Featured Monthly Tasting:

Focus on Argentina & Chile
with Selections from France,
Portugal and Spain

April 2008

Argentina

Flag of ArgentinaArgentina is on a roll. Few wine regions can match the high quality and reasonable prices of the wines being produced in Argentina today. In our December 2006 report entitled Argentina’s Magnificent Malbec the International Wine Review provided subscribers an in-depth look at Malbec, Argentina’s principal grape. Here we review the new vintages and releases of not only Malbec, but other varieties. We also include several new producers whose wines we tasted for the first time. Argentinean Wines Tasted

Chile ···································································

Flag of ChileFor more than two decades, Chile’s wine export strategy has been to build a reputation for inexpensive but good value wines.  Continued growth in wine production and the declining value of the dollar relative to the Chilean peso pose a double whammy to this strategy, with observers of the Chile wine scene recommending a new strategy of reduced yields, higher quality, and higher prices.  While the International Wine Review has yet to do an exhaustive evaluation of Chilean wine, this month’s tasting gave us the opportunity to try the wines of several of the country’s more prominent producers.  We find Chile is still producing wines of very good value as well as some wines of exceptional quality which would face no difficulty in the market even at higher prices. Chilean Wines Tasted

France ································································

Flag of France
France, of course, is one of the most fabled countries in the world when it comes to wine with numerous regions, varietals, and types of wine being produced. This month we taste new releases from three regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, and the Rhone. We were most impressed with the Rhone wines of Pierre Gaillard, who is producing wines of unique character and excellent value. French Wines Tasted

Portugal ·······························································

Flag of Portugal
In January 2006 the International Wine Review issued a major report on the Red Table Wines of Portugal. At the time we stated, “Portugal is producing some of the most exciting and improved red wines in Europe today.” This month we taste a few Portuguese wines from the recent vintage, and our evaluation remains the same as before. Portuguese Wines Tasted

Spain ·································································

Flag of Spain
Last month the International Wine Review evaluated a large number of Spanish wines, including many from regions of the country not previously well-known for wine in the U.S. and other major export markets. We found numerous wines of incredible value. This month we tasted a few more wines from non-traditional regions, with similar results. Spanish Wines Tasted

 

ARGENTINA

Argentina is on a roll.  Few wine regions can match the high quality and reasonable prices of the wines being produced in Argentina today. In our December 2006 report entitled Argentina’s Magnificent Malbec the International Wine Review provided subscribers an in-depth look at Malbec, Argentina’s principal grape. Here we review the new vintages and releases of not only Malbec, but other varieties. We also include several new producers whose wines we tasted for the first time.

Argentine Wines Reviewed

Antis Catena Alta Dolium La Posta del Viñatero Paso de Piedra Reserva
Bodega A Dominio del Plata Luca Tikal
Bressia Ben Marco Luigi Bosca Tilia 
Bodega Catena Zapata Crios Maipe Tiza
Alamos Susana Balbo Mapema Viña las Perdices
Catena Familia Mayol Mendel  

Antis WineryAntis

This small modern family winery is located in Lujan de Cuyo with vineyards at 800-1,200 meters some of which contain up to 90 year-old vines. This winery produces high quality wines at fair prices.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Antis 2005 Malbec Reserve Mendoza ($15) 89

This dark ruby, uncomplicated Malbec is made from the fruit of 60+ year old vines aged 12 months in 50% new small French oak barrels. A rich plum nose gives way to a soft, ripe attack of fresh plum with a hint of oak.

Antis 2005 Merlot Reserve Mendoza ($15) 89

This ruby garnet colored Merlot is aged 12 months in small French oak barrels, half of which are new. A spicy nose of leather and black cherries give way to a ripe, rich palate of black cherry fruit with a dusting of cocoa. Dry tannins on the finish.

Bodega A Viejo Isaias Reserva 2007 Malbec Mendoza ($22) 87

Opaque ruby color with a nose of vanilla and sweet oak. The attack is soft with vanilla and new wood outweighing the underlying blueberry and blackberry fruit. Finishes with somewhat hard tannins.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd. Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Monteagrelo Bressia 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($30) 91 Top Quality

Walter Bressia’s winery produces well-made wines in small quantities. The 100% Malbec wine, displays a dark ruby color spending 18 months in French oak The nose displays light plum fruit with notes of spicy oak. The attack is soft and beautifully textured with flavors of concentrated dark fruit and bitter chocolate. Ripe, round tannins finish it off. A gorgeous wine.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd Winchester, VA (540) 722-9228

Bodega Catena Zapata
Bodega Catena Zapata

Bodega Catena Zapata is Argentina’s best known and respected family winery. Over the past three decades the winery has served as the undisputed leader in producing high quality wines for export at competitive prices. Bodega Catena Zapata owns 425 ha of vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Tupangato and San Carolos and produces a wide variety of wines at different price levels: Alamos, Catena, and Catena Alta, Winemaking is under the direction of Chief Enologist, Jose Galante.

