Cool Climate Chilean Reds: A Pinot Noir Value Play?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wines of Chile hosted an online tasting this past Wednesday night offering bloggers across the US a chance to taste through Chilean Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The event was moderated by Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer in New York with Chilean winemakers appearing via a live video stream.

The Pinot Noirs were impressive, especially considering their price points. A question I had on my mind coming into the tasting is which iconic Pinot Noir producing regions Chilean Pinot Noir most closely aligns with? The answer from the winemakers was that Pinot Noir is still a relatively new variety in Chile and they're exploring what works best. I think I have an idea based on the four we tasted - check out the conclusions below for more on that.

The Syrah we tasted were smoky, with higher levels of acidity than you'd find in Australia Shiraz for example. Priced between $13 and $29 I thought each was flavorful and had substantial tannins.

Here are my thoughts on the wines:

Pinot Noirs

2009 Valdivieso Reserve Pinot Noir
14.5% alc

There's an aroma in this wine that reminds me of fresh residential carpeting. Really unique. But once you get past that it's pretty clean, round and enjoyable. Light in body but brings legitimate flavor. Nice slightly sweet spice. Dances lightly on the palate.

85/100 WWP: Good

2009 Vina Casablanca Nimbus Estate Pinot Noir
14.0% alc

Aromatically perfumy. Ample fruit. A little smoke. Nicely balanced. Great velvety mouth feel. 

87/100 WWP: Very Good

2009 Veramonte Ritual Pinot Noir
14% alc

Nice long finish. I like this wine a lot but it's surprisingly "grippy" for a Pinot Noir which differentiates it from most Pinot Noir made in the US. A great overall package for less than $20. 

88/100 WWP: Very Good

2008 Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir
14% alc

Though Cono Sur makes a very good entry-level Pinot Noir you can find for under $15. Only 50 cases of this high-end $65 bottling were imported to the US. That scarcity is unfortunate because this wine is gorgeous. What stands out about it is its purity - not a single off note anywhere in the bottle. Great wine.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding

2009 Tamaya Syrah Reserva
97% Syrah 3% Viognier
13.5% alc

A very unique nose. Black pepper to the point it almost made me sneeze. A little volatile acidity perhaps? A little rough going on the palate. Kind of hard to switch gears from the Pinot Noirs to this.

82/100 WWP: Good

2006 Loma Large Syrah
14.5% alc

Major smokeyness on this wine. Have you ever been to Disneyland? It reminds me of the smell you get when the Disneyland Railroad goes through the tunnels. You know - the part with the Grand Canyon and the dinos and all that? Beyond that there's substantial acidity and tannins. Definitely one to pair with food. 

84/100 WWP: Good

2009 Undurraga T.H. Syrah
13.5% alc

The "Terroir Hunter". Friendly, fresh, fruity nose compared to the two previoius Syrah. A serious wine. Good dose of acidity. Tannins are present but the wine is smooth. Very nice. 

87/100 WWP: Very Good

2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Syrah
14.5% alc

Pretty nose that wouldn't be out of place in a Napa Syrah. Warmer and richer than the prior three Syrah on the palate, but with substantial chewy tannins. Most similar of the bunch to what I'd expect from a Napa Syrah. Nice value at $13. 

86/100 WWP: Very Good

Conclusion and Recommendations

The story of the night for me was the quality of these Pinot Noir especially given most of them cost less than $20. The Cono Sur Ocio was beautiful but at $65 with only 50 cases imported it will be hard to find - and pricey. The style of these more affordable Pinot Noir reminds me of a clean Sonoma Coast style with higher acidity and more robust tannins.

The Veramonte Ritual, from the Quintessa portfolio, is one to check out given its wide availability. Shop for it on here.

As a group I wasn't blown away by the Syrah. It's been said it is easier to get rid of a case of pneumonia than a case of Syrah so I wonder: What will differentiate Chilean Syrah on US retailer shelves?

My thanks to the folks from Wines of Chile and the winemakers for sharing these wines and their time with us. Samples for review. 

Question of the Day: What do you think of cool climate Chilean Reds? Anything value plays you'd like to share?


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP