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Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Wines of South America

Trapiche 1992 Mendoza (Argentina) "Oak Cask" Malbec ($8.49)
Clear garnet color, clear at the edge. Pleasant aromas of blackberries, vanilla and spice. Bright cherry-berry fruit flavor with lemony acidity, full and fresh, tannins present but soft and muted. Tapers off a bit in the finish, but still, it's a good, balanced table wine with a lot of flavor interest; went very well with a pepper-crusted, pan-grilled rare T-bone. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (May 27, 1997)

Concha y Toro 1995 Rapel Valley (Chile) Merlot ($4.99)
Given the price, I didn't bring high expectations to this wine. That made it all the happier a surprise: Although no challenge to the top Bordeaux or CalCabs, it's probably the best value $5 wine I've encountered since the legendary Fossi Rosso. Dark reddish-purple color, almost a day-glo hue. Jammy, spicy black-fruit aroma. Ripe, fresh fruit flavor, juicy and ripe, with plenty of acidity to hold it together and a surprising edge of soft tannins that shows up in a long, clean finish. Surprising character for a very-low-end varietal. Importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (May 16, 1997)

Trapiche 1995 Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec ($5.99)
Dark reddish-purple. Spicy oak dominates black-fruit aromas. Simple, juicy fruit flavor, a whiff of tar and smoke, quaffable but a bit soft on the acid side. Pleasant spaghetti wine, worth about what I paid for it. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd., NYC. (May 7, 1997)

Carmen 1995 Maipo Valley (Chile) Grande Vidure Cabernet Reserve ($10.99)
At a time when it's becoming almost impossible to find quality $10 Cabernet from California, here's an outstanding entry from Chile. As recently discussed in the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, "Grande Vidure" is a Chilean name for a rare varietal, Carmenère, which was used in the Bordeaux blend back in the early 18th century but has since been lost in France. It was preserved in Chile, where Carmen is now using it in a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon in its reserve bottling.
It's a very dark garnet wine, almost opaque, with delicious, Bordeaux-like cassis and tarragon aromas with dark-chocolate notes. Full, ripe black-fruit flavors over a firm acidic structure; tannins definitely present, but held in restraint by the luscious fruit and excellent balance. Rich chocolate and dark fruit linger in a long finish. Outstanding wine, excellent value. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (May 4, 1997)

Carmen 1995 Rapel Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc ($6.49)
Clear straw color. Perfumed fruit, musky and melonlike aromas. Crisp and tart on the palate, light and undifferentiated fruit; high alcohol for a white (13.5%) adds full body and a rather rough edge. A slight peach-pit bitterness emerges in the finish. Pleasant enough, but startlingly out of character for a Sauvignon Blanc. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverage Co., Louisville. (March 26, 1997)

Trapiche 1995 Mendoza (Argentina) Pinot Noir ($5.99)
Dark ruby color. Red fruit and floral aroma notes, odd but pleasant. Tart, almost sour on the palate, light-bodied and acidic; red fruit carries through in a medium finish. I don't know that I'd guess it's a Pinot in a blind tasting -- it's more in a Beaujolais style -- but it's interesting, reasonably well balanced, and made a good food match with stir-fried yellowfin tuna and scallops in a garlic-ginger sauce. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (March 14, 1997)

Los Vascos 1994 Colchagua (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Los Vascos seemed to drop markedly in quality after the Rothschilds took over in the late '80s, but the good news is that the last couple of vintages -- '93 and now this '94 -- have been increasingly persuasive. Cassis (blackcurrant) aroma with spicy notes of oak. Full, juicy fruit flavor with tart acidity and soft but palpable tannins. Good balance, and though it's not really a cellar keeper, a few years in the bottle certainly won't do it any harm. Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Greenwich, Conn. (Feb. 24, 1997)

