From north to south, Chile has diverse microclimates but in the Central Valley’s traditional wine regions, it is mainly temperate and Mediterranean.
Rains concentrate in winter and spring, with a long dry season that continues through autumn, making perfect growing conditions for wine grapes.
Combined with advantageous international exchange rates and lower land and labour cost, most vintages in Chile have an abundance of ripe fruit that allows winemakers to consistently create exceptionally affordable wines of remarkably good quality!
The grapes for Isla Chilote White (399634) $7.49 white wine were harvested from selected vineyards in Chile’s Central Valley. This valley is particularly characterized for having clearly defined seasons with cool, rainy winters and warm summers with high daytime temperatures moderated by cool nights. This white wine has a pale golden yellow appearance. Honeyed melon notes slide into subtle mango and pink grapefruit.
Isla Chilote Red (399657) $7.49 is crafted from grapes that are able to ripen fully thanks to the excellent exposure to the sun, dry summers and a lack of rain at the time of harvest. Sweet aromas of ripe red fruits, plums and the cassis flavours dominate with notes of mint and vanilla. This is an easy drinking red that wouldn’t mind an hour in the fridge before serving.
The cold maritime Humboldt Current flowing north up the Pacific coast and the fresh breezes that descend from the mountains create a large temperature differential between day and night that allows the wine grapes to grow at a leisurely pace and develop a full range of scent and flavour complexities.
The Antares label was created for entry-level wines from Santa Carolina. They are young, attractive wines with a fruity taste that was honed to suit the taste of younger wine lovers exploring classic varietals.
Santa Carolina Antares Sauvignon Blanc (833285) $8.85 Pale lemon yellow with greenish highlight, it offers aromas of mint, melon and pineapple with refreshing citrus notes of lime and grapefruit. The palate is soft and fruity with a medium body and well-balanced acidity.
The aromas of Santa Carolina Antares Carmenere (675124) $8.85 are generous, almost floral with lots of plum and peppery berry. Full of ripe cassis and dark chocolate, it finishes chewy and broad, with mocha and vanilla accents with just enough acidity to keep it bright and food friendly.
Viña Chocalán’s location in the coastal or Pacific area of the Maipo Valley has a particularly special potential for producing very high quality wines with a style of their own. Like Santa Carolina devised the Antares label, Viña Chocalán developed Inspira wines. Only gently pressed free-run juice is used for the Sauvignon Blanc and the Cabernet Sauvignon, to give extremely pure wines, which are clean and rounded, without any bite.
Inspira Sauvignon Blanc (677872) $12.20 is a typically bright and zesty, fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and clear with flavours of ripe melon, citrus and fresh herbs, it hits all the right notes without reaching that green and just-mowed-lawn character.
Inspira Cabernet Sauvigon (152074) $12.20 offers up cassis and blackberry notes with hints of vanilla and smoky characteristics. Soft, ripe fruit on the palate, seamlessly integrated with equally ripe tannins. This is a textbook example of an approachable Chilean red!
At the tax-excluded price point of around $20, the wines of Chile become fantastic values, compared with competitively priced wines from anywhere.
Moving up the scale of complexity with an intriguing elusive gamey note on that first sniff Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon (275594) $20 has aromas of ripe red and black fruit aromas mingle with leather and spice sliding into vanilla and toasty oak. Flavours of crushed plum, fig and blackcurrant fruit, fresh-cut tobacco, squeaky new leather and dark chocolate. An earthy, forest-floor element lingers on the finish, framing the complex spicy fruit.
The 2011 Montes Alpha Syrah (603548) $27.20 comes from the Apalta sub-region in Colchagua and is blended with seven per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and three per cent Viognier. The nose is fruity and presents aromas of ripe red and black berries, plum jam and leather, smoke, and ham, as well as chocolate and mocha from the French oak, and a light floral touch from the small amount of Viognier it contains. The palate follows through, adding creamy toffee flavours from malolactic fermentation. Simply fabulous!
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