Some Chilean wine recommendations.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers June 15, 2005
Boasting breathtaking scenery and friendly people, Chile is a visitor’s paradise. Long and thin, it is more than 2,700 miles long and at most, only 150 miles wide. Its climate varies from desert in the north to snow in the south. In between are some of the world’s most eye-catching grape growing valleys.
Cooling breezes from the Pacific Ocean arrive from the west, while the volcanoes of the Andes Mountains lie to the east. The resulting broad variations in climate, soil compositions and altitudes allow Chilean winemakers to experiment with varietals and growing conditions.
Combined with a thriving economy and new investment in facilities and equipment, Chilean wines have improved dramatically while remaining affordable.
One of the true stars of Chilean winemaking is Aurelio Montes whose Feng Shui-influenced winery is located in the Apalta Valley. Sourcing fruit from several different locations, Montes has a sizable portfolio of first-rate wines, with varying varietals and price ranges.
Montes Sauvignon Reserva 2004 ($9), from the Casablanca Valley, has pear and apple aromas with an almost effervescent citrus flavor. From the Curico Valley, the Montes Chardonnay 2004 ($9) has nut and banana scents with pineapple and apple notes. A step up in quality is the Montes Alpha Chardonnay ($20), also from the Casablanca Valley, which is well structured with pineapple and mild oak flavors and a nice soft finish. The Montes Alpha Syrah 2003 ($19) has plum and spice notes.
Two excellent values are the Montes Pinot Noir 2004 ($13), with raspberry and red cherry flavors, and the licorice and blackberry-flavored Montes Cabernet Carmenere 2004 ($13).
Located in the Aconcaqua Valley within a beautiful old building surrounded by magnificent gardens and hills of vines, Vina Errazuriz has been producing wines since 1870. The Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($18) has rich red fruit and cassis flavors with a long smooth finish. Made with no added yeast so it takes three times as long to ferment, the Errazuriz Wild Fermented Chardonnay 2002 ($16) has toasty/bread notes with pear and banana flavors and a nice finish. Also very good is the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Estate 2004 ($11), which has floral aromas and soft tropical fruit flavors.
In 1998, Errazuriz joined with California winemaker Robert Mondavi to create the Caliterra line of wines based in the Colchagua Valley. Their Arboleda Carmenere 2003 ($14) has licorice, spice and dark fruit flavors with moderate tannins, while the Arboleda Syrah 2003 ($14) has blackberry and spicy vanilla notes.
Gazing from the mountainside onto the property of Vina Los Vascos, it’s easy to appreciate why Chateaux Lafite Rothschild purchased this stunning part of the Colcaghua Valley in 1988. Winemaker Marco Puyo crafts high-quality wines, including the unoaked Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2004 ($8), which has pear and citrus aromas with tangerine and kiwi notes. Also worth trying is the nicely balanced Los Vascos Chardonnay 2004 ($10), with banana/pineapple flavors, as well as the Los Vascos Grande Reserve 2002 ($16), with floral aromas, mild tannins and spicy blueberry/raspberry flavors.
Owned by the makers of Grand Marnier liquor and supervised by the renowned French enologist Michel Rolland is the ultra-modern winery of Casa Lapostolle. The Chardonnay Cuvee 2003 ($16) has good balance with apricot and apple flavors. Fermented with no added yeast is the Merlot Cuvee 2003 ($17), which contains 15 percent Carmenere with dark fruit aromas and blueberry/cherry notes. A blend of Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot, the Clos Apalta 2003 ($17) has soft tannins amid licorice, mocha and dark fruit flavors and a smooth finish.