Become a Wine Expert.
Merlot is the grape that made Chilean wines famous. In Chile's warm environment, Merlot makes deeply colored wines bursting with ripe, soft fruit.
Perhaps the most important secret of Chile is that the top wines from this country cost a fraction of the price of leading wines from other wine regions, and they can deliver outstanding value. One of the reasons for this is that production costs are relatively low.
One leading wine from Chile is Seña, which comes from a joint venture between two producers—Mondavi in California and Errazuriz in Chile. The 2003 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère, and Cabernet Franc. It's a complex swish of dark berries, smoke, vanilla, and anise. It will improve for the next eight years or so in bottle.
The best wines of Chile tend to come from higher altitudes, where temperatures fluctuate significantly from day to night. This oscillation helps the grapes develop broad complexity, as well as good levels of acidity to balance the ripe fruit flavors that occur naturally in this hot climate. Alto Maipo is one such region, another is Alto Cachapoal. Alto means high.
An outstanding producer in Alto Cachapoal yet to be fully discovered by wine enthusiasts is Altaïr Vineyards and Winery, which is a joint venture between the Chilean producer San Pedro and France's Château Dassault. Altaïr makes just two wines: Altaïr and Sideral.
The super-premium wine called Altaïr, with its blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, and Merlot, is a shimmering and intense wine of cassis, black currant, cedar, espresso beans, fleshy plum, and tobacco. The slightly less expensive Sideral wine from the same producer is a wild-eyed yet suave animal of fruit, smoke, and spice made with a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Sangiovese. Both are amazing wines that have only been around since 2002.
The Marnier Lapostolle family of France partnered with the Rabat family of Chile to form Casa Lapostolle, a winery in Chile that makes very good wines. It produces Clos Apalta, one the best wines coming from that long narrow strip of a country today. Clos Apalta is a rugged earthy wine with ferocious fruit and thrusting depth. First produced in 1997, Clos Apalta is made in limited quantities and blends Merlot, Carmenère, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Casa Lapostolle launched a superpremium wine in May 2006 called BOROBO. This first release is a blend of Bordeaux, Rhône, and Burgundy grape varieties from the 2002 vintage, and takes its name from these famous French regions (‘BO' from Bordeaux, ‘RO' from Rhône, and ‘BO' from Bourgogne). BOROBO 2002 is 35 percent Syrah, 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Carmenère, 15 percent Pinot Noir, and 10 percent Merlot, reflecting the grapes of the famous French regions.
Other top wines from Chile include Don Max and Viñedo Chadwick—both by Errazuriz Wines. These are to Chile, what Premier Crus are to Bordeaux, France—at a snip of the price.
The Maipo region of Chile produces some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the country. It's the word to watch for on labels when reaching for this variety.
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