15 October 2010

Chilean Red Blends

This Wednesday, it was time for yet another multimedia Wines of Chile tasting. Previous tastings have focused on single grapes: Sauvignon Blanc or Carmenere. This was a refreshing change of pace, with eight red blends from multiple valleys, displaying a wide range of flavors. Amazingly, that same day the miners were rescued from their months-long entrapment in the mines down in Chile, and we were able to join in with a celebratory toast with the Chilean winemakers. Our online tasting was a minor note in the grand scheme of things, but it was a joy to have something to celebrate with the good people of Chile.

#1: 2005 Valdivieso Éclat
Maule Valley, Chile
$27, 13.5% abv
56% Carignan, 24% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah

This Rhone blend has a real old world feel to it. Light, mild, with very restrained cherry aromas and flavors, and a slight earthiness. The tannins are almost nonexistent, making it very smooth.

#2: 2006 De Martino Las Cruces
Cachapoal Valley, Chile
$45, 14.5% abv
66% Malbec, 34% Carmenere

Interesting mix of grapes here. Lots of great plum and dark fruit aromas without being jammy. On the back end you get elements of cassis and blackberry. Mild tannins but they're not absent. Overall a spectacular balance, and one that is still fresh and bright after four years.

#3: Estampa Gold Assemblage
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$22, 14% abv.
57% Carmenere, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot

Chocolate, coffee, leather, light tannins, rich finish. A nice distinguished wine with classic old world elements.

#4: 2008 Montes Limited Selection
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$15, 14% abv.
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Carmenere

Green bell pepper and tobacco, touches of coffee and cherry. Slightly bitter finish. This wine has a few rough edges that might smooth out with time. Like the above two wines, this takes advantage of Carmenere's Bordeaux heritage for blending.

#5: Maquis Lien
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19, 14.5% abv.
42% Syrah, 30% Carmenere, 12% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec

Lots of blackberry and blueberry, soft and well aged. I found myself wanting liver, or oxtails, or something earthy and gamy to go along with this.

#6: 2008 Hacienda Araucano Clos de Lolol
Colchagua Valley, Chile
$23, 14% abv.
31% Syrah, 29% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Carmenere

Syrah dominates with black cherry and black pepper. Light tannins, fruity, with a touch of cherry pie filling. Definitely a great one for the Rhone fans out there.

#7: 2007 Emiliana Coyam
Colchagua Valley, Chile
38% Syrah, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Carmenere, 17% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Mourvèdre
$29, 14.5% abv.

Chocolate and leather, with firm tannins. There's an overall red cherry flavor. This deep purple wine is much bigger and beefier than most of the other selections. Serve it with some of the best lamb you can get your hands on.

#8: 2007 Casas del Bosque Gran Estate Selection Private Reserve
Casablanca Valley, Chile
61% Syrah, 26% Merlot, 13% Pinot Noir
$50, 14% abv.

Also big and purple, with a really strange mix of grapes. I think the Pinot Noir is overwhelmed by the other two grapes. Smoke and brambles, a bit oaky. Some cherry cola and prune elements. Firm, drying tannins, bitter finish.

This tasting kit included two extras: a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and a tiny jar of smoked chile called merquén, a combination of dried and smoked chiles with salt and cumin and coriander.

I don't really have anything to compare the olive oil against at the moment, but it's rich and fruity with a pronounced olive aroma. The spice is mostly dominated by the smoke, with a strong BBQ aroma and flavor. On its own, the merquén is hot and spicy, and tastes like you've just eaten some smoked sausage. But I can see where a judicious pinch would add a wonderful element to certain meats and fishes. I will report back when I've found a good use for it.

Overall a great lineup of wines. I think my favorite was #7 with #5 right behind. Very interesting mix of grapes, and I was glad to get the opportunity to try these wines.

Note: These wines were received as samples from Wines of Chile.


Kimberly said...

Hey Benito,
Are you planning to cook with the merquén anytime soon? I ask because I also received a sample of merquén in a package with a couple of red blends from Chile earlier this week, and I'm debating what recipe to use it in, possibly this weekend. Just thought I'd check in and see how you were planning to use it . . .
: )

Benito said...


I kind of want to roast some salmon with it, and I think it would be great with pork (obviously). Dream dish: sprinkle some on duck legs for a long, slow roast.


Kimberly said...

Thanks for the suggestions!
You know, I have a salmon recipe that came with the wine samples and the merquén, so that's a possibility.
I was looking over some other recipes this morning, and I actually think I'm going to attempt beef empanadas and use a dash of the merquén in those.
I'll let you know how it turns out!