There are a multitude of reasons why Chile is a wonderful wine producing country. For instance, the country boasts a diversity of regions and microclimates. Chile has vineyards planted at steep elevations, on hillsides, and right near the ocean, to name just a few of its terroirs. Certain grapes thrive really well in a variety of settings and produce vastly different results based on where they’re planted, when they’re picked, and how they’re treated after harvest. Another reason that Chile stands out is the outstanding values that are often available from wines in the $10 range — not to mention the country’s impeccable offerings that cost well over $100.This praise doesn’t apply to every wine, of course. But a large swath of Chilean wine provides outstanding values relative to offerings of similar quality from wine regions in other countries. Concha y Toro is a microcosm of this phenomenon. They’re a large winery with various tiers of wines made with different intents and in a host of styles. You’ll find everything from offerings suitable to everyday drinking all the way to Dom Melchor, the benchmark for Chilean cabernet sauvignon.
I recently sat down to dinner with winemaker Marcio Ramírez. He helms Concha y Toro’s Gran Reserva Serie Riberas. This series of varietal wines is focused on vineyard sites in close proximity to rivers. This new addition to the Concha y Toro portfolio features six wines, each with a suggested retail price of $18. Here are my impressions of the wines we tasted over dinner.
All of the fruit for this wine came from the Ucúquer vineyard, which is located in D.O. Litueche Colchagua Valley. Aging of this 100 percent chardonnay wine was accomplished over nine months in medium toast French oak. The fresh and welcoming nose of this chardonnay is loaded with orchard fruits and a hint of vanilla. Apple, pear, and a bit of lemon zest drive the appealing and juicy palate. Minerals, spice, and continued wisps of lemon are in play on the above average finish. This wine was hard to put down once I started sipping it. All of the pure fruit just jumps out and envelops your senses. This is what chardonnay tastes like when it isn’t bastardized.
The fruit for this wine was sourced at the Palo Santo Vineyard located in D.O. Marchigue Colchagua Valley. This wine is entirely malbec. It spent 13 months aging in large casks, and blackberry aromas are prominent on its alluring nose. Blueberry and plum flavors dot the juicy and mouthwatering palate. A bit of earth and black tea appear on the finish. This wine shows off firm acid and medium tannins. Argentina may be better known for malbec, but this example shows why Chile can impress with this variety too.
All of the fruit in this wine came from the Peumo Vineyard located in D.O. Peumo Cachapoal Valley. In addition to carménère (90 percent), some cabernet sauvignon (10 percent) was blended in. It was aged over 11 months in a combination of French and American oak. Blueberry and black raspberry aromas light up the nose of this offering. The palate is studded with juicy purple fruit flavors and an abundance of spices. The long, slightly lusty finish features minerals, black pepper, and a dusting of cocoa. This is an exceptional carménère for the money.
The fruit for this cabernet came from the Palo Santo Vineyard located in D.O. Marchigue Colchagua Valley. Small amounts of carménère (7 percent) and cabernet Franc (3 percent) are blended in with the cabernet sauvignon (90 percent). Aging occurred over 13 months in French and American oak. Toast, bramble, and savory herb aromas dominate the lovely nose of this cabernet sauvignon. Lots of cherry and other red fruit flavors appear on the refined palate. Pencil lead, earth, chicory, and minerals are all in abundance on the terrific finish which just goes on and on. This is a really terrific cabernet sauvignon for under $20. Drink it over the next five years for maximum pleasure.
The wines in Concha y Toro’s Gran Reserva Serie Riberas tier are really worth a look. Across the board, they are proportionate, show great varietal typicity, pair remarkably well with food, and each represent outstanding values. These are fresh wines intended to be consumed in their relative youth, when all the vibrant fruit flavors are peaking. Grab a couple of them — you will be impressed.