For many years now, Chile has distinguished itself in the wine industry as a source for good value wines produced from popular varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot. The influence of vintners who migrated from France to South America is evidenced by the strong presence of these grape varietals of French origin.
In my most recent wine tasting classes, we sampled two whites and four reds, including three Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blends, plus a Cabernet Franc, from various wine-growing regions north and south of the capital Santiago. Overall, the classes were very impressed by the high quality and very affordable price points. The sweet spot with regards to pricing, again, is in the $15 to $25 price point range, and occasionally even a little less in this case.
All wines were purchased at Wine Works https://www.wineworksonline.com/ in Marlton, New Jersey, although some may be available in Pennsylvania wine shops.
Matetic EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($14)
Origin: Valle Hermoso, Valle de Casablanca Denominacion de Origen (D.O.),
Varietals: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Production/Tasting Notes: Vineyard 6 miles from Pacific Ocean; grey granite soil with iron-rich mica; organic grapes; cold soak for 12 hours before pressing under layer of inert gas; low temperature fermentation in stainless steel tanks; aged on fine lees for 4 months; 30% fermented in concrete vessels and neutral oak barrels to enhance mineral notes, texture and mouthfeel; complex nose dominated by citrus and tropical aromas, such as mango, papaya, grapefruit peel with light herbal notes; fresh, crisp, concentrated, vivid on the palate; lingering finish with underlying salty minerality. (92 points, Vinous)
Food Pairing: ceviche, tuna carpaccio; sushi; oysters; scallops; salads; goat or bleu cheeses
Mayu Pedro Ximenez 2020 ($13)
Origin: Valle de Elqui D.O.
Varietal: 100% Pedro Ximenez
Production/Tasting Notes: Hand-harvested at one of the highest altitude vineyards in Chile (6,320 feet); fermentation in stainless steel; clarification by natural sedimentation; aged on fine lees for 4 months; dry, crisp; floral (white flower) and fruit aromas; citrusy; bright acidity; long finish. (90 points, Wine Advocate)
Food pairing: ceviche; fresh seafood; shellfish
Perez Cruz Cabernet Franc Limited Edition 2019 ($16)
Origin : Valle de Maipo D.O.
Varietal: 96% Cabernet Franc; 4% Petit Verdot
Production/Tasting Notes: Total maceration period of 27 days; 14 months aging in French oak barrels (50% new); red fruit, herbal and spicy aromas with floral notes; fine tannins, lingering finish.
Food Pairings: lentil soup with ham hock; rack of lamb; rabbit rillettes
Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($20)
Origin: Valle de Maipo D.O.
Varietals: 86.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Cabernet Franc; 2.1% Syrah; 1.4% Petit Verdot
Production/Tasting Notes: Sourced from old-vine Pirque and Puente Alto vineyards at foot of Andes; stony, alluvial soil; semi-arid Mediterranean climate; daily thermal oscillation of 18 degrees Celsius prolongs ripening of grapes, concentrating and intensifying aromas of unctuous cherry, sarsaparilla; cedar; blackberry, tar; smoke; smooth, silky texture masks firm, underlying tannic structure; long, lingering finish. (92 points, James Suckling)
Food Pairing: grilled, roasted or stewed meats or game in rich sauces with touch of acidity and herbs such as rosemary, thyme, bay leaf
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($20)
Origin: Valle de Colchagua D.O.
Varietals: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Merlot
Production/Tasting Notes: Granite, clay soils; hand-harvested, manual selection of bunches before destemming; maceration in fermentation tanks for 5 days, followed by fermentation of 7-10 days, then racked into stainless steel and concrete tanks; malolactic fermentation; 55% aged in French oak barrels for 12 months (30% first use; 70% 2nd and 3rd use); complex array of aromas - black fruit, strawberry, blueberry, black plum; crème de cassis; notes of leather, tobacco, toast, toffee; smooth tannins on the palate; long finish. (94 points, James Suckling)
Food Pairings: red meats; Mongolian beef; pasta with Bolognese sauce; lamb chops
Primus The Blend 2018 ($15)
Origin: Apalta, Valle de Colchagua
Varietals: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon; 20% Carmenère; 10% Petit Verdot; 10% Syrah; 5% Cabernet Franc
Production/Tasting Notes: Well-drained clay-loam and colluvial soils; organic, sustainably-farmed vineyards; Mediterranean climate; 66% aged in French oak barrels (18% new) for 12 months; 33% in 5000 liter foudres; the blend features particular characteristics from each of the varietals: structure from the Cab Sauv; red fruit delivered by the Merlot; weight and softness from Carmenère as well as spice; smooth, finish complex finish by virtue of Petit Verdot; persistence and elegance from Cab Franc. Medium body. (92 points, Tim Atkin, MW)
Food Pairing: lamb shank; grilled, roasted meats; barbecue ribs
Alcohol: 13.5 %
Notes on Chilean Wine-Growing Regions
Home of viticulture in Chile. Vines first planted in the 1540s, but expanded greatly in the 1800s. Located at the northern end of the Central Valley, just south of capital Santiago. High elevation and river gravels offer ideal combination for Bordeaux-style reds. Has become a world-class region for producing Cabernet Sauvignon. Alto Maipo, which includes sub-regions Puento Alto and Pirque, is the most prestigious of the viticultural areas. Vineyards in this region run along the eastern edge of the Andes with altitudes between 1300 and 2500 feet. Warm sun and colder nights allow slow ripening and balanced acidity. Colluvial soils are rocky and free-draining, stressing the vines which produce a higher concentration of sugars and acids. Other sub-regions are the Central Maipo and Maipo Bajo, the latter focusing more on wine-making and less on viticulture.
Central Chile region with great promise. Noted especially for Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Syrah. Characterized by steep slopes on the edge of coastal mountains, free-draining granitic soils, stressing grapes that produce small yields and high concentrated flavors. Great variation in diurnal temperatures also help in creating grapes with balanced ripeness and acidity. Climate is warm, but cooled by ocean breezes; dry, but refreshed by rivers and occasional rainfall.
Located 250 miles north of Santiago on the edge of the Atacama Desert, currently the northernmost wine-growing region. Traditionally focused exclusively on producing Pisco, Chile's trademark brandy; now producing bright, intensely aromatic wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenère, Syrah and Pedro Ximenez . Hot and dry, requiring irrigation. High altitude - up to 6550 feet, along with bright, hot days followed by cool, fresh nights, allowing grapes to develop intense varietal character and refreshing levels of acidity. Elqui means "narrow valley" in the local Quechua language. Rocky and thin soils with chalky components provide good drainage.
East-West Valley, about 20 miles long, located 60 miles northwest of Santiago. Best known for crisp white wines, particularly, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, the Valley is now recognized as one of Chile's quality wine regions. A relatively new region, plantings began in the 1980s. At 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the Valley is strongly influenced by the cooling effects of the Humboldt Current, flowing up from the Antarctic. The oceanic influence brings cool morning fog and greater cloud cover than elsewhere in northern Chile, enhancing the growing of white wines. A longer ripening period allows more time to develop greater flavor complexity while maintaining a balance of sugar and acidity.