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Wine Review: Chilean wines offer quality, affordability

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In case you haven’t noticed, prices are rising on everything — and wine is no exception.

With the price of your favorite beverage rising, it is natural for one to seek an alternative. Among these alternatives are the wines of Chile.

Chilean wines are, for the most part, lower in price than some popular domestic brands. This is due to the simple fact that Chile has a lower standard of living and thus lower wages for employees, resulting in a lower cost of production for their wines. The lower price tag also is a result of Chile’s desire to keep its wines competitive. However, that lower cost does not indicate lower quality. On the contrary, Chilean wines are usually the equal of the domestic wines and often, dollar for dollar, much better.

I was recently introduced to the Chilean wines of Palena. These wines sell at an affordable price and offer exceptional quality. If they are not available at your wine purveyor, look into other wines from Chile.

Palena 2017 Pinot Noir Reserva Especial ($13)
This wine offers everything that makes for a fine pinot noir: an inviting ruby color, a firm body, a captivating aroma, a definable flavor wrapped in a smooth, velvet-like robe and an affordable price. The aroma displays fig, cranberry, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. The flavor is about as classical as it can get with black cherries, caramel, spice and a subtle hint of truffles. All of these carry over to the finish, where they long linger on the palate. The wine also possesses a substantial body, which is another sign of a well-made, finely proportioned pinot noir. The finish is as long and interesting as the aroma. This wine is a great accompaniment to pork and veal, full-flavored fowl and any meat dish featuring positive spices such as black pepper, allspice, thyme and sage. This wine can be enjoyed right now — no need to put it away for further aging and development.

Palena 2017 Merlot ($13)
The Palena 2017 Merlot exhibits so much fresh fruit that it reminds me of a quality Beaujolais. The fruit aromas and flavors are bold and beautiful. Plums and berries dominate the flavor with chocolate and mocha right behind. A delightful added extra to this wine is its long and fruity finish. This wine, too, has the indefinable raisin-like quality that seems to permeate all Chilean red wines. This wine can go with an outdoor barbecue or serve as a picnic red wine.

Palena 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
It is almost universally agreed that New Zealand produces the world’s finest sauvignon blanc wines. As it happens, Chile lies in the same general geographic position along the Tropic of Capricorn, but on the opposite side of the globe. It also produces some excellent sauvignon blanc wines. This wine displays the traditional grassy, slightly smoky aroma combined with a healthy dose of pineapple and citrus. In the flavor department, this wine has melon, pear and fig flavors. What makes this wine a standout is the creaminess and richness that it displays and an underlying mineral flavor. If you have lost interest in sauvignon blanc in recent years, try the Palena 2017 Sauvignon Blanc. My recommendation is to enjoy this wine with almost any seafood, except for extra spicy dishes.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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