Bottoms Up: Chilean wines offer good value

There’s no arguing with the popularity of Chilean wines today. They’re always juicy, well-made and very indicative of their terroir. Furthermore, they represent great value for the dollar, are extremely enjoyable and infinitely food-friendly.

Two of this country’s famous wineries that have been a mainstay in this market for years, and have helped catapult Chilean wines to its notoriety here in Ontario, are Concha Y Toro and Casillero del Diablo. Recently, long time Chief Winemaker for both, Marcelo Papa, came to town to introduce some new, premium wines from these houses to our market . It had been quite a few years since I last met  with Marcelo in Chile, so it was great to catch up with him over lunch and taste his new selections.

All the wines spent some time aging in French oak barrels, anywhere from 11 to 18 months.

First up was the 2009 Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay ($17.95, Vintages) from the newer, cool Limari Valley near the ocean. Pear, fig, melon and toasted hazelnut abound in this vibrant, silky sipper. The 2009 Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay ($19.95, Vintages) followed. This special winery, owned by Concha Y Toro, is actually located in the Limari Valley and the wine showed lots of toasted mineral, apple and zest with a buttery finish. Fresh and juicy!

A super Pinot Noir, the 2010 Marques de Casa Concha ($19.95) from the Limari Valley was delightful with its toasted red fruit, dill, spice, earthiness, good structure and great length. I really liked this savory little number and would love to see it in this market. Up next, was the 2008 Marques de Casa Concha Reserva Syrah ($19.95, Vintages) from the Maipo Valley just outside Santiago. Full of smoky bright dark fruit, licorice, spice and chocolate, it was pretty tasty. The 2009 Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Syrah ($19.95, 2008 vintage, Vintages, June 9, 2012) from the Rapel Valley was explosive with chewy dark fruit, smoke, pepper, licorice, tobacco and soft-grained tannins.

Toasted, sweet dark fruit, plum, chocolate, spice and coffee oozed out of the 2009 Marques de Casa Concha Merlot ($19.95, Vintages, June 9, 2012) from the Rapel Valley. A little tannic at the moment, but this will soften over time! The 2009 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere ($19.95, Vintages) from the Limari Valley was all about toasted dark fruit, chocolate, dried herbs and coffee with good acidity and some firmish tannins. Marcelo did a fine job of managing to avoid any of the green vegetative notes often found in this varietal.

An interesting blend of Cabernet and Syrah was evident in the 2009 Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada ($15.95, not available), with fruit from both the Maipo and Rapel Vallies. Toast, smoke, black fruit, chocolate, leather, tar, coffee, round tannins, light spice and good acidity came together in this easier-drinking red.

Two Cabernet Sauvignons finished off the tasting. The 2009 Marques de Casa Concha ($19.95, Vintages Essential) from the Maipo Valley, containing a little Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, came across like a red Bordeaux blend. Exuding smoky cassis, cherry, black licorice, tobacco, cedar and cigar box, it’s approachable and infinitely quaffable. Note that this wine is reduced $2 from Nov. 27 to the end of the year. The 2007 Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial ($19.95, Vintages Feb. 4, 2012) from the Limari Valley was a gorgeous offering. Chock full of vanilla, sweet cassis, plum, cherry, pipe tobacco, spice, chocolate, coffee and mineral, this baby is rich and luscious, yet elegant. A real winner, so stock up when it’s released. It won’t last long.

In the $15 to $20 price range, you’d be hard-pressed to find better wines. Marcelo’s offerings always score in the 90s, proof of his ability to make quality wines with great personality and character. Indulge yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Agent in Ontario is Select Wines & Spirits,, 416-367-5600.

Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge &  consultant.

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Completely agree with your conclusions. Especially with your opening remarks about Chilean wines often being juicy and well made. I would add “ready to drink” to that.

I’ve been in more than a few tastings where a Chilean $15 wine beats the pants off a french Bordeaux in the $60 range. Sure the Bordeaux might beat the Chilean wine in ten years from now…then again, most of us buy a bottle of wine with the intent of drinking it sooner than that.

Chilean wines = great value still.

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