Celebrating Chilean Wine

First Annual Salud! Chilean Wine Fest launched in New York.

From September 18-30 New Yorkers had a special opportunity to raise a glass and cry, "Salud!" to celebrate the wealth and bounty of Chilean agriculture. Thanks to its fertile Central Valley and 2,500-mile length, encompassing various climates, Chile is able to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and there is much to celebrate. Products such as olive oil, garlic paste, avocados and caricas (a yellow fruit best served with vanilla ice cream) are bountiful in the U.S., and Chilean wine has been making continued progress in terms of quality over the last decade.

Promoted by Wines of Chile, the event featured special tastings at stores in New York such as Astor Wines & Spirits, Union Square Wine & Spirits and Zachys in Westchester. There were also special deals and food pairings at restaurants serving various cuisines, from Dylan Prime and Marseille to Thalassa and Dos Caminos. But whether you were able to make any of the tastings, the fact remains that Chilean wines offer great value for the dollar, especially when it comes to Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet-based reds.

At Paris Commune in New York's West Village I was able to sample delicious reds such as the Casa Silva 2004 Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenère, Cousiño Macul's 2004 Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon and Veramonte's 2003 Primus. All wines were worthy of praise and all retail for under $20. But that doesn't mean you can't splurge on an expensive bottle when you want.

"The general consensus was that a $20-plus wine could only come from France and Italy.... Now, with…complete commitment to the highest possible quality…wine profiles in newer wine regions of the word have become very, very good." So says Victor Mojica Jr., President of Bacchus International, the importer of Altaïr. Altaïr's second label, Sideral, priced at about $25 retail, was one of the stars at the tasting with its 2002 vintage (the 2003 vintage received 91 points from WE in the November 1, 2005 issue). "The growth I've experienced of wines in this pricing range has been phenomenal," he says. [Consumers] recognize the importance of the regions these wines are produced in and thanks to the combination of excellent terroir, new money and expertise, and a newly educated consumer, we will continue to see pricing in this category rise."

What's your opinion of Chilean wine? Email us!

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