Tag Archives: los vascos

Bringing back an old friend: The Wines of Chile have reached a new level

16_02_01 1500 Master Class Chile@Wine.com_3180_Blog

Way back in the dark ages of wine retailing (circa: 1970s), fine wine shops had Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. Chile was nowhere to be found and even California was an afterthought. As the years went by and California gained prominence with the Judgement of Paris, Chile got into the marketplace with its cheap Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlots. Often found in sale bins, these became the drinking wines of budget conscious wine imbibers. I drank so much of these bargain basement wines that I ended up throwing the whole class into the “good value” category. As an active retailer in San Francisco in those days, the wines of Chile gave me something “to stack high and let them fly.”

This is no longer the case. While Chile took a back seat to Australian Shiraz and Argentine Malbec, producers started to find the right fit with varieties and vineyards, including Chile’s flagship variety, Carmenere. This wise move is still working its way into the hearts and minds of international wine consumers. More exciting is the work being done with cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca and mineral-like Chardonnays from Limarí, not to mention major statements being made with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and blends. While the country is still known for value wines, production over the past decade proves it shall be known for quality as well.

Jake Pippin, USA Market Manager for Wines of Chile, recently presented an array of a dozen top Chilean wines that would measure up with top wines from anywhere in the world. So while I cut my teeth on cheap Chilean Merlot in the 1970s, I know have been introduced to some of the world’s very top wines and they are Chilean. It is time for Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and yes, the Napa Valley to share the spotlight; the Chileans are making a huge statement. Isn’t great to revisit an old friend and see how they have evolved into something greater? Here is a trio of super fine Chilean wines that will bring you up to speed on where Chilean wines are today.

The 2014 Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay, – rich and creamy, but with a zippy layer of minerality to keep it fresh
The 2012 Calcu Cabernet Franc  – yes, Cabernet Franc can shine here, with earthy, peppery spice and dried fruit character
The 2012 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – classic producer with a classic, quality Cabernet – it says Chile and Cabernet in a concise, easy-drinking way.

Los Vascos Le Dix – this is a wine that can age…

While we always love a wine that is ready-to-drink, it's particularly exciting to pull out a bottle of wine that has some age on it and realize, I was SO smart to leave this one in the cellar. Yet, by the same token, it can be depressing as you are quite put out when you realize that was your only bottle. Why oh why did I not buy more?

In this instance it was the Los Vascos 2001 Le Dix from Chile.

A bit about the winery: Vina Los Vascos is owned by the Lafite family, who of course, is more will known for Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux. Chile is actually boasts a number of wineries owned by French families who saw great potential in the country and invested in vineyard land.

Mike and I visited this property in 2006 and it is definitely a destination. It sticks out a bit as a grand estate in a small, rural town where horse-pulled carts are the typical mode of transportation. We had the chance to taste the line up of the Le Dix, among other wines. The 2001 vintage was the first made by current winemaker, Marcello Gallardo, a jolly man (see picture of him playing the guitar late night with us) with a load of energy and passion. Not only did we love him, but we also loved his wine – there was a marked difference in the tasting when we moved from previous vintages to the 2001 and the following vintages. Gallardo brought a different winemaking style that brought the wine to life. We remember loving the '01 as well as the '04.

I read the Wine Spectator review for this wine, which said "Drink through 2007." Wow, were they wrong. Opening the wine we were worried that it may be past it's prime, or have a bit of brett, or even just be lacking fruit and showing too much of that "meaty" "smoky" character typical of Chilean wines. And wow, were WE wrong. This wine not only tasted fantastic, but it probably had a few more years on it! The fruit was still going strong, backed by dried herbs and a touch of wood. Yes, there was that smoke/meat element I get from Chilean wines, but it was not prominent by any means. We smelled even a touch of eucalyptus. Pairing it with a grilled, NY steak, the fruit came forward immediately. I love it when food changes a wine.

Le Dix is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – at least, that was the '01 vintage. Since 2006, smaller percentages of Syrah, Carmenere and Malbec are adding to the blend. Unfortunately, the 2001 vintage is long sold out. The 2007 vintage is what is out right now. Sadly, much of the stock of this wine was destroyed in the earthquake last February. We hope to showcase the 2008 vintage when it releases, and if you do find the '07 out there, pick it up and hang onto it, as it's sure to do well in that cellar.

As Mike said, "God, I love this wine," followed by a hefty swirl, a deep inhale and a loud slurp. Well put, dear.