Wines of Chile: Exploring Terroir



By Kori ~ October 31st, 2012.

Chile is a long, narrow country that runs 2,600 miles along the southwestern coast of South America between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. But don’t let its geography fool you, there is more climatic and soil diversity found east to west than from north to south. Spanish settlers first planted wine grapes in Chile around 1550. While Chile has a long wine history, I believe that it is just now coming into its own as a world-class wine region.

Recently, I had the pleasure to spend 10 days in Chile exploring Chilean wine country on a media trip hosted by Wines of Chile. While we were there, we participated in an online tasting along with 50 other wine bloggers back in the United States. Eleven Chilean winemakers/winery representatives convened in Santiago to talk about their wines via video conference while Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer moderated.

The presenting winemakers/winery representatives included:

This group of winemakers was a fun and lively group. They were more than willing to answer questions and share personal stories on top of discussing their own wines and their thoughts on terroir in different Chilean wine regions. Most of the bloggers, including me, were tweeting during the event. If you’d like to review the stream, check out #BlogChile.

During the event, we tasted three wines from four different varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is the second-most planted white variety in Chile, hot on the heels of Chardonnay, and does very well in the cool climate regions near the Pacific Ocean.

2012 Viña Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Very pale straw yellow. Beautiful nose with floral and citrus aromas. Lime and Granny Smith apple come through on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with crisp acidity and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.99

2011 San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc (Leyda Valley, San Antonio Valley, Chile): 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with grapefruit, lime, and grass on the nose. More grapefruit, lime, and a touch of minerality come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with racy acidity and good mouthfeel. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19

2011 Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Pale greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with lemon, pineapple, and a touch of banana on the nose. More citrus notes as well as a touch of minerality come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity. Well-balanced with a long, elegant finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $25

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a relative newcomer to the Chilean wine scene with a growing number of vineyards in cool climate regions trying their hand with this finicky red variety.

2010 Emiliana Novas Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep ruby red. Nice nose with strawberry, raspberry, and spice aromas. Earth, spice, and red fruit come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, smooth tannins, and a long, slightly bitter finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19

2009 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep ruby red. Aromatic with candied cherry, raspberry, and plum on the nose. Fruit-forward with candied cherry and spice on the palate. Medium-bodied and lively with smooth tannins and a medium finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $32

2009 Morandé Gran Reserva Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley, Chile): 100% Pinot Noir. Deep red. Nice nose with floral, cherry, and spice aromas. Spice cherry, white pepper, and a touch of earth come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $17.99

Carmenere

Carmenere, a red variety originally found in the Bordeaux region of France, disappeared from European vineyards almost completely in the mid-19th century. Today, Carmenere is known as Chile’s signature grape, having been discovered there in 1994 among vines that were previously thought to be Merlot.

2010 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere (Cachapoal Valley, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Deep purplish red. Aromatic with black plum, chocolate, and a slight vegetal note on the nose. Jammy with black plum, black pepper, and a touch of chocolate on the palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, medium to high tannins, and a medium finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $22

2010 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere (Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile): 95% Carmenere and 5% Carignan. Deep purplish red. Gorgeous nose with blackberry, earth, tobacco leaf, and a touch of green pepper. Lucious palate with blackberry, tobacco, and black pepper. Medium to full-bodied with lively acidity and sweet tannins. Well-balanced with a long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99

2009 Koyle Royale Carmenere (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 85% Carmenere, 8% Petit Verdot, and 7% Malbec. Deep purple. Aromatic with black fruit, dark chocolate, and pencil lead on both the nose and palate. Medium to full-bodied with crisp acidity, high, dry tannins, and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $25.99

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is Chile’s star grape with over 40,000 hectares planted, accounting for 47% of all red varieties planted. While it is grown in all but the coldest areas of Chile, Cab does best in regions with a warm, dry climate that allows it to fully ripen.

2009 Viña Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo Valley, Chile): 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot. Deep, dark red. Gorgeous nose with red and black fruit, black pepper, and floral aromas. Blackberry, black raspberry, mint, and floral notes come through on the palate. Full-bodied with lively acidity and big, bold tannins. Well-balanced with good mouthfeel and a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $29

2010 Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, dark purple. Nice nose with red and black fruit, earth, oak, and pencil lead aromas and flavors. A bit thin on the mid-palate. Medium to full-bodied and lively with smooth tannins, and a medium to long finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $19

2009 Viña Los Vascos Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenere, and 5% Syrah. Deep, dark purplish red. Nice nose with blackcurrant, licorice, and cinnamon aromas. Blackcurrant, blackberry, licorice, black pepper, spice, and cinnamon come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and big, bold, dry tannins. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish. Gets better the longer it’s open.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail Price: $64.99

While there were many great wines in this tasting, my favorite in each variety was the 2011 San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, the 2009 Morandé Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, the 2010 Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere, and the 2009 Viña Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon.

In addition to tasting wines, I thoroughly enjoy it when I have the opportunity to visit with winemakers and kick the dirt in the vineyards. While I am thankful for the technology that has allowed me to participate in these online tastings in the past with winemakers on another continent, it was truly a thrill to be able to complete the experience by visiting Chile, touring its wineries and vineyards, and meeting these talented winemakers in person. Chile truly is a special place.

In the coming weeks, I will be writing more about the people and places that I encountered in Chile. And if you are planning a trip there anytime soon (which I highly recommend), feel free to ask me any questions about the area in the comments below or via our Contact Us form. I’m happy to help if I can.

Salud!


Filed under: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Chilean Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, White Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Jameson Fink | October 31st, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Look forward to reading your perspective on the rest of the trip. Great traveling with you. I’m adjusting to life without water “con gas” at every meal.

  2. Kori | November 2nd, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Jameson,
    Great traveling with you, too! What a memorable trip. I’m still catching up on my sleep. :) Cheers!

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