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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Chile’s Red-Hot Wines

We’re leaving shortly for Chile and there’s never been a better time to visit this wine-centric country.  While the earthquake in 2010 devastated the industry, the wine business is coming back and moving in the right direction.   For many years quantity trumped quality in Chile.  This is not necessarily the case now.  Today, although the country continues to pump out value-priced wines, it has finally figured out that serious global wine consumers want high quality as well as a good value.

Chile may also be leading the pack for savvy wine production in that many of its grapes are organically grown…and wineries are being rebuilt with green practices in mind.   Even more compelling perhaps is the abundance of cheap land and an inexpensive labor force that allows Chile to out-value its American and European competitors.  It's no wonder that the top wine-producing chateaux in France (e.g. Mouton Rothchild)  have flocked to Chile to set up outposts.

The same year of Chile’s earthquake, there was another tremor in the wine world…but this one was felt around the globe.   In a blind tasting in New York two Chilean wines beat out two of Bordeaux’s Premier Crus, along with some of California’s much coveted cult wines and Italy’s mega-Euro Sassacaia.  The judges?  A sophisticated group of 100 that included top wine critics, sommeliers, and retailers.   The winning wines?  One was made from Chile’s signature grape, Carmenere (once a Bordeaux varietal),  the other was a Bordeaux blend (Cabernet + Merlot).

Chile’s new darling varietal, however, may be Pinot Noir.  While Chile’s hallmark grapes have been the warm varieties (e.g. Cabernet, Carmenere), the country boasts 3,000 miles of coastline and offers perfect growing conditions for the cooler varietals.  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc all are thriving in Chile’s cooler maritime climates.  Chile is no longer a one-trick pony that knocks out solely muscular stallions.  It is turning out some well-pedigreed fillies that are sure to gallop away with world-wide recognition.

Viva Chile…I can’t wait to return!

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