Chile’s Concha y Toro Makes Food & Budget-Friendly Wines
Concha y Toro is the largest winery in Chile. The depth and variety of their portfolio spans many styles, price-points, and varietals. They employ several winemakers; each focuses on a different tier of wines. I recently had lunch with Marcelo Papa at Haven’t Kitchen. He’s the Concha y Toro winemaker responsible, among others, for the Marqués de Casa Concha line. These offerings are single vineyard, site-specific wines. Over lunch we tasted a number of the selections in this range, each paired with a food that showcased a different global influence. The goal was to highlight the ability of their wines to pair with cuisine of various styles from all over the world. If wine pairing is performance, this was a tour de force showing. The foods prepared by Concha y Toro executive chef Ruth Van Waerebeek worked fabulously with Marcelo’s wines. Prior to sitting down to lunch we tasted a few newly launched wines outside the Marques line. Here are the six wines from this afternoon that really struck a chord with me.
Frontera Specialties Pedro Jimenez — This wine blends together Pedro Jimenez (87.5%), Moscatel (10%), and Sauvignon Blanc (2.5%). The fruit was harvested by hand and aging occurred in stainless steel for four months. This wine, made predominately from a grape thought of for Sherry production, has a suggested retail price of less than $10. Citrus aromas lead the welcoming nose. Vibrant fruit flavors such as grapefruit and bits of papaya mark the juicy palate. Limestone and white pepper notes emerge on the crisp and refreshing finish. If you’re looking for an inexpensive, light, fun wine to drink all summer as a welcome wine or with light foods, look no further. At under $10, if you shop around this one is going to be hard to beat.
Marqués de Casa Concha 2012 Sauvignon Blanc — All of the fruit for this wine came from a single vineyard in the Ledya region of Chile. It’s composed entirely of Sauvignon blanc. Fruit was picked by hand, after which it was fermented and aged in stainless steel. It has a suggested retail price of $23. Prominent lemon zest aromas emerge from the nose. The palate is loaded with a mélange of citrus fruits, supported by bits of papaya and mango joining in as well. Hints of grass are also in play. The finish is crisp and lingering with racy acidity, zingy spices, and an overall sense of freshness. This Sauvignon blanc is at its best ice-cold. A deep Hawaiian influence pervaded this first pairing, which was a lobster and mango skewer topped with vanilla and lime butter.
Marqués de Casa Concha 2012 Chardonnay — The fruit for this single vineyard Chardonnay was sourced in the Limari region of Chile. It’s 100% Chardonnay. After hand harvesting the fruit was fermented in barrel. Aging took place over 11 months in a combination of new and used French Oak. It has a suggested retail price of $23. Aromas of guava, yellow delicious apple, and toast are all part of the big and welcoming nose of this chardonnay. The palate is stuffed with orchard fruit flavors, apples of various stripes dominate. Bits of baker’s spice are in evidence on the lengthy finish but they’re minor compared to a plethora of minerals. A hint of crème fraiche is also present. This is a classic example of a fruit-driven chardonnay that is not dominated by oak. The Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay is a stunning value that would easily command twice the price if it were from a more famous region. A Thai-style quinoa fritter with crab and a side of lime-cilantro mayonnaise was the purposeful and masterfully executed pairing for this must-have chardonnay.
Marqués de Casa Concha 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon — This wine was produced from fruit sourced at the Puente Alto Vineyard in the Maipo region. It was aged entirely in French oak. This Cabernet has a suggested retail price of $26. Dark berry fruits and cocoa aromas are in evidence on the nose. Blackberry, raspberry, and black cherry are all part of the dense and appealing palate. Espresso, earth, and bits of graphite all emerge on the above average finish. Medium tannins and firm acid lend themselves to a well-structured wine. This wine has been a great value in the category for many years; this vintage is one of the best examples of Marqués Cabernet I’ve ever tasted. The featured pairing was polenta fingers topped with mushrooms and a gorgonzola sauce, and it was divine.
Marqués de Casa Concha 2011 Carménère — This 100% varietal wine was produced from fruit soured at the Peumo Vinyeard in the Rapel Valley. Fermentation took place in stainless steel; barrel aging followed over 18 months in a combination of new and used French oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $26. Violet and toast aromas dance merrily together on the nose of the Marqués Carménère. The palate is remarkably juicy with purple and black fruits starring. The finish is velvety with dark fruit flavors continuing along with a nice spice element. This is a deceivingly mellow wine that drinks so easily but still has plenty of depth and character. It was a revelation paired with an Indian inspired dish of Lamb, tomato and chickpea stew, basmati pilaf, and cilantro chutney.
Concha y Toro 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc — This wine is composed entirely of Sauvignon blanc. The grapes were allowed to sit on the vines much later. Botrytis was present for a small percentage of the fruit. This dessert wine has a suggested retail price of $21 for 375-milliliter bottles. While Botrytis was only achieved in a small percentage of the gapes, that lovely, heady aroma is obvious in the nose along with peach and apricot. The palate is sweet but not cloying. The same fruits present on the nose continue along with lychee. Pineapples appear on the honeyed finish. The bits of sweetness are balanced by racy acid. With some dessert wines there is only so much you can drink before it becomes overwhelming. This is a delicious and gentle example that I’d gladly drink several glasses of in a sitting. Paired with a semi-freddo as it was on this day, both the wine and the dessert were elevated.
These are all wonderful wines that I recommend highly. They are approachable and food-friendly offerings, made to enjoy with a meal. Each wine is also a very good value in its own right. I spoke to Marcelo for quite a while after the lunch, and it’s clear he’s working hard to make wines that people want to have on their table regularly. His goal is to make wines that are both easy to drink and offer significant depth and value. Part of his approach has been a shift in harvest times. They pick the fruit a bit sooner now than they did a few years ago. The result is wines that have fresh flavors, firm acidity, and lower alcohol. If you love food and wine together, the Concha y Toro portfolio is one well worth exploring.