Last weekend I sat down with writer Dick Snyder for a dalliance into some of the Chilean wines available through the LCBO this month, many of them on LTOs (read: limited time offers) making them even more of a bargain.
Chile has always been a great country to find values in both white and red, but this release sees some particularly great wines for the money.
Our thanks go to Wines Of Chile for providing us with the wines.
2022 Casas del Bosque “Reserva” Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $14.95 – Usually $16.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: I can be a bit of a jerk about Sauvignon Blanc. In general, I don’t much like it, unless the food is right, the weather is right, the music is right. Oh, and the company too. But I quite liked this for its forthright tartness verging on a level of sour that I like very much, and don’t consider a fault. It’s very bright. Also phenolic, with a vegetal-stemmy quality that very many SB fans love, but I suspect they don’t know why. When it’s too much, it can be nasty. But this is balanced. There’s a mint/licorice flavour too. Tasty, with a nice texture.
Jamie Drummond: Yes, I rather enjoyed this too… loads of elderflower/litter tray, passion fruit, white peach, green bell pepper on the nose. In the mouth there’s a very appealing crisp, snappy, tangy acidity (I see what you mean about the almost-sour factor). It finishes rather modestly, but as a package it’s pretty complete, and at this price it’s a bit of a bargain.
2022 Viña Tarapacá Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $10.95 – Usually $12.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: A ripe and delicious Sauvignon Blanc, moving into tropical fruit tones and especially clementine/orange. Herbal elements on the nose and palate are soft and integrated. It tastes sophisticated, which sounds dumb. But I like it. Minerality is restrained and balanced, fruit elements are sufficiently citrus and limey, and it’s not grassy or vegetal. Bright acidity, juicy.
Jamie Drummond: Another bargain-priced Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, this time with gooseberry, green gauge, green bell pepper, and lime. And yes, I did pick up on the orange citrus notes too. After a slightly sweet (but crisp!) attack I found a nice mid-palate weight, ending with a finish akin to stem ginger. Absolutely exceptional value for money here, so I’ll pump it up another half apple. Love this.
2021 Cono Sur “Organic” Chardonnay, Chile (Alcohol 13%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $12.95 – Usually $14.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: For whatever reason I expected not to like this wine. And it does have a whiff of oak staves or some oak manipulation. And it’s a bit sweet. But it’s pleasantly drinkable. It’s ripe and full of apples and citrus/lime. It’s slightly bitter and astringent (almond, nutty) at the end — which is just how I like my finish. Leave ’em feeling bitter, I say.
Jamie Drummond: Hmmmmm… while I’ve been known to quite enjoy a few of the Cono Sur wines, even at the entry level, I’ve often found their Organic line to be rather uninspiring, but this vintage shows a little more promise with its nose of honeysuckle, beeswax, lanolin, wildflower honey, and red clover. There’s more of a mineral/unripe melon element on the palate here than I recall with previous editions. While I think this is all stainless, there’s something spicy in there, particularly on the nose, that hints at some oak treatment, although perhaps that’s from some kind of back blending or declassification (bloody hell, Sherlock Drummond, give it a rest!)
2021 Santa Carolina Chardonnay”Reserva” Maule Valley, Chile (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 5 g/l) LCBO $14.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Perhaps there’s a bottle issue with this one, as it was immediately unappealing on the nose. And then the palate. Phenolic, herbaceous and rustic (edgy). Tasted mostly like old apple juice. It’s just this side of wine.
Jamie Drummond: Not my style of Chardonnay, for sure, but I’m sure it will appeal to many. There’s pear, peach pie (replete with pastry), bruised apple, and baking spices on the nose. I feel that the oak has been toned-down drastically over the years as this used to taste like woody-pine Halloween candy. The fruit/oak balance is certainly much improved. Not for me though.
2020 Cono Sur “Organic” Pinot Noir, Chile (Alcohol 14%, Residual Sugar 3 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $12.95 – Usually $14.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Not pleasant: this is stemmy and green, clearly over-cropped or under-ripe or both. Very little to do with Pinot Noir. Weedy and thin. (P.S.: I tasted this recently, couple weeks ago. Same.)