Importer: Billington Wines, Springfield, VA. Tel. (703) 455-4700.

Alamos

These are Bodega Catena Zapata’s entry level wines. They are well-made and offered at modest prices and are good for everyday drinking. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Torrontes are especially noteworthy in terms of value.

Alamos 2006 Bonarda Mendoza ($10) 86

An opaque ruby, medium weight wine showing gamey aromas with clove and huckleberry notes. Attacks softly with straightforward black cherry fruit. Finishes very dry with gripping tannins.

Alamos 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 89 Top Value

Opaque ruby in color showing a clean, dark red fruit nose with elements of graphite, dark cherry and a touch of sandalwood. Medium weight and nicely balanced with a welcoming palate of red and black fruit and a touch of cigar box, finishing with chewy tannins. Very good quality for the money.

Alamos 2006 Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 87

This straw yellow color, New World style chardonnay leads with prominent oak and ripe banana aromas. Very ripe and round on the palate with buttery malo characteristics, good ripe fruit and balancing acidity. Alamos

Alamos 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($10) 86

This ruby purple, medium weight Malbec displays fresh plum fruit aromas as if it were still in barrel. Made in an easy drinking, uncomplicated style with upfront fresh plum fruit and young tannins on the palate.

Alamos 2006 Merlot Mendoza ($10) 87

This dark ruby Merlot displays cedar, plum, and cinnamon spice aromas. An attractive, straightforward wine with nice, spicy plum fruit on the medium weight palate and showing round tannins.

Alamos 2006 Seleccíon Malbec Mendoza ($15) 88

A step up from the regular Alamos Malbec, the dark ruby Seleccíon Malbec has aromas of red and black fruit with a touch of cigar box. Medium weight in the mouth with uncomplicated, soft plum fruit and a full, round mouth feel. Finishes soft and fruity.

Alamos 2007 Torrontes Salta ($10) 88 Top Value

This bright, lemon gold, medium bodied Torrontes has a typical nose of honeyed tropical fruit, passion fruit and rose petal aromas. There’s plenty of sweet, fresh lychee fruit, a touch of anise, and good acidity on the dry, well-balanced palate.

Alamos 2007 Viognier Mendoza ($10) 86

Light gold in color with a floral honeyed nose. The attack is soft with modest fruit and a touch of sweetness on mid-palate. Finishes very dry.

Catena

Catena Zapata’s flagship wines are gems for the price and among the very best examples of mid-priced winemaking in Argentina.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($20) 91 Top Quality

Dark ruby color with a bouquet of sandalwood, cigar box, and red currants, Modern and elegant in style showing a nicely balanced, soft, silky attack of luscious plum and currant fruit with herbs and beautifully integrated oak. This wine shows the potential for Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendoza.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Chardonnay Mendoza ($18) 91 Top Quality

An interesting, complex nose of toast, and honey with mineral and petrol notes gives way to a very soft attack of spicy, ripe fruit with integrated toasty oak. This well-balanced, straw gold, medium bodied wine enjoys a long, tropical fruit finish.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Malbec Mendoza ($20) 88

Ruby opaque color with aromas of nicely integrated oak and fruit. Has a fairly polished and lush mouth feel with a soft palate of dense dark red fruit but is somewhat short on the finish. This youthful Malbec needs more time in bottle to fully show what it is made of.

Catena Alta

Cantena AltaThese are the top of the line wines of Bodega Catena Zapata in terms of quality and price. They are first-class wines displaying boldness of flavor with finesse.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2005 Catena Alta Chardonnay Mendoza ($35) 90

A yellow gold colored, New World style chardonnay showing very ripe tropical aromas with toasty oak. Rich and round in the mouth with the moderately acid palate showing rich tropical flavors wrapped in sweet French oak. Finishes rich and sweet.