Casa Lapostolle 1995 Rapel Valley (Chile) Merlot ($8.99)
Very dark garnet color. Simple plummy fruit and a distinct "weedy dill" aroma; flavors follow the nose in a rather odd combination of soft and juicy on the attack (first taste on the tongue) that shifts over to become tight and surprisingly tannic on the finish. The first taste suggests a "drink-me-now" wine, but it leaves you with the impression of a wine that needs time. Odd, not unpleasant, definitely a cut above "fighting varietal" quality, in some ways reminiscent of a young St.-Emilion. Importer: Schieffelin & Somerset Co., NYC. (Feb. 23, 1997)

Concha y Toro 1994 "Casillero del Diablo" Maipo Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99)
Very dark garnet color. Minty aromas dominate the scent over pleasant earthy undertones. Full, jammy fruit flavor well balanced by tart acidity; minty flavors are consistent with the nose. A bit out of the mainstream for a Cabernet, but there's good balance here and plenty of flavor interest, making it a good value. Nice legend behind the label, having to do with the winery's 19th century owner naming his best cellar "The Devil's Wine Cellar" ("Casillero del Diablo") to keep the superstitious laborers from sneaking in and sampling his finest wines. Importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (Feb. 19, 1997)

Carmen 1995 Central Valley (Chile) Merlot ($6.49)
Dark ruby color. Cherry-berry and spicy oak aromas; rather woody on the palate and surprisingly tannic over plummy fruit and dark-chocolate flavors. Interesting, good components, but they don't seem to fit together well. Perhaps a little time will help. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverages Worldwide, Louisville. (Feb. 11, 1997)

Bodega y Cavas de Weinert 1990 Mendoza (Argentina) Carrascal ($9.99)
The other night, I reported on the 1985 vintage of this Argentine Malbec/Cabernet/Merlot blend, a wine that I had cellared for several years. Tonight we opened the current release: Inky-dark garnet color. An aromatic anise-licorice scent lofts above warm, plummy fruit and spicy oak, carrying over intact into a juicy, tart black-cherry fruit flavor held up by lemony acidity and firm, oaky tannins. There's sufficient fruit here for current enjoyment, but the big tannins and chewy structure suggest that time is strongly on its side. Importer: Vinos USA Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Oct. 30, 1996)

Concha y Toro 1995 "Trio" Casablanca Valley (Chile) Chardonnay ($7.99)
Clear pale gold. Fresh apples and tropical fruit aromas, figs and dates and an aromatic edge of vanilla. Soft, fresh bowl-of-fruit flavor, cooking apples and fresh table grapes. Near-dry, with just a hint of "threshold" sweetness. According to the store shelf "hanger," Robert M. Parker Jr. raved about this wine and said it didn't seem oaky. I think he erred. But it is an exceptionally tasty single-digit Chardonnay. Importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (Oct. 28, 1996)

'Personal Aging Project: Argentine Red'
This Argentine red blend seemed like an outstanding value when it was being blown out for $9 in NYC about four years ago. It showed aging potential, so I tucked away a few in a safe place and forgot about them. I noticed my stash today, and it seemed like a good bet with baked ziti on a blustery here-comes-fall evening. Bottom line: It's holding up well, and not even close to going over the hill.
Bodega y Cavas de Weinert 1985 Mendoza (Argentina) Carrascal ($8.99)
Very dark garnet, no sign of browning at the edge. Delightful cherry-berry fruit and spicy oak aromas. Warm, juicy red-fruit flavor, tart and still rather tannic. Holding up well, no need to hurry to drink it up. Importer: Vinos USA Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. (Oct. 23, 1996).

