© by Sheral Schowe
At a recent blind tasting of two Sauvignon Blancs, the challenge was given to detect New Zealand's Cloudy Bay from one from Chile. The overly confident wine geeks (almost one hundred of them) sniffed and swirled, sniffed again, then tasted. Knowing nods of alleged recognition appeared on their faces as they busily recorded their tasting notes. When a hand raise was called, to select number one or number two as the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, about one half of the group selected number one, the other half, number two.
It was surprising to think that a group with so much collective experience in the world of wine could be so fooled. In fact, making the selection, due to the distinctive similarities, was a difficult task. The group had approached the experience without high expectations as to the quality of Chilean wines. The Chilean wine was revealed. It was a Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc. One point the group agreed upon unanimously, as we proceeded to taste through several other wines, was the incredible quality and complexity to be found in recent vintages of Chilean wines.
Out of seven red Chilean wines tasted during this revelation, one was particularly memorable. Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 ($29.95) is 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It has subtle aromas of eucalyptus and cedar. The palate is big, bold, full-bodied, with rich concentration of cassis and dried fruits with a little minty quality. The finish is long and spicy. The wine is named after the founder of the Concha y Toro winery, which is located in the Maipo Valley in Central Chile.
The grapes are grown in the Puente Alto Vineyard for the perfect combination of a predictable climate and gravelly soils, which reduces yields and increases the concentration of flavors naturally. This wine is aged in French oak barriques for one year and one more year in the bottle before it is released. The Wine Spectator and Robert Parker have noted Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon as being the best red wine from Chile.
Chile's wine producing area is in the middle of the country, between the latitudes of 32 and 38 degrees. Maipo is the most famous wine region in Chile. It is south of Santiago, Chile's capital. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most predominantly planted red grape variety in that particular area. Concha y Toro's Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the finest available from the Maipo region, is a power-packed wine for the price. It is just one example of the incredible Chilean wine values available in the U.S. Now is the time to buy Chilean wines, before the price matches the quality of their counterparts from around the world.
Aug. 22, 2000