Bodega Catena Zapata 2004 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($45) 93 Top Quality

This outstanding dark ruby opaque Argentine cabernet has a very ripe nose with touches of sandalwood, black fruit, earthy, and cocoa. A beautifully integrated, rich concentrated palate exhibits a very attractive flavor profile, including notes of coconut, chocolate, dark fruit, cassis, and graphite. The finish is lovely, long, and flavorful.

Bodega Catena Zapata Catena Alta 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($45) 90

Dark ruby opaque in color with a nose of ripe dark plum, black fruit and a touch of toasty oak. Has a soft attack with a velvety mouth feel and an uncomplicated but rich and well-balanced palate of black fruit. Finishes with chewy tannins. A very good wine but doesn’t quite match the exceptional quality of the 2003 vintage that we tasted earlier.

Dolium

DoliumDolium is small winery with a first-rate winemaking team that turns out high quality Malbec. These wines are of the same high quality as those we previously reviewed from the 2003 and 2004 vintages.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel (703) 339-8150

Dolium 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($15) 87

Dark ruby color with red and black fruit aromas. Has a soft attack and a full flavored, palate of blueberry, blackberry and plum. Rather hard and astringent tannins show on the finish. This is a solid malbec offering good value.

Dolium 2004 Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($24) 92 Top Value

This is a luscious, over-the-top, dark ruby opaque Malbec with an inky nose of cedar, chocolate, blackberry liqueur, and coconut. Shows a dense, highlyconcentrated, super extracted palate of bittersweet chocolate, dark fruit, cedar, and pencil shavings. Finishes long with rich, rounded tannins. This international, oak-infused style of winemaking isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but this is an excellent example of the genre.

Dominio del Plata

Dominio del Pata is owned and operated by the team of Susana Balbo and Pedro Marchevski. Susana is a skill winemaker, Pedro an expert in managing vineyards. Their winery located in Lujan de Cuyo produces several high quality wines which display complexity and finesse: Ben Marco, (Pedro Marchevski’s wine made by Susana Balbo) Crios, and Susana Balbo.

Importer: Vine Connections, South Saulito, CA (Tel. (415) 332-8466

Ben Marco

Ben Marco 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($20) 88

This Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a dark ruby color with aromas of green pepper and herbs. It is medium-bodied with a good concentration of black currant fruit. Still quite young and finishes with hard tannins that will need time to soften.

Ben Marco 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($20) 89

A well-made velvety-soft Malbec that spends about 1 year in French and American oak. Ruby opaque in color it exhibits dark fruit and oak on the nose. It boasts a fresh, lush palate of ripe black cherry extract accented by spice and smoke, with a touch of cassis and has a good lingering finish.

CriosCrios

Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Malbec Mendoza ($15) 87

A solid entry level wine from one of Mendoza’s premier producers of Malbec. Ruby opaque in color with a fresh nose of blackberry and blueberry. Quite dry but fruity on the palate, it displays youthful hard tannins on the finish.

Crios de Susana Balbo 2005 Syrah-Bonarda Mendoza ($15) 88

Dark ruby colored, medium bodied 50% Syrah - 50% Bonarda blend showing an herbal, earthy nose. Has a friendly, fairly lush attack of raisin, plum, and cherry flavors complemented by a moderately tannic finish.

Crios de Susana Balbo 2007 Torrontes Mendoza ($15) 87

A fruit forward nose of perfumed rose petal, lychee and orange mandarin show off this pale lemon colored Torrontes. The generally pleasing palate is unusually brisk and dry for a Torrontes and a bit out of synch with the nose. Finishes nice and tart.

Susana Balbo 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($27) 87

Dark ruby color with woody aromas. The tasty palate is fairly soft with flavors of herbs, dark cassis, and oak. Finishes dry and tannic.

Susana Balbo 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($27) 91 Top Quality

This is Susana Balbo’s best wine, by far. Dark ruby color with a very clean, complex nose of freshly crushed berries, meat and leather Displays a nicely balanced, very ripe palate of concentrated blackberry and boysenberry fruit with a little bit of spice. This is a lovely, easy drinking Malbec.

Familia MayolFamilia Mayol

This small family winery, launched in 1990 is located in the Valle de Uco and produces outstanding modern-style wines from three well-managed vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo, Tupungato and Vista Flores.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel. (703) 339-8150

Familia Mayol 2005 Finca Montuiri Single Vineyard Mendoza ($39) 91 Top Quality

A lovely, slightly rustic, opaque ruby Malbec made from the fruit of 80 year old vines on their original rootstock. It has a ripe rich, extracted nose of blackberry liqueur and cedar with a touch of violet. Lush in the mouth, it displays a ripe, rich very flavorful attack of blackberry fruit with fine, round tannins.

