Chilean wines: fabulous, inexpensive picks from the Rapel Valley
Chile is home to amazing value wines and is creating a reputation for producing wines to rival Napa Valley and Bordeaux. Vitis vinifera grapes were planted by the Conquistadors back in the 16th century, but it has only been recently that their wine has been exported in volume.
Chile has a unique accomplishment in the wine world as it has never been invaded by the destructive insect known as Phylloxeria. Phylloxeria has hit just about every region in the world and sucks the nutrients from the roots, slowly killing the vine, but Chile geographically is shielded by the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, making it an ideal site for grape growing.
Chile, like Argentina, did very little exporting 10 years ago, but the popularity for good, inexpensive wine has increased worldwide, and the U.S. is a big importer of their products.
If you were to compare the Central Valley (the main wine region in Chile) with the U.S., you would identify it with Napa Valley and Sonoma. Cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc are the mainstream grape varieties grown in Chile, but carmenere, unlike in the U.S., shines. Carmenere is a forgotten Bordeaux grape that thrives in Chile as malbec does in Argentina. Carmenere is a late-ripening grape and needs a ton of sun, so in Bordeaux it never was a perfect marriage.
The Central Valley is divided into four main subregions: Maipo, Rapel, Maule and Curico. Maipo and Rapel are the top two subregions and produce outstanding wine from value market to the high end. The Rapel region is further divided into the Colchagua and Cachapoal Valleys. A further division within the Colchagua Valley is the "terroir driven" Apalta site. Confused yet?
Here is a link to the Wines of Chile website for more information on the wines and regions.
With the continued investment from foreign wineries, quality will improve in years to come, as the climate is perfect for growing grapes. The following wine reviews this week (five great bottles, plus a bonus pick) are from the Rapel/Colchagua Valley.
You can find the Vina Siegel wines at the following retail outlets: Solo Vino, France 44, Sorella, Cellars, On the Rocks, North Loop, MGM Vadnais Heights, Harbor Wines & Spirits (Mound), and Eden Prairie Liquor.
2008 Vina Siegel Crucero Rapel/Colchagua Valley Carmenere $8.99
Medium purple color with floral, spices, dust, and raspberries. A sweet fruit quality hits you on the palate, and it possesses a medium finish. 87 points
2008 Vina Siegel Crucero Rapel Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $8.99
Nice red fruits featuring cherry, plum, and raspberries. Subtle use of oak, and a nice vanilla quality emerges on the finish. 86 points
2007 Vina Siegel Carmenere Crucero Reserva Rapel/Colchagua Valley Carmenere $11.99
For a few more dollars I highly recommend Vina Siegel's Reserva line, as it offers more complexity. I have had the cabernet (not reviewed) in the past, and it's great. The Carmenere offers blackberries, cherries, and smoke on the nose. The palate shows some earth, oak, vanilla, and the fruit. Medium finish and a solid Carmenere wine. 89 points
2006 Vina Siegel Gran Crucero Limited Edition Rapel/Colchagua Valley $19.99
The best of the four and the most expensive. The nose is explosive, with blackberries, cherries, plums, oak and spice. Good structure on the palate and very balanced. Concentrated medium finish. A blend of 55% carmenere, 30% syrah, and 15% cabernet sauvignon. 91 points
2 Surdyk's Exclusives
2007 Tierra Alta Reserva Rapel/Colchagua Valley Carmenere $13.99
Really nice wine with coffee, spice, floral and earth. I drank this wine over three days and it kept improving. Should cost twice the price. 91 points
2007 Tierra Alta Reserva Rapel/Colchagua Syrah $13.99
Blackberries, floral, spice, and cherries. Big mouthful and intense flavors. Not a delicate wine. 90 points