Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chilean Wines: Good Stuff for $15 or Less

When you hear the phrase “Chilean wine,” what words come to mind? Carménère? Don Melchor? For me, Chilean wine is synonymous with value. Chilean wines frequently have a high quality-to-price-ratio, and the level of diversity is impressive.
I recently tasted through a few Chilean wines and found a few more reasons why I associate Chile with value-driven wines. I didn’t realize it at the time — I was tasting blind — but all of the bottles in this group generally retail for $15 or less, making them good choices for summertime sipping or parties.
A quick note on the “Gran Reserva” designation that appears on several of these wines. While Old World reserve designations indicate the wine was aged for a certain number of years, the requirements for Gran Reserva designation in Chile are less strict. The designation simply means the wine must have at least 12.5% alcohol and receive at least some oak treatment.
All these wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

SRP: $15
Very light straw-yellow color. Ripe and fresh on the nose, with pineapple and mango backed up by a note of green pepper and rosemary. On the palate, the oily mouthfeel is matched by medium acid. The fruit is ripe but also a bit pungent, like tangerine rind and the outer parts of a pineapple. The fruit flavors work well with notes of sweet honeysuckle, green pepper and sage. Bright and tangy on the finish. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a Chilean Gewürz, but this is solid stuff. (87 points)

SRP: $12
Light and clear yellow color. Smells really fresh, green apples, green melon, honeysuckle, but there’s also a distinct herbal note that reminds me of jalapeno and chives. Tart acid kicks off the palate, followed up by crisp green apple and pear skin flavors. That jalapeno and chive note mixes in with the fruit. It’s actually quite light in its approach, perhaps a little mild. The acid lingers with lemon zest on the finish. (85 points)

SRP: $13
Aromas of melon, green pear, honey and a note that reminds me of almond butter. Plump and ripe on the palate. The yellow apple and pear flavors mix with butter, honey, melon rind and almond. Creamy, but not overblown. This chardonnay doesn’t see any oak, and it’s blended with a “dash” of Moscatel. (84 points)

2011 Viu Manent Chardonnay Gran Reserva - Chile, Casablanca Valley
SRP: $11
A burst of lemon and kiwi on the nose, there’s also a nutty-rich note, something like honey and hazelnut. Generously textured on the palate, with yellow apple and nectarine fruit that is ripe and plush. Hazelnut and toasted almond accents, a bit of cinnamon baking spice, but the acid offers crispness. Green apple, nutty and toffee notes last onto the finish, reminds me of a candy apple. Solid stuff, especially considering the price. (87 points)

2012 Tabalí Viognier Reserva - Chile, Limarí Valley
SRP: $14
The nose is a citrus explosion: grapefruit, lemon, lime and tangerine, along with a white flower and sea salt note. Creamy on the palate, but the acid zips. The tangerine, apricot and papaya fruit is ripe but tangy. A sense of ocean spray and honey mix together in this wine, and I’m really enjoying it. Ripe but lean, and packed with flavor. If you dislike some of the hot and rich Viogniers, this brisk, stainless steel-fermented wine could be a great summer sipper. (88 points)

2011 Cultivate “Copa Cobana” - Chile, Central Valley
SRP: $13
Rich and smoky on the nose, the sweet mixed berry aromas blend well with the earth and charcoal. On the palate, this is a silky, juicy, easy-drinking red. The berry flavors are ripe and tangy, mixed with red licorice candy and some earthy, smoky, sage-like notes. I like the acid and the light tannins. This blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere is a perfect summer grilling red, especially at $13. (87 points)

SRP: $15
Clear ruby colored. Pretty aromas of cherries and raspberries, mixed with notes of rhubarb and sweet roses. Juicy cherry fruit leads the palate, with tangy acid and easy-drinking tannins. A bit lighter fresher in its approach, this Pinot Noir also shows some earth and mushroom notes, as well as some cola and cinnamon. Medium-length finish. The elements line up really well. Good stuff for the price. (88 points)

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