Casa Lapostolle 1994 Colchagua (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon ($7.99)
Inky dark garnet. Leather and mineral scents over deep cherry-berry fruit; flavors consistent with the nose, full and ripe over a sturdy acidic structure. Falls off a bit in the finish, but it's still quite a bargain, balanced and complex in an "old-world" style. Importer: Marnier-Lapostolle Co. (Scheffelin & Somerset), New York City. (Aug. 27, 1996)

Trapiche 1991 Lujan de Cuyo County Mendoza (Argentina) "Oak Cask" Malbec ($7.99)
Inky garnet color. Oaky vanillins overshadow, but don't completely conceal, ripe black fruit. Spicy black-cherry flavor, warm and smooth; ample acidic structure and a bit of tannic astringency that shows up in a medium-long finish. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons Ltd., NYC. (July 12, 1996)

Carmen 1992 Maipo Valley (Chile) Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.29)
Dark garnet color. Spicy oak veils plummy fruit aromas at first, although it opens up with time in the glass. Clean, fresh black-fruit flavors, dry and crisp; flavorful but rather simple table wine. Importer: Brown-Forman Beverage Co., Louisville. (June 8, 1996)

Los Vascos 1992 Colchagua (Chile) Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99)
When Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) took over this winery in the late '80s, wine lovers everywhere shivered in anticipation, hoping that they'd turn a very good Chilean winery into a world-class operation. Sadly, it hasn't happened; in my honest judgement, they chose to make it a profit center instead. The everyday wines since '90 have been of fighting-varietal quality, and even the premium "reserve" line is hard to justify against its heavy competition at the price point. This reserve bottling is typical: Clear garnet in color, it shows spicy oak on the aroma predominating over simple black fruit. There's good, juicy black-cherry fruit on the palate, but it's rather soft, with a light structure of fresh-fruit acidity and barely perceptible tannins. It's a pleasant table wine, but the faux-Lafite label makes me wish for more. Importer: Pasternak Wine Imp., Greenwich, Conn. (June 6, 1996)

Concha y Toro 1991 Marqués de Casa Concha Maipo (Chile) Puente Alto Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99)
Clear dark ruby. Delicious aroma, dark chocolate, cedar and a floral hint of roses, rich and complex. Full, extracted fruit, well balanced, with accessible tannins. Excellent wine for current drinking, but considerable potential for cellaring as well. Importer: Excelsior Wine & Spirits, Farmingdale, N.Y. (June 3, 1996)

Santa Rita 1994 Maipo Valley (Chile) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ($8.79)
Clear, dark-garnet. Spicy oak and blackcurrant and a leathery component that my wife says reminds her of "new shoes." Ripe and juicy black fruit flavor, soft but with sufficient acidity for balance, and approachable but significant tannins that become more evident in the finish. Importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Chester, Vt. (June 1, 1996)

Etchart 1994 Cafayate (Argentina) Torrontés, ($5.99)
Very pale straw color. Delicious aroma of fresh peaches, reminiscent of Muscat. Crisp and bone-dry flavor, tart peach-nectar nicely balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. Excellent Value! For info, Torrontés is a white wine-grape varietal that originated in Spain and is now grown commercially only in Argentina; Cafayate is a vine-growing region in the mountains of northwestern Argentina. (May 15, 1996)

Etchart 1993 Mendoza (Argentina) Malbec ($5.99)
Dark garnet color. Warm, plummy fruit aroma with a clove-and-allspice whiff of oak. Soft, juicy fruit, a little short on the acid side; but it's fine for quaffing or, as we did, washing down sizzling chicken breasts from the grill. Importer: Austin, Nichols & Co. Inc., NYC. (May 12, 1996)

Navarro Correas 1990 "Collecion Privada" Mendoza (Argentina) Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.49)
Very dark garnet color. Cassis, spicy oak and a definite note of licorice, sweet and aromatic as black licorice whips. Good black-fruit flavors, ripe and tart; oak is present but held in balance. There's no chance of mistaking this for California or Bordeaux -- in fact, it seems more like a Chianti than a claret -- but it's big and brawny and cellarworthy table red with a lot going on in it. Good value! Importer: Byron Tosi SA Div., Palm Bay Imports Inc., Boca Raton, Fla. (March 20, 1996)

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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