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5 Reasons Why Chilean Wine Kicks Ass (Wine Blogging Wednesday #52: Chillin' with the Chilean)

Hard to believe that an entire month has passed since we hosted Wine Blogging #51 ("Baked Goods") here on 1WineDude.com.

But passed it has, and another WBW is now upon us - this time hosted at CheapWineRatings.com, with the theme "Value Reds from Chile!"

I am stoked for this WBW. Because Chilean wines, for the most part, kick all kinds of ass.

I recently featured a Chilean stalwart, Concha y Toro's 2007 "Casillero del Diablo" Chardonnay Reserve, as part of an article I posted at the 89 Project. Because it kicked ass (I mean that the wine kicked ass, not the article... actually you could also take that sentence to mean that the 89 Project kicks ass, which it does... ah, forget it....).

Which begs the question, of course, Why does Chilean wine kick so much gluteus maximus?

Here are 5 reasons
:...

  1. Ass-Kickin' Geography
    You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place to grow fine wine grapes than Chile. Sure, they grow plenty of the lowly Mission grape destined for cheap
    Pisco. But Chile is also starting to realize its huge potential to grow classic Bordeaux varietals. Chile's wine regions are varied in climate and soil types, giving it a diversity in quality wine that few other countries posses. That nasty pest Phylloxera is nowhere to be found, because it faces natural borders to the north (desert), south (ice), west (the Pacific), and east (the Andes).

    Cool air from the mountains, as well as the influence of the Pacific's Humboldt current moderate the growing temperatures, while plentiful water from the Andes provides irrigation. Grapes love this place.

  2. More investment smarties than Warren Buffett
    Since opening its agricultural doors to the outside world in the 1980s, Chile has seen an influx of winemaking smarties and significant fiscal investment from wine companies far and wide. This means that Chile is getting a state-of-the art crash-course in modern winemaking and viticultural techniques, which benefits the wine.

  3. Set the Wayback Machine for the late 19th Century...
    When the nasty pest Phylloxera was devastating the fine wine vineyards of, well, the entire world, many a European brought winemaking know-how - and, importantly, vine clippings - to Chile.

    Since Chile never had Phylloxera mucking about, it never had to resort to using grafting (onto American rootstocks) for its imported vinifera vines to survive and thrive. This means that Chilean wine is a bit like a trip back in time to the mid 19th century, because (theoretically) they taste like, well, wine from ungrafted vines. Presumably, not unlike what wine would have tasted like in the pre-Phylloxera days.

  4. Ass-kickin' quality
    Chile has lots of interesting wines across the entire price spectrum (a high-end Chilean wine recently garnered Wine Spectator's 2008 wine of the year accolade), but it's nearly perfected the cheap, mass-market wine offering (more on that in a bit).

  5. Ass-kickin' prices
    You can get a decent everyday quaffer from Chile for under $10 USD. I will assume further comment on this point is entirely unnecessary. But I will add that the concept seems to be popular in the U.S. - according to WinesOfChile.org, Americans consumed nearly 1.9 million cases of Chilean wine in 2007, and that was just in NY, FL, and NJ alone!
My example of Chilean value red is Concha y Toro's Xplorador Merlot. You can regularly find this wine for well under $10. It's from the Central Valley (good area in Chile, not so great in CA), and I really dig the fact that it's got 10% Carménère (which seems to reach unique excellence in Chile), and is under 14% abv.

The wine is all plum and thyme spice. Is it complex? No. Is it good? Hell yes, for $8 it's damn good. Amazingly, Concha y Toro seems to be able to make consistently good and cheap wine year on year, which is something that SouthEastern Australia's equivalent mass-market wine, Yellowtail, has yet to master.

Tasty, fairly well-balanced, and ultra-inexpensive. Hard to argue with that.

BUT... Chile has a LOT more to offer than just value reds - more to come on that in an upcoming post.

Cheers!
(flickr.com/bridgepix, winesofchile.org, snooth.com)

15 comments:

Rob Bralow said...

Wow, great post! Explorador is actually a wine I haven't tried yet (and I have tasted a LOT of Chilean wine).

Tim said...

Thanks for the contribution. As would expect from you, this is a very thoughtful and well crafted post. Great stuff. Cheers!

binendswine said...

Dude,

Agree 100%, Chile pretty much has it all available to them. Terroir is perfect, The people are amazing (I'm a little biased) and the exchange rate leads to amazing value. They lost to Argentina in the sexy factor over the past few years as the big brands bogged them down, but they're catching up quick.

Great post!

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Thanks, guys!

The Wine Barbarian said...

Indeed. I will admit that I was personally responsible for 724,327 of those 1.9 million. Chilean wines are honestly the best bargains to be found on this planet.

I actually went overboard and reviewed SIX* wines for WBW#52 because I love Chilean wines so much. *(OK, so it was really only 5.1)

--Vinagoth

John and Lisa Howard-Fusco said...

Good read as usual - and you've been tagged! Check out our site. - John

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Barbarian - you have outdone yourself my man!

J&L - Thanks! Tagged... is it contagious?

Dale Cruse said...

So... you liked it? ;-)

Jason Whiteside said...

Once again, I have to be the voice of dissent. I think most chilean reds suffer from a form of methoxypyrizine fault (in other parts of the world described as bell pepper). Similar to the struggles the South Africans have with their 'smoky' reds (most recently attributed to a pyrizine fault from too much UV light), the Chilean reds usually have a pine-tar aroma that many people dislike. You & I tried the highly praised Domus Aurea together and neither of us liked it, because of that piney, tarry stink!

Chilean reds are also falling swiftly to the poisonous influence from the Parker/Rolland/MicrOx camp. Read old tasting notes on Cousino Macul's Antigus; it used to be 12.5% alcohol, and described as very 'Bordeaux-like." Now it is just another overly alcoholic, highly extracted cab, with some unpleasant form of Pyrizine!

Wines were made and consumed throughout history because they were beverages that provided refreshment. Chilean reds are drifting far away from that these days, and until they fix that fault, I'll stick to my Valtellinas from Lombardy.

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Hey Jason - you're right about many Chilean reds suffering from methoxypyrazine, but if I recall correctly I actually dug the Domus Aurea. Sort of.

I would offer this: as Chilean vineyard practices continue to evolve we might (should?) see (smell?) less methoxypyrazine in their wines (since it's the time between berry set and veraison when most methoxypyrazine can be imparted or minimized).

This won't of course save Chilean reds from the Parker/Rolland/MicrOx effect (or, alas, rising prices)!

The Wine Brat said...

Dude say drink, Bratty drinks!
Sounds like a great value wine and I look forward to exploring more of Chile.

mmmmm Chile.

Jason Whiteside said...

I chose not to give you shit about your selective endorsement of the worthless Wine Spectator Coronation of their "Wine of the Year," but seriously dude, either bash those dumb-dumbs or endorse them. Don't be like my heartbreak college girl and go both ways....

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Thanks, Jason. But, technically haven't you actually given me sh*t by telling me that you chose not to give me sh*t? :-)

D J R-S said...

Well, your contribution sure kicks it at the base of the spine! Really, really good overview. I'll add my two cents worth on the bell pepper thing: I like it, in moderation. Glad you enjoyed my own off-center posting. Salud!

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Hey djrs - thanks, bro!