Among New World wine-producing countries, Chile has earned a reputation as a value leader, with many good-to-excellent wines priced under $15 a bottle. Which isn’t to say that the Chilean wine region doesn’t produce its share of top-flight wines as well; in fact, some of its red varietals and blends can compete with the great wines of the New and Old World.
If one grape is king in the Chilean wine regions, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon, which since the dawning of Chile’s wine industry in the 1850s has consistently succeeded in the country’s warm, dry, Pacific Ocean-and-Andes influenced climate. Other red varieties in Chile are Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec and the signature Carmenère, a Bordeaux variety now found almost exclusively in Chile (98% of the world’s Carmenère is grown there). As for white wines, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc has become increasingly popular and performs well when grown close to the cool Pacific; Chardonnay is also ubiquitous in Chile.
Regionally speaking, most Chilean winegrapes are grown in a number of river-fed valleys in the central portion of this long, thin country, including Maipo, Casablanca, Rapel, Colchagua, Curicó and Maule. In recent years, wineries have expanded the grape belt to Bío Bío in the cool and sometimes wet south as well as Limarí and Elqui in the dry, breezy north.
Wine Enthusiast’s Buying Guide features thousands of Chilean wine ratings from all over the country. Conduct a quick and easy search to find ratings from your favorite producers to access the Chilean wine guide.
Clos Apalta, depending on your point of view, is arguably Chile’s best wine. And this vintage is outstanding! Earth, minty spice, ripe berry, minerality and smoky aromas cover the bases. It’s superbly structured, with a fine texture and depth. Tastes lush and complex, with blackberry, crème de cassis, fine herbs and tobacco. Finishes classy. Drink now through 2016.— M.S. (2/1/2012)
Cool aromas of cola, coffee, blackberry, stewed plum, herbs and minerals make for a highly attractive and complex bouquet. In the mouth, wall-to-wall power and tannins suggest that this needs a few more years to mellow out. Flavors of stewed plum, blackberry, Carolina barbecue sauce and a hint of citrus peel are complex and set up a deep finish with dark flavors…— M.S. (3/1/2015)
Clos Apalta continues to push the envelope for Chilean icon wines. It’s always been a blend of four or five Bordeaux grapes, and the 2005 is every bit as structured, tight and ripe as any predecessor. There is an intense blanket of new oak that tastes of mint, cinnamon, sawdust and black licorice. When that subsides (maybe in another 12 months), expect racy and…— M.S. (7/1/2008)
Terrific Chilean red wine; seductive and succulent, with a beautiful burgundy hue matched by pure, ripe Bordeaux-like flavors. Deep and satisfying, and smooth as silk. If ever a Chilean red ranked as world class, this is it. Imported by Bacchus International.— M.S. (11/1/2005)
This superb Carmenère is lusty but intricate on the bouquet, with aromas of baked plum, blackberry, balsam wood, leather and horse hide. The palate shows a complex blend of high-voltage power and density; flavors of roasted blackberry, chocolate, pepper and root beer finish deep and oaky. Drink through 2020.— M.S. (3/1/2015)
Herencia is regarded as one of Chile’s very best Carmenères. This rendition is concentrated on the nose, with blackberry, cassis, baking spices, herbal notes and root essence rolled into a fantastic whole. A deep, layered palate is loaded with blackberry, mocha and controlled herbal flavors, while the finish is oaky but comfortable, with lasting spicy flavors…— M.S. (3/1/2015)
Dark, dense, spicy and full of everything nice, including cola, berry, earth and richness. The palate has ideal ripeness and power, and the flavors are a clever mix of light herbs, spice, chocolate and blasting berry. Long and sultry on the finish, with tobacco and immense complexity. One of Chile’s very best wines; a blend of Syrah, Carmenère, Cabernet and Merlot.— M.S. (9/1/2010)
The price for one of Chile’s flagship wines keeps climbing, but fortunately so does the quality. Winemaker Enrique Tirado has crafted yet another pounding, saturated Cabernet. It’s wonderfully meshed yet potent and fierce. Boysenberry, cassis and kirsch flavors control the extracted palate, while the finish is warm, creamy and fun, sort of like a milkshake. At 14…— M.S. (5/1/2009)