CHILE: A Winemaker’s Paradise

The 16th Century Spanish colonization of Chile brought with it the inoculation of vitis vinifera by the invading power. What likely began as an attempt to cultivate and culture a land that was perceived as virgin, primordial, and Dark, the Spanish soon discovered Chile’s uniquely expressive terroir, capable of the rich, ripe, and supple wines we know of today.

Separated from Europe by the Atlantic Ocean, and entirely encased by desert, the Pacific, and the formidable Andes, Chile remains untouched by the phylloxera epidemic that swept across Europe in the 1880s. As a result, the vines grown in Chile remain ungrafted, unlike those in Europe, and are still grown on their original vines (just as they were two centuries ago). What is of interest, then, is how Chile gives us an insight into the “original” flavors of these European varietals, while simultaneously brandishing a Latin American edge.

In the mid-19th Century, the ‘Bordeaux’ grapes were introduced to Chilean vineyards, namely Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Carménère for the reds; Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon for the whites. These grapes were exceptionally successful in Chile’s fertile soils, and showed great potential. However, arguably the most prominent factor of Chilean wine success has to do with the influx of French immigrants during the 20th Century, who brought their generations of understanding and knowledge of wine production to the Chilean growers.

Chile’s climate has often been described as halfway between California and France. Due to this reliability of weather, many wines will not carry a significant variation between vintages, as the wines are generally produced with uninterrupted control.

Below are some of the key Chilean regions, and the wines we offer as their best representatives:

 

CASABLANCA VALLEY

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Morande Vineyards, Chile, South America — Image by © Hoberman Collection/Corbis

A roughly 13-mile horizontal stretch, the Casablanca Valley was first cultivated in the mid-1980s and quickly became a notably good place for whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as the temperamental Pinot Noir (given the cooling effects of the Pacific and the early morning fogs).

 

Mahu Sauvignon Blanc

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With vibrant acidity and pleasant minerality, the Mahu pirouettes amid flavors of citrus fruit and grassy lemon zest. Playful aromas of tropical fruit, the most enjoyable scent we found was a luscious supply of lychee. An instant classic!

 

Veramonte Pinot Noir

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 is, in a word, voluptuous. With plumy dark fruits and firm earth tones, this coastal Pinot Noir is elegant but far from austere. Heady red fruit aromas dominate, and the firm structure provided by controlled acidity can almost be felt by simply looking through the glass

VALLE CENTRAL

Chile’s most prominent and internationally recognized wine region. Given its proximity to the capital city of Santiago, the Andes, and Argentina, the resulting wines are infused with plenty of interesting and unique qualities. Here, the occurrence of diurnal temperature variation (the temperature shifts which occur from noon to midnight) is exceptionally pronounced. In Valle Central, noon is categorically hotter, developing the grapes’ natural acidity, with the cooler temperatures of the evening trapping and preserving that acidity overnight. This makes for bold, expressive wines with a frim, tannic backbone and pleasant minerality.

Vino Del Paso Pinot Noir. Medium-light bodied, clear ruby red, and packed with bright floral notes, this wine almost drinks more like a rosé than it does a red. However, upon taking your first sips it becomes abundantly clear that that is its crowning achievement. It provides all the power and joy of a red wine while still managing to remain delicate, and almost innocent. Amid all this there are still some very nice herbaceous and vegetal tones (which I’m always a fan of), and even a moderate degree of black pepper spice.

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Overlooking the Maipo River. Courtesy of winebiznews.blogspot.com

The Maipo River (above) forms a valley within Valle Central, creating its own sub-regions and its own stylized wines, particularly its elegant Cabernet Sauvignons.

 

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Santa Alicia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
A delectably refined Cabernet Sauvignon, the Santa Alicia Reserva drinks like one of those bold, tannic wines of the upper echelons. Exhibiting rich, polished dark fruit and heavily imparted oak flavors, the wine has a deeply integrated darkness that is immediately sharpened and juxtaposed against a defining acidity.

 

Similarly, the Rapel Valley can also be found alongside its namesake river. It is the largest wine producing region in Valle Central, as well as ¼ of all Chilean wine production.

 

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The Rapel River. Courtesy of Gerard Prins.

Lapostolle Gran Selección Sauvignon Blanc

Interestingly medium-bodied, the Lapostolle Gran Selección Sauvignon Blanc is velvety smooth and with no shortage of robust tropical fruits on the palate! The nose carries clear scents of banana and citrus, with virtually no grassier tones. A nice alternative to this staple varietal, Rapel has given us a very interesting new perspective on what a white wine can be.

 

Last of the Valle Central sub-regions is the awesome Maule Valley. It is most notable for its bold Cabs and spicy Carménères. Through much of the area there can be found deposits of volcanic ash within the soil, producing effects similar to those of Alsace, France. The vines growing here can be traced back all the way to the 16th Century colonization of Chile.

 

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Casas Patronales Reserva Carménère

A powerhouse of flavor! This Carménère shows that categorical lust for life that so many Chilean wines contain, while still maintaining its native spice and stone fruit touches. Dark, smooth tannins guide you through appreciated notes of tobacco, chocolate, plum, and pepper. The influence of the volcanic soil becomes evident at this point, with that quintessential sulfuric flavor right at the finish.

 

 

 

Pick up any of these wines at our store between now and July 8th to receive a 10% discount!

And don’t forget to download our mobile delivery app for additional discounts.

Cheers,

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