant with good length.(91)


6. 2010 Santa Rita – Casa Real, Carneros Viejo, Maipo Valley, Chile
Elegant, well composed, very poised Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Nice balance and well managed tannins with hint of plums and cherries. This wine is all about elegance and finesse.(91)


7. 2009 Alma Viva, Puente Alto, Maipo Valley, Chile
Very elegant, Bordeaux-like grace and long length. For a hot year, they did very well with good intensity and layers of cassis, blackberry and cedar flavours. Keep for several years – still very young.(90)


8. 2011 Casa Marín – Cipreses Sauvignon Blanc Leyda, Lo Abarca, San Antonio Valley, Chile
A fascinating nose of fresh dill and lemongrass. For many years, this Sauvignon Blanc was the reference point for cool climate quality Sauvignon Blanc from Chile. Tomato leaf and capsicum notes in the finish. Maria Marín makes this wine that offers nice mid palate weight with a fairly long finish. Excellent Sauvignon Blanc – best I’ve tasted from Chile.(90)


9. 2009 Viña Morandé – Edicion Limitada Carignan, Loncomilla Valley, Chile
From the Maule region, this old vine Carignan is very unique – flavours range from red fruits to sweet spices and aromatic herbs such as rosemary and thyme. Very fresh on the palate which is surprising given 2009, a warm year. Well made, very intense with a long finish. Paulo Morandé, the winemaker/owner, is one of the pioneers of this old vine Carignan; he is currently Director at Morandé and has his own small winery.(90)