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Tag Archives: Chilean wine

Wine of the week: Casillero del Diablo Malbec Reserva 2013

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Casillero del Diablo malbecChilean malbec is a wine oxymoron. The Argentines make malbec, not the Chileans, so what’s the point of something like the Casillero del Diablo malbec? In addition, the Casillero del Diablo brand, made by Concha y Toro, is often undistinguished grocery store stuff, another reason to wonder about the quality of the malbec.

Which is why the first rule of wine writing is to taste the wine before you judge it. The Casillero del Diablo malbec ($9, sample, 13.5%) is much more than it should be, a value quality red that can often be found for a couple of bucks less than the suggested price. Look for some grip, where the wine has staying power in your mouth and not just gobs of fruit. In fact, there isn’t too much black fruit (plums? black cherries?), making this more like an older style of French malbec than a 21st century Argentine one. The oak is muted, and if the middle isn’t very full, it’s not short and offensive, either. The finish has what wine geeks like to call chewy tannins — not overdone, but almost meaty.

Pair this with any red meat, be it hamburgers or something a little more sophisticated, and it would go well with sausages, too. And remember, as you drink it, that tasting wine is the most important — and only — way to assess quality.

Wine of the week: Kon Tiki Merlot 2014

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kon tiki merlotMichael Franz, who judged the flight of $15 and under merlots at the Critics Challenge with me last month, was even less optimistic abut finding quality wine among the nine entries than I was. And regular visitors here know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about $10 grocery store merlot.

So if Michael was happy, then you know the wine was worth drinking. We gave six medals, including a platinum to the Chilean Kon Toki merlot ($12, sample, 13.2%) — easily one of the best grocery store merlots I’ve had in years. It tasted like merlot and not a chocolate cherry cocktail, with almost unheard of depth and subtlety. Look for a black currant aroma followed by black fruit and very correct tannins that weren’t harsh or off, but complemented the fruit.

This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and keep around the house when you want a glass of red wine that does what red wine is supposed to do, and that doesn’t offend you with too much fruit, bitterness, or oak. Drink it on its own, or with any weeknight red wine dinner, from meat loaf to takeout pizza. Dad probably wouldn’t mind a bottle, either, if he needs something for Father’s Day.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Wine Hall of Fame if I can find it for that price. The only catch? The importer lists distributors in 33 states and the District of Columbia, but many of them are small and may not have enough clout to get the wine on store shelves.

Wine of the week: Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserva 2010

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Wine of the week: Errazuriz Cabernet SauvignonThere is almost no way that this red wine, from a well-known Chilean producer, should have impressed me. It’s too old for a cheap wine and too many cheap Chilean wines these days are dumbed down for the so-called American palate.

But the Errazuriz ($11, purchased, 13.5%) was neither of those. It was great Chilean cheap wine from the old days, a decade or so ago when you could go to any supermarket and pay $10 for a red like this or a sauvignon blanc like Veramonte and get more than your money’s worth. Chilean wines were always candidates for the $10 Hall of Fame in those days.

But not as much anymore. For one thing, the quality of the grapes used to make the wines declined as Chilean wine became more popular and more grapes were needed. For another, the marketing wise guys got their hands on the wines, and focus grouped them to death, so that they started to taste the same.

The Errazuiz didn’t have as much black fruit as I expected, but it was still more new world in style than old — save for the fact that it is heavy enough that it needs food. Plus, it was mostly balanced, with tannins and acid in the right places, another pleasant surprise. This is a nice value, and especially for an older $10 wine. Shows what Chile can still do when its winemakers aren’t busy chasing trends.

 

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