At this urban winery located in the city of Santiago, Wine Enthusiast's Contrbuting Editor, Michael Schachner, sits down with the commercial director and chief winemaker to talk about post-earthquake renovations and two top bottlings.
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.
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The fragrance of this graceful and delicate artisan pisco resembles a fresh, minty breeze, with some fruit underneath. On the palate, violet notes come forward, but never overwhelm, fading into light ginger notes on the finish. So lightweight, the flavors almost feel like they’re drifting away off the tongue. This is one to sip and savor.
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.
The 1997 Casa Real was royal, and the ’99 is even better. It’s rich, deep and lavishly oaked. The concentration is intense but it’s not overly tight or tannic. In every way it’s a dead ringer for sweet, luscious fruit-forward Napa Cabernet. Plum, coffee and cream share center stage on the stylish finish.
Impressive in every way. The color shines an irridescent ruby, while the bouquet is massive, an amalgamation of fresh-cut cedar, pencil lead and lush berry fruit. Ripe as can be and balanced, with plushness and depth you don’t normally find. Finishes round and creamy, with vanilla and liqueur notes. Does not require cellaring but should hold for up to 10 years.
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…
Once again, arguably the best wine in Chile is this beauty from what may eventually become recognized as a world-class site for red wines—the dry-farmed, old-vines Apalta Vineyard. Fermentation involving big wood vats and the utmost in human attention yields a pure, stately wine that’s equal parts power and finesse. Blendwise, it’s mostly Merlot, and the flavors…
Dense as a brick, with deep blackberry, prune, earth and chocolate aromas. Huge and multilayered, but already exhibiting perfect structure and integrated oak and spice flavors. Pure and exact; along with the 2001 this is Clos Apalta at its finest. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.
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…