Every wine-producing country has discovered an area where grapes grown there have proven to consistently make the better wines.
In Chile, the Central Valley is the main grape-growing region and the center of winemaking in the country. The vineyards of the Central Valley butt up against the towering Andes Mountains and reap the reward of the mineral-rich water that runs off during rainstorms. It is this runoff water that gives the grapes, and the wines made from them, their signature mineral background that is their hallmark. It’s what helps to make Chilean wines both interesting and enjoyable.
Another point of interest concerning Chilean wines is that they come from the only place in the world where the familiar wine grape varieties are grown on their own root stock. Because of a root-destroying bug called phylloxera – an insect that almost wiped out all of the vineyards of Europe during the mid-19th century – all of the wine-making grape vines of the world are grafted onto American grape root stock that’s phylloxera resistant. It appears that something in the soil of Chile has resisted the invasion of that nasty little bug so that Chilean wines are the truest to the variety they represent and help to answer an age-old question: whether the wines of Europe were changed after employing the necessary grafting. The entire incident is covered in the book, “The Great Wine Blight,” by George Ordish.
Marques de Casa Concha 2020 Carmenere ($25)
This wine, in many ways, is similar to a cabernet sauvignon. However, it is not a carbon copy and presents its own individual and distinctive flavor and aroma profile. The wine comes from 25-year-old vines and offers aromas of dark plums and blackcurrants, which are joined by spices, such as licorice and cloves, along with a suggestion of coriander and black pepper. This is the wine for the smart and adventurous: smart to take advantage of the price and adventurous for sampling a wine from a variety you may never have heard of but are willing to give it a try.
Marques de Casa Concha 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
A well-made cabernet sauvignon at an affordable price is more than a rarity; it is almost an impossibility. Made from a blend of 85.5% cabernet sauvignon, 10 % cabernet franc and augmented by small amounts of syrah and petit verdot, the wine has a deep red color and offers the aromas of cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry with a hint of tar, oak and smoke. Here, too, the haunting mineral sub-flavor adds an extra level of interest to this wine.
Errazuriz 2019 Wild Ferment Chardonnay ($22)
Another Chilean impossibility is this chardonnay that has been fermented by naturally occurring wild yeast. When grapes are brought into a winery, they are processed to remove the wild yeast – the white bloom that naturally forms on all fruit. These wild yeasts could add unwanted elements to the finished wine or even result in an incomplete fermentation. There are, however, some regions that have a more friendly form of natural yeast that are specific to an area, which will add an individuality to a wine. This is a full-bodied chardonnay that offers the aromas of lime, peach, pear and oak that follow through to the flavor and then to a long finish. This is not an ordinary chardonnay by any means as this wine is as close as one can come to the often written about chardonnay wines of the past. It’s like a chance to drink a bit of history.
Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at email@example.com.
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