Familia Mayol 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($13) 87

Very pale straw color with a green tinge and aromas of pear with a grassy note. Unfined and unfiltered. Shows brisk acidity and a crisp, dry attack with citrus and grapefruit flavors. Finishes brisk and long. 86+

Familia Mayol 2006 Malbec Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza ($23) 88

This dark ruby colored Malbec displays ripe, dark fruit and sweet oak aromas. It shows a very soft attack with sweet dark cherry fruit on palate and displays somewhat drying tannins on the finish.

La Posta del Viñatero

La PostaThese wines are part of a custom crush winemaking project. The wines are sourced from single vineyards and produced by winemaker, Luis Reginato, who also makes wine for Tikal.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

La Posta 2006 Cocina Blend Mendoza ($15) 89

A dark ruby, medium weight blend of 60% Malbec, 20% Bonarda, and 20% Syrah showing a sweet vanilla oak nose with just a touch of rubber boot. Very soft, nicely balanced and quite elegant on the palate with red and black cherry fruit and a hint of earthy mushroom.

La Posta 2006 Malbec Paulucci Vineyard Mendoza ($18) 89

Nicely balanced, this medium weight dark ruby Malbec exhibits spicy wood and leather on the nose. Has a very soft, fruity attack of attractive dark cherry fruit and leather notes. Finishes with dry tannins.

La Posta 2006 Malbec Pizzella Family Vineyard Mendoza ($18) 86

This medium weight, dark ruby Malbec from Pizzella has a welcoming spicy wood nose. On the palate, it attacks softly with a somewhat chalky character, offering up lightly extracted flavors of dark cherry and berry fruit with a slightly bitter edge.

La Posta 2006 Bonarda Estela Armando Vineyard Mendoza ($17) 85

The medium-weight, dark ruby Bonarda displays wood spice and herbal notes on the nose. The lush attack is offset by somewhat astringent tannins.

LucaLuca

Luca is made by Laura Catena, daughter of Nicolas Catena, and winemaker, Luis Reginato. Laura Catena is a physician who resides in San Francisco, but she is nonetheless, fully involved in the winemaking at Luca spending an average of 3-4 months a year in Mendoza.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Luca 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($35) 88

Aged for 12 months in French oak, this opaque ruby colored wine, displays ripe plum with a vanilla and sweet oak aromas. While there are flavors of blueberry and blackberry fruit, the palate is dominated by oak and has a strongly tannic finish. Time in the bottle may help integrate the oak and soften the tannins.

Luca 2006 Malbec Altos de Mendoza ($32) 93 Top Quality

This wine is a benchmark against which Argentine malbec should be judged. Opaque ruby in color, there are rich, ripe black fruit aromas with chocolate notes followed by a concentrated, full bodied attack of blackberry liqueur and bitter chocolate. This is an elegant wine with great structure and integrated tannins.

Luigi BoscaLuigi Bosca

This winery is one of Argentina’s oldest and most successful family wineries. Founded in the early 1900s by Leoncio Arizu, the winery is today one of Argentina’s largest exporters of fine wines. Luigi Bosca has a large portfolio of wines at all price levels. The Gala series are top class.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Luigi Bosca 2005 Gala I Mendoza ($36) 92 Top Quality

A dark ruby opaque blend of 85% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Tannat displaying a dense, rich nose of French oak, pencil shavings, and cassis. There’s a soft, rich, juicy attack of dark fruit and cocoa and a lush mouth feel. This is one very polished, elegant wine that’s very much worth the price.

Luigi Bosca 2005 Gala II Mendoza ($36) 89

This 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot blend is dark ruby opaque in color with aromas of coconut from the toasty oak and rich dark fruit. On the palate non-fruit flavors of cedar, French oak, and dark chocolate dominate the dark fruit. Finishes dry and firmly tannic.

Luigi Bosca 2005 Malbec Single Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo ($21) 90

A Malbec produced from the 70 year-old vines of the Vistalba Estate with 14 months aging in oak. Dark ruby color with a purple tinge and showing aromas of French oak and graphite. Very soft and lush in the mouth with black fruit flavors and a definite elegance.

Maipe

MaipeThese wines, produced in Luján de Cuyo by the Pelizzati family, are well-made, fruit-forward and easy drinking; they are also offered at a bargain price.

