Chile also makes red wine blends...
As we wander into BC’s brave New World of wine pricing: Please note that prices shown may exclude taxes. Taxes and container deposit, if applicable, and depending on where you choose to shop, may be applied at checkout. This time out, both prices will be referred to…
Meanwhile and maybe because so many great ‘classic’ varietal wines – made more or less from just one kind of wine grape - come from Chile, lovers of South American wine often overlook the newer red blends.
Wines like Palo Alto Reserve (24059) $12.09 plus 15% $13.90 plus deposit is $14.00 from Chile. This is an affordable blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah and 30% Carménère. Apart from being Chile’s signature grape, Carménère is also Chile’s best-kept secret… when it gets backfilled in to a blend to top up the ‘weight’ and ‘spicy’ element.
There’s nothing new about blended wines made from a variety of different types of wine grapes So the pendulum of wine fashion has most definitely started to swing back to blends rather than single varietal wines. At least for this week…
We are all familiar with Vina San Pedro’s Gato Blanco Sauvignon Blanc and Gato Negro Cabernet Sauivignon – a pair of dependable, and affordable ($7.89/ $9.07) light varietal wines. They have always been easy drinking, simple to sip and enjoy!
From the same Vina San Pedro Epica Red (828590) $12.19/$14.10 combines different grapes from three different valleys. For the Cabernet Sauvignon, they chose the Maipo, Colchagua and Maule Valleys, while the Carménère and Syrah grapes were sourced exclusively in the Maule Valley. There’s enough ripe, sweet fruit here that the winemaker suggests pairing it with chocolate!
What we tend to overlook is that most fruity single-variety New World reds are quite simple and one-dimensional – unless the winemakers surreptitiously add up to 15% of other grape varieties … not at all an uncommon practice! Many of these wines come from vineyards that were deliberately planted, in very recent times, with a select few types of grapes – sometimes only one type and all from the same genetic strain!
With a speeding motorcycle on its label Junta Reserve Syrah Carmenere (670125) $12.39/$14.35 comes from Chile’s Curicó Valley. A taste bud twisting blend of 65% Syrah and 35% Carménère, it is a remarkably austere red with an underlying layer of peppery tannins, reminscent of France with a very Languedoc-ish bite of sage and liquorice dancing around the deep, dry damson plum and blackberry core. Undervalued and underappreciated, this gutsy red is a serious bargain!
Unlike so many New World reds, French red wines are more likely to be blends. Often the different types of vines are planted side by side in the same vineyard – a “field blend”. More commonly, today, the types of vines are planted apart from each other but the separate wines are blended together to replicate the traditional recipe.
Likely not so far off that ‘traditional’ – Pre-Phylloxera! - French field blend Santa Rita ‘SR’ Secret Reserve (348870) $13.09/$15.15 marries 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Carménère. Back in those unregulated days the Syrah (… and maybe even a splash of Grenache) would be ‘smuggled in’ from the Rhône Valley and slipped into the blend when no one important was looking. Lots of floral aromatics, here, a medley of blue and black berry fruit flavours… and a little ‘meaty’ touch of dark chocolate.
Like any fruits, each kind of wine grape has its own set of flavours. Not surprisingly, these traditional Old World blends (whether they are grown that way or assembled) usually have more complexity than most New World reds that are made from only one wine grape varietal.
Santa Carolina ‘B’ Blend 2013 (651232) $13.99/$16.20 is another multi-vineyard sourced blend with grapes from the Cachapoal Valley, the Rapel Valley, and - more generically - the Central Valley. This is the first Chilean blend to prominently feature Grenache and Merlot with Carménère. There’s lots of ‘weight’ as well as dense and complex fruit with a surprisingly ‘dry’ and somehow at the same time ‘jammy’ profile more commonly found in reds from Australia.
Keep your eyes peeled for this growing bounty of Chilean red blends… and don’t be at all afraid to follow their lure up and over the $20 mark!
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