Jamie Drummond: Yeah… this was one of those wines labelled as Pinot, but bearing absolutely no relation to said grape on nose or palate. The stewed rhubarb and plummy nose is pleasant enough, but not reminiscent of Pinot Noir. I really struggled with this one. The tannins felt gritty and forced too. As The Rappin’ Reverend Dr. C. Dexter Wise, III would say “I ain’t into that“.
2020 Santa Carolina Carolina “Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $13.45 – Usually $15.45 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Tomato leaf and vegetal nose, smoky too. Austere and thin. Raw wood. Edgy. Simple. Move on.
Jamie Drummond: The bouquet was like black fruit leather, with notes of cedar and bramble jam. There was also a very distinct herbal note here, carrying over into the palate. The palate had a dusty cedar element, so I’m thinking some kind of oak treatment that didn’t quite gel with the fruit character.
2020 Viña Tarapaca “Gran Reserva”, Maipo Valley, Chile (Alcohol 14.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $15.95 – Usually $17.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Very pleasant forest floor and dry earth on the nose — a bit shy but it’s worth it to work for it. Precise red and blue berry fruit and a breezy, open quality. I should have put this into a bigger glass — I think the nose would really express. Supple attack, lovely fruit ripeness and earthiness, with some flint and pencil lead on the finish. Excellent tannin structure. Nice and elemental.
Jamie Drummond: Now we are talking… blackcurrant, blackberry, with a pleasant Cab Sauvignon leafiness giving it a little bit of edge. I found the nose to be quite delightful. I noticed they chose to use a Burgundy bottle, which was interesting. The palate brings juicy acidity alongside extremely smooth and polished tannins, exceptional at this price. One doesn’t usually see that degree of tannin management at $18.
2020 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile (Alcohol 14.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $17.95 – Usually $20.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: This is lovely, and I recall liking it in the past. But it’s been a while. I don’t normally buy wines made predominantly with Cabernet Sauvignon — not for “fun” drinking, anyway. But this is delicious and pleasant, with requisite plum, prune and blue berry fruit and some red berry and currants overlaid. Really quite complex for the price, but also eminently drinkable. It’s soft and supple but not fleshy, with balanced, even fruit and restrained oak (cedar, spice). I like the subtle smoke and balsam finish. Definitely a notch above the norm in this price range.
Jamie Drummond: I was quite surprised with this, having perhaps overlooked Montes Alpha wines in the recent past. It’s a very commercial style, but seriously, what’s not to like here? Who doesn’t like sumptuous blackcurrants with that attractive Chilean blackcurrant leaf note? the palate is very pleasant, a good sweet, ripe and plummy fruit core with soft, malleable tannins holding the whole thing together. The bright acidity keeps the wine on the correct side of fresh without scaring those who love their oh-so-ripe fruit. Incredibly well-crafted wine.
2020 Perez Cruz “Reserva” Cabernet Sauvignon, DO Maipo, Chile (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $13.95 – Usually $15.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Funny how your brain tricks you but your taste buds have your back. I’ve tasted many Perez Crus wines in the past decades and generally liked them. I expected to like this. But found it green and astringent, peppery and thin. Perhaps the grapes didn’t quite make it to ripeness. Acidity is elevated, not integrated and so the wine comes off as simple and disjointed. It’s still wine, mind. Throw it in a stew — and you might as well have a sip.
Jamie Drummond: Disjointed is the correct term here… it’s weird, as all the elements for a drinkable wine are present, but they simply aren’t integrated. The solid blackberry fruit core is pleasant enough, but the tannins appear to have been helicoptered in. Same with the acid profile. Perhaps it was something up with the bottle, as I was expecting a little more from Perez Cruz.
Postscript from JD: I picked up another bottle of this as I wanted to give it a second chance, and lo and behold, it was markedly improved. I’m not sure what was going on with that first bottle? It’s a solid three and a half apples from me… nothing to write chapters of tasting notes on, but the fruit/oak integration is well done, the tannins a little more prominent than one would expect, but I’d certainly drink this.
2020 Emiliana Coyam “Organic Red Blend”, Colchagua Valley, Chile (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Vintages $29.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Clearly the ringer and the most expensive wine in the tasting. There’s a lot in here, not just the Syrah and Carménère (and possibly others). There’s a quality to the juice itself, indicative of excellent grapes and good farming. And organic to boot. This is a refined wine that’s playing with the big kids and certainly holding its own. Excellent balance, with medium body and nicely integrated acidity and tannins. It’s no blockbuster, in fact it has some elegant restraint. This would do nicely in the cellar for a few years.