Importer: Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd. Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Maipe 2007 Chardonnay Mendoza ($10) 90 High Value

Now, here’s a bargain for you! Medium gold lemon color with an elegant nose of butter, vanilla and tropical fruit. Medium bodied in a creamy, almost lush, style. Nicely balanced with a round mouth feel and subtle, integrated wood. Stock Up.

Maipe 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($10) 87

Medium gold color with a lactic nose of vanilla, butter and tropical melon fruit. Fresh with good acidity on the palate with white cherry flavor. Finishes very dry and a bit short. .

Maipe 2007 Torrontes Mendoza ($10) 85

This light-bodied Torrontes is pale straw in color with a ripe, white peach fruit nose. The attractive nose doesn’t carry through to the very dry palate.

Maipe 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($10) 86

Opaque ruby color with a spicy cedar and green tea nose. The dry attack is soft and tannic with flavors of warm oak and a modicum of underlying plum fruit. Mapema

Mapema 2004 Tempranillo Mendoza ($15) 86

This winery is a joint project of two seasoned Argentine winemakers, Pepe Galante and Mariano Di Paola. Medium garnet color with a spicy nose showing leather notes. This medium weight wine has a light mid-palate and a somewhat funky character. Sure doesn’t taste like a Spanish Tempranillo. The Tempranillo is good value but not up to the high standards of the Malbec that we tasted previously.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Mendel 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($27) 92 High Quality and Top Value

MendelThis is a first-class boutique winery launched by Ricardo de la Mota, former winemaker at Terrazas de los Andes. And here’s a wine that shows not all Argentine malbec has to be gutsy and masculine. This gorgeous Malbec is sourced from 80 year-old vineyards in Lujan de Cuyo. Aged 12 months in 40% new and 60% old French oak, this opaque ruby colored wine exhibits a beautiful perfumed, almost floral, nose of violet and vanilla. This elegant, nicely balanced, almost feminine wine has a soft, lush attack of dark fruit and cocoa. While pretty integrated, a bit more time in bottle will improve this beautiful wine still further.

Paso de Piedra Reserva

Paso de PiedraThis is the second wine of Viña Alicia, a small producer of high quality Malbecs sourced from low-yielding old vines in Lujan de Cuyo vineyards.

Importer: William Harrison Imports, Manassas, VA. Tel. (703) 815-9463

Viña Alicia 2005 Paso de Piedra Malbec Reserva Mendoza ($27) 87

Dark ruby opaque. Somewhat rustic nose of dark red and black fruit and licorice. Medium weight palate. Drying tannins on a short finish.

Viña Alicia 2005 Paso de Piedra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Mendoza ($ 27) 86

Dark ruby opaque. Sandalwood, fruit compote on nose. Herbal, dark fruit, drying tannins.

Tikal 2006 Amorio Mendoza ($31) 89

This winery is owned by Ernesto Catena and is named after his son. The wines are made by winemaker Luis Reginato and are modern in style and of a high quality. This 2006 Tikal is opaque ruby color with a wood spice nose. Lush in texture, this wine offers up a rich, ripe attack of dark fruit. Fairly tannic with a slight bitter note on the finish. We rated the 2005 vintage of this wine exactly the same.

Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA Tel. (415) 332-8466

Tilia

TiliaTilia wines are produced at Bodegas Esmeralda, a Catena family winery in eastern Mendoza. The wines were originally produced for the local market in Argentina but are now being imported into the United States. These are well-made wines offered at bargain prices and are great for everyday drinking.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Chardonnay Mendoza ($9) 87

Pale yellow straw color with an attractive bouquet of pear and melon with floral notes. Steely in characters with a very dry mid-palate and medium intensity of fruit.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Malbec Syrah Mendoza ($9) 86

Opaque ruby color showing a fruit forward, very young plum nose. Displays attractive flavors of red and dark fruit with young tannins. At this stage needs a few more months in bottle.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($9) 89

This opaque ruby purple, slightly rustic Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits a ripe, concentrated nose of black cherry and black currant. Full bodied and nicely balanced on the palate with secondary flavors of leather, espresso, and cigar box. Finishes with assertive, somewhat dry tannins. Excellent value!

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Malbec Mendoza ($9) 86

This entry level, opaque ruby Malbec has a nose of spicy dark fruit and cedar notes. It has a soft attack with a fairly simply flavor profile of dark fruit with young tannins.

