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Wine Review: Chilean wines grow into grand cru status

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Historically, the title of grand cru has been reserved solely for the greatest of the great French wines. 

Now, a Chilean wine company has encroached upon the use of the term for some of their wine. This act of heresy would be attacked by the wine press and wine lovers with venom if it were not true. I haven’t seen such an attack.

It may be an indication the wines of Chile have finally come of age and have garnered the respect of the wine world in general.

Geographically, the wine grape growing regions of Chile are located as far south of the equator as our Napa and Sonoma districts are north of it, so the growing conditions are about the same. There are still major differences to be considered. The Chilean vineyards are irrigated with water from the Andes Mountains that imparts a mineral element to their wines. There is also the soil on which the vines are grown that is different than that of any other place in the world. The results are some very fine and interesting wines.

In the past, the wines of Chile did not get the respect they often deserved because they were usually in the very affordable price range. This was due to the lower costs of labor in Chile and not the quality of the wines. It is reasonable, then, to assume that if Chilean wine show up at higher prices, they must be exceptional.

Grand Cru Limari 2014 ($36)

This wine is a true child of Chile, as it is made up mostly from a grape variety that has found a new existence in the country. Made from 70% carmenere and 30% cabernet sauvignon, the wine displays a very dark color and the aromas of black currant, plums and a hint of black pepper all integrated with spicy aromas of oak. The Grand Cru Limari 2014 has an intensity of flavor found in very few wines and can perfectly accompany red meats, strong cheese and pastas. For a change in flavor and style, this wine will be a sensory adventure and perhaps, even a new favorite.

Grand Cru Sagrada Familia 2016 ($36)

This wine is the result of some interesting and inventive blending. Consisting of cabernet franc 43%, petit verdot 43%, carmenere 7% and syrah 7%, it could almost be called the wine stew of the Americas. This wine, because of its blending, displays many of the flavors and aromas associated with red wines – most obviously black current, cranberries and strawberry. This is definitely a wine for the adventurist wine lover, as it is truly one of the most captivating wines that I have yet to experience.

Grand Cru Apalta 2015 ($36)

Yet another grand cru, and I am running out of superlatives. The Grand Cru Apalta is more on the traditional style we are accustomed to, made from 79% cabernet sauvignon and 21% cabernet franc. While a familiar blend, its Chilean birthplace shows through. A deep, intense purple-red color introduces aromas of black berries and cherries, fragrances of black pepper and menthol notes, mixed with sweet vanilla, cinnamon and coffee ending in a memorable finish.

Caballo Loco:N17 ($70)

N17 is a compendium of grapes from different years and thus no vintage date. Composed of 50% from the 2012 vintage and the other half from vintages from 1990 to 2011, this wine is perfect beyond perfect. The flavors and aromas are true to their red wine character but of far greater intensity than is often the case. An infinity symbol can be placed after the terms flavor and aroma because the finish goes far beyond that. If a wine columnist can have favorites, I will place this wine among the top.

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

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