Jamie Drummond: This stood out for me immediately… and it was the bottle we both jumped on after the tasting was finished. Head and shoulders above the rest, I had no idea about the price of this while tasting, thinking that all the wines were in the sub-$20 category. It’s a complex blend of 38% Syrah/37% Carménère/8% Cabernet Sauvignon/5% Carignan/4% Garnacha/4% Mourvèdre/2% Petit Verdot/1% Malbec, and all the better for it. The nose is as gloriously complex as one would expect from such a cépage, with loads of black berry fruits, woodspice, underbrush, laurel, and a lovely warm clove element. On the palate it is decidedly medium-bodied, the fruit lifted by an acid profile that is simply spot-on. The tannins present plump and smooth leading to a seriously extended finish. Terrific organic fruit combined with some excellent winemaking make for the best Chilean blend I have tasted in a little while. More please!
Postscript JD: I was so impressed I picked up a bottle for Family Day weekend, and treated myself to it over Sunday dinner. Splendid stuff. Highly recommended.
2020 Concha y Toro “Casillero del Diable – Devil’s Collection Reserva Especial”, Chile (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 7 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $13.95 – Usually $15.95 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: Rather a simple wine, lacking in depth and complexity but fine for a sip. Red fruit, plum and a hint of fresh earth on the nose. A nice attack, yielding and fruity, but the mid-palate goes awry and it finishes astringent and metallic. Normally I like bitter, but this is a bit too much. Definitely could use something bloody to handle the elements, but there are better wines out there.
Jamie Drummond: Ah yes, this one. I think I enjoyed this a little more than you did. With a nose of black raspberry and mixed berry jam, and a palate saying much of the same, it’s not a very complex wine, but that’s not to say it’s not a decent glass. I found the tannins to stick out a little too much, but yes, a chunk of bloody steak would probably tame those right down.
2020 Root: 1 Carménère, Colchagua Valley, Chile (Alcohol 12.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $13.00 – Usually $15.00 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: I cheated with this one — and had a bottle last week before we tasted together. I quite liked it and do so still. Really nice nose of blue fruits, raspberry, red beets/earthiness and spice. Fluid and soft, with rather less body than I expected. But it’s balanced. Juicy acidity, freshness (I like primary fruit) and a slight rustic edge, with medium levels of prominent but ripening tannins. Quite a long finish, cherries and that sour bitterness I enjoy. Carmenere, you say? Mmmmmmm. Hard to do better than this for $13 (LTO) or even $15 (regular).
Jamie Drummond: I can be a little fickle when it comes to Carménère. Depending upon my mood/air pressure etc. I can go from loving the variety to loathing it, and Friday night I was less than enthused. Overall I found the wine to be rather nondescript. There was some nice juiciness on the palate, and it was easy to drink, for sure, but I wasn’t so impressed.
2020 Novas “Gran Reserva” Carménère/Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, Chile (Alcohol 14.5%, Residual Sugar 4 g/l) LCBO Limited Time Offer Until Feb. 26th $13.00 – Usually $16.00 (750ml bottle)
Dick Snyder: This is quite characteristically the kind of mid-tier Bordeaux wine that serves one well in the right context. It has that formal kind of feel, a structured Cab and has most of the right elements. I mean, it’s got the dark plum, the vanilla spice, some clove, even some wet slate. It’s a bit austere and shy in the nose, but rather generous on the palate. Tannins are present, but not overly. It’s certainly ripe and balanced and well made. I think it would liven up with something meaty by its side.
Jamie Drummond: Looking back at my notes I can tell we were getting to the end of the evening’s tasting. It looks like I’ve been writing my tasting notes in a language I don’t yet understand, perhaps one that hasn’t yet been invented. It looks like a cross between nerdy wine jargon and Esperanto with some hieroglyphics thrown in for good measure. Nevertheless, I was somehow able to decipher my thoughts about this Carménère/Cabernet Sauvignon blend. It’s a pretty well-crafted bottle of wine for the money, displaying a surprising amount of polish for $16. While not overly complex, the bouquet is very attractive, ticking all the boxes with blackcurrant, mocha, and anise. The palate is quite satisfying with soft, ripe tannins.
(All scores are out of a possible five apples)