The season of steely whites, crisp rosés and ice-cold beers is upon us, but it’s also the time of year when many of us do some restocking of the cellar or wine fridge with full-bodied reds for the upcoming fall and winter. If this sounds like something you should be doing, give Chile some deserved attention.
I reviewed 128 wines from Chile this month; 32 (exactly 25% of the field) earned 90 points or more. The majority of top scorers hail from the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages, with prices ranging from as little as $15 for Polkura’s 90-point, 2013 Lote D Syrah up to $100 for the 94-point, 2013 rendition of Almaviva, perennially one of Chile’s benchmark Bordeaux-style blends. In between, you’ll find a plethora of excellent wines, many priced below $40 per bottle.
Among the blends and varietal wines that comprise this report, a number of Syrahs, Carignans and Carmenères stand out and, in many cases, are outperforming Chile’s longstanding go-to variety, Cabernet Sauvignon. This should not dissuade you from enjoying Chilean Cabernet, but touted in multiple recent articles, Chilean winemakers have made exponential progress with these wines, especially Carignan, which grows mostly on old, unirrigated bush vines in the Maule Valley.
Variety and diversity are growing themes in the Chilean wine industry, with the results speaking for themselves.
The bottom line: variety and diversity are growing themes in the Chilean wine industry, with the results speaking for themselves. While it’s not necessary to replace your taste for Cabernet Sauvignon, a new and improved crop of blends and varietal wines warrants your attention like never before.
Although Chile leads this issue’s Buying Guide, it also includes hundreds of wines from arond the globe, including Australia, California, France, Germany, Italy, Oregon, Portugal, Spain and Washington. And, as always, be sure to check out our complete database, with thousands more reviews.
Morandé 2013 Vigno Old Vines Dry-Farmed Carignan (Maule Valley); $30, 92 points. This blend of 78% Carignan, 18% Syrah and 4% Chardonnay deals a complete aromatic package of marzipan, fine oak and smooth berry fruits. A compact wall-to-wall palate is boldly acidic but balanced by pulpy berry fruit. Flavors of black plum, blackberry and burnt toast finish under control, with elegance and length. Drink through 2023. Grupo Belen USA. Editors’ Choice.
Gillmore 2012 Vigno Carignan (Maule Valley); $45, 91 points. Gillmore is one of the Maule Valley’s top producers of Carignan. This warm-vintage offering smells of cedar, balsamic notes, spice and dark fruits. In the mouth, it’s a touch choppy, while salty plum, fresh tomato, herb and spice flavors end long, spicy and oaky. Drink through 2021. Global Vineyard Importers.
Odfjell 2015 Orzada Made With Organic Grapes Carignan (Maule Valley); $21, 90 points. This purple Carignan smells jammy, with an infusion of raw oak. In the mouth, high acidity creates ample energy to balance the full body and structured tannins. Flavors of ripe blackberry and plum linger on the robust finish. Drink through 2022. Foley Family Wines.
Valdivieso 2010 Éclat Vigno Old Vine Dry-Farmed Carignan (Maule Valley); $35, 90 points. Earthy, lightly herbal and stewed aromas of spiced plum, prune and raisin lead to a grabby, tannic, somewhat abrasive palate. Given that this is now seven years past harvest, it’s interesting how ripped, gritty and lively it feels. Herbal chunky flavors of spiced berry fruits and residual oak close with energy. Drink through 2022. Wine Bridge Imports.
De Martino 2015 Viejas Tinajas Cinsault (Itata Valley); $43, 91 points. Dark aromas of violet, black cherry, plum and wet clay lead to a flush, well-balanced palate. This amphorae-fermented-and-aged Cinsault from Itata tastes decidedly natural, with an abundance of pure plum, currant and cherry fruit. The finish is bright and lively as well. Drink through 2019. Broadbent Selections, Inc.
Undurraga 2015 T.H. Terroir Hunter Rarities País-Cinsault La Soledad (Cauquenes Valley); $30, 90 points. On first take, this small-batch blend of País and Cinsault is overtly oaky, with earthy berry and plum notes lurking in the background. A drawing tannic palate lets you know that País is in the house, while this tastes of oaky berry and plum. On the finish, this is more resiny and woody than toasty. Only 235 cases made. Drink through 2021. Maritime Wine Trading Collective.
Polkura 2013 Block G + I Syrah (Marchigue); $40, 93 points. Ripe berry and cassis aromas are supported by sweet oak scents and related notes of graphite, vanilla and maple. This high-end Syrah is flush, full bodied and widespread. Flavors of oak, vanilla and mocha are up to the wine’s rich blackberry and cassis fruit, while a plump wide finish with smooth tannins includes doses of mocha and coffee. Drink through 2023. Classic Wines, Inc. Editors’ Choice.
Viña Tabalí 2013 Vetas Blancas Reserva Especial Syrah (Limarí Valley); $20, 92 points. Boysenberry, cassis, woodsy spice and leathery aromas hit the right chords. This feels tight and juicy due to bright core acidity. A combination of spicy plum and red-berry aromas are intense and turn feral upon airing, while this limestone soil-based Syrah tastes of coffee, pepper, plum and various spices on a powerful finish. Drink through 2021. Biagio Cru & Estate Wines, LLC.
Alcance 2014 Gran Reserva Carmenère (Maule Valley);$22, 92 points. A magenta color and ripe grapy aromas of black fruits accented by spice and olive open this plump wide-bodied Carmenère. Spicy black cherry and blackberry flavors are stout and rock solid on a unwavering finish. Drink through 2020. Majestic Imports. Editors’ Choice.
Lapostolle 2014 Cuvée Alexandre Viñedo Apalta Carmenère (Colchagua Valley); $24, 91 points. Dark in appearance, with reduced, grapy, inky aromas, this compact Carmenère nearly collapses under its own weight. Heavily toasted blackberry flavors finish stout, with blackened spice notes. If there’s a knock on this blockbuster, it’s that it lacks layering and elegance. Terlato Wines International.