Chile, Good Quality Bargain Wines

Jul 1, 2005
2005 / June-July 2005

Everybody loves a bargain, but sometimes what seems like a buy turns out to be a bust. And when that disappointment is a bottle of wine, it may sooner be poured down the drain than poured at the dining table.

While every wine country makes its share of modestly priced wines, few produce proportionately as many winners as Chile does. The country entered the international wine market some 25 years ago with a splash of friendly, agreeable wines selling for about $10. Today it also offers complex, upscale wines starting at $40. But Chile has not abandoned its lower-priced wines.

A modest price, however, does not guarantee good value. Rather, value is price in relation to quality – and that is where Chile shines. It offers goodquality wines made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot, carmenère (an old red Bordeaux grape now grown almost exclusively in Chile), sauvignon blanc and chardonnay that defy their price tag.

The winery Montes, for example, sends us its well-balanced Reserve Cabernet/Carmenère 2003 blend with baskets of up-front fruit for $14. Veramonte offers its fresh, crisp, vibrant Sauvignon Blanc 2003 for $10. From Concha y Toro, which produces wine under a number of labels, we have the sprightly, silky Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc ($12) and the smooth, berry-rich Casillero del Diablo Carmenère ($12). From Casa Lapostolle, there is Classic Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc ($12). And from Errázuriz comes its Estate Chardonnay ($11) and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($11).

Now suppose you are having a dinner party and are willing to pay more — but not much more — for an impressive wine. Chile can easily take you there. Marqués de Casa Concha Merlot ($18) is well-integrated, with black cherry in the aroma, while the same brand’s Cabernet Sauvignon ($18) is deep, full-bodied, intense. And Veramonte Primus 2002, a captivating blend of carmenère, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, is an elegant, graceful wine for $17.

A word of advice: no matter how tempting the price, always try a bottle before buying a full case. With these super Chilean bargains, however, you are very likely to go right back for a dozen.

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