Chilean Wine’s Grand Leap into the 20th Century
Chile is a country isolated by the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Andes Mountains on the east. Warm, dry, bright sunny days, and ample rivers create the ideal environment for growing grapes. In this isolated region, there are few diseases and pests that can harm the vines. With these conditions, and the low cost of labor, Chile is one of the world’s leading producers of high quality, affordable wines.
The first European vines planted in Chile were Spanish varieties, brought by the conquistadors and missionaries. However, in the mid-nineteenth century, it was France that Chilean landowners decided to emulate. They modeled their estates after Bordeaux chateau, and planted French grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon.
For much of the twentieth century, Chilean wine was unexceptional and ordinary. In the late 1980’s some of Europe’s leading families began founding Chilean wineries, causing a remarkable transformation. The influx of money and expertise raised the bar for the existing wineries. With modern, state of the art equipment, a general quantum leap in quality occurred. The success of this wine revolution hinged on the marketing of these wines for export to the U.S. and other countries. This proved to be a good bet as the U.S. now imports the lion’s share of wines from Chile. Not only are they importing the inexpensive wines, but also wines that are selling for $70 or more.
Chile does not have a strict system of laws to regulate grape growing and winemaking. It did create a law in 1995 that states: If a wine is labeled with a viticultural region, at least 75% of the wine must come from that region. If a grape variety is named on the label, the wine must be composed of 75% of the grape named. If a wine label specifies a vintage, it must contain 75% grapes from that vintage.
The vineyards are located in numerous valleys, separated by rivers that begin in the high Andes.
Chile’s most common white grape varieties are: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert.
Their most common red grapes are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, and Pais.
As I’m always looking for good wines that are also of great value, I have found some wines from Chile that are both delicious and affordable. If you are a wine club member, you got to try the Santa Ema Merlot last month, and this month you will get to try “The Lost Grape” Carmenere . So called because it has virtually disappeared from its’ original home, as a blending grape in France. It has now long been embraced by Chile as a wine to enjoy by itself.
This Months’ Wine Quote – “Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”
― Paulo Coelho, Brida
This months’ White Wine of the Month is Mont Gravet, 2014, Côtes de Gascogne. It’s made with 100% Colombard. It is crisp, light and refreshing, with citrus notes and great minerality
Our Red Wine of the Month is Terra Andina, 2011, Carmenere, from the Central Valley of Chile. It has rich, dark fruit, soft tannins, with cedar and vanilla.
Wine club members come in early to pick up your bottles before they’re gone!
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen