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Wine Review: Try Chilean wines as American selections rise in price

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The current economy has caused some very difficult decisions on the part of consumers.

Although wine is often considered a luxury item, it has become part and parcel with the American way of life. In fact, rather than declining in these troubled times, wine consumption has increased. The reason for the increase is that while our domestic wines have dramatically increased in price, many foreign wines have remained in the affordable range because the costs to make the beverage are much lower in their countries, one among which is Chile.

And now, I will give you some reasons to consider the wines of Chile to be at the top of your wine-buying list besides their usually lower price.

Chile has never been attacked by phylloxera, the same insect that, in the mid-1800s, almost totally wiped out all of the vineyards in Europe. Chile, because of its climate and location, is the only country in the world that has not found it necessary to graft their wine grape vines onto phylloxera-resistant American grape rootstock, a procedure that continues to this day in this country and every other wine grape-growing country around the world. For years, a point of discussion among wine aficionados was, “Were the wines better before or after grafting, or was there no change?”

Root 1 Reserva 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
Let’s start with the price. A cabernet sauvignon at this ridiculously low price might indicate that there is nothing better in the bottle than mouthwash. That’s not so. How the Chilean vintners can make a better- than- average- cabernet sauvignon while still keeping the price in the affordable range is a mystery to me, but they are doing it well. In quality and enjoyment, I believe that this wine can meet and perhaps even beat any cabernet selling for three times the price. True to the variety, the aroma presents cherries, cassis, plum and dark cherry. The flavor and finish are identical, stressing dark summer berries and chocolate with a hint of oak. This may not be the ultimate cabernet sauvignon, and it is definitely not competing for that exalted position, but it is a full-bodied wine that presents the variety in an affordable, enjoyable form.

Escudo Rojo 2019 Gran Reserva ($23)
This wine is the latest vintage from world-renowned French winemaker Baron Philippe de Rothschild's Chilean venture. Many years ago, the good baron selected several areas in the Maipo Valley, an area that is considered the Napa Valley of Chile. Cabernet sauvignon grapes, along with cabernet franc and the very Chilean carmenere, were planted there and allowed to mature prior to being used to make wine. This wine has been named after the Spanish phrase for “rote schild,” or “red shield,” the Rothschild family crest. This wine also affirms the Rothschild commitment to Chile and Chilean wines. The aroma of this wine is intense and fruity, stressing red and black fruit notes of raspberry, cherry, blackcurrant and blueberries that are integrated well with spicy aromas of rosemary and clove, along with hints of chocolate and coffee imparted by oak aging. The tannins are silky and elegant, and fruity aromas of cherries and blueberries follow through to the finish, accompanied by excellent acidity. If you're a cabernet sauvignon lover or just a red wine lover, this is the wine for you.

Iscay Malbec-Cabernet Franc ($45)
This blend of 70% malbec and 30% cabernet franc might be called a match made in heaven, but in reality, it was a match made in Chile. The amazing thing about this wine is that the contributions of each variety can be detected and – not often the case with blends – muted. The flavors and aromas from the cabernet franc – dark summer fruits, rose petals and cassis – mingle with the violets, red fruit and spice contributed by the malbec. The finish continues the collaboration and is long and lasting.

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

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