Bodegas Esmeralda 2007 Tilia Merlot Mendoza ($9) 87

An opaque ruby, medium weight wine exhibiting a very ripe nose of plum and dark cherry. Earthy on the palate with dry, young tannins and a tart, dried fruit character.

Bodegas TizaBodegas Tiza 2005 Malbec Mendoza ($18) 91 High Quality

This family-owned winery in Lujan de Cuyo has produced a superb 100% Malbec from old vine low-yielding vineyards situated at 1,000 meters. It is a young, dark opaque ruby showing oak spice and concentrated ripe fruit aromas. The attack is soft with a palate of layered flavors of cherry, cocoa powder and spice. Somewhat tight at this stage but with lots of potential. A superb wine from a new producer.

Importer: Kysela Pere et. Fils Winchester, VA Tel. (540) 722-9228

Viña las Perdices

Vina las PerdicesLocated in Lujan de Cuyo with 173 acres of vineyards, this family winery established in the 1950s by Juan Muñoz Lopez produces high quality wines at very affordable prices.

Importer: Elite Wines, Lorton, VA Tel (703) 339-8150

Viña Las Perdices 2007 Pinot Grigio Mendoza ($12) 87

Pale gold in color, this Italian-styled Pinot Grigio exhibits light aromas and flavors of pear, melon and anise with medium weight, moderate acidity, and a light finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza ($12) 88

This 100% Sauvignon Blanc displays a pale yellow-green color and offers aromas of passion fruit and melon. Full-flavored on the palate, it is ripe and full-bodied, offering good mouth feel and acidity with a bright finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2006 Malbec Mendoza ($12) 90

This is a lovely dark ruby-colored Malbec offering spicy ripe raspberry and plum fruit aromas with notes of cedar. It exhibits a soft lush attack and a beautifully balanced palate of ripe red and black fruit and a long finish.

Viña Las Perdices 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza ($12) 87

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon displays a dark ruby color and offers aromas of black currants, sweet cedar and cigarbox notes. Aged for 6 months in French and American oak, it has a soft attack of light to medium-bodied spicy black fruit on the palate and a firm finish.

CHILE

For more than two decades, Chile’s wine export strategy has been to build a reputation for inexpensive but good value wines.  Continued growth in wine production and the declining value of the dollar relative to the Chilean peso pose a double whammy to this strategy, with observers of the Chile wine scene recommending a new strategy of reduced yields, higher quality, and higher prices. While the International Wine Review has yet to do an exhaustive evaluation of Chilean wine, this month’s tasting gave us the opportunity to try the wines of several of the country’s more prominent producers.  We find Chile is still producing wines of very good value as well as some wines of exceptional quality which would face no difficulty in the market even at higher prices.

Chilean Wines Reviewed

Aresti Erasmo Santa Rita  
Big Tatoo Wines Los Vascos Veramonte  
Cousiño-Macul MontGras    

Aresti VineyardsAresti Vineyards

Aresti Vineyards in Chile’s Curico Valley is a former grower turned producer and is crafting some high quality estate bottlings at terrific prices. These reviews are excerpted from our September 2007 Featured Monthly Tasting.

Importer: Broadbent Selections, Inc., San Francisco, CA Tel. (415) 931-1725

Aresti 2006 Aresti Chardonnay Curico Valley ($9) 89

From the Curico Valley. Silver gold color with ripe aromas of citrus and lime. Crisp and dry on the palate, giving rise to bitter melon and pear flavors and a lingering finish.

Aresti 2005 Aresti Reserve Cabernet Maipo. Curico Valley ($14) 89

Dark garnet in color showing saddle leather and earth on the nose. Soft, plush mouthfeel and decent cabernet character of cedar and black current. Finishes with some grip.

Aresti 2005 Aresti Reserve Merlot Curico Valley ($14) 90

100% Merlot from the Bellavista Vineyard. Garnet color with tantalizing aromas of violets, black pepper, and boysenberry. Has a finely textured, soft attack; concentrated, bright fruit on the palate; and a good gripping finish. An excellent wine!

Big TatooBig Tatoo Wines

These wines are part of a project launched by Erik and Alex Bartholomaus of Billington Wines to raise money for worthy charities in honor the memory of their mother who died of cancer in 2000. Since their first release of Big Tattoo Red in 2002, the project has grown to include six wines three under the label of Big Tatoo and three under the reserve level label, 2 Brothers. As of 2007, the project contributed over $1 million to 70 charities in 33 states. Importer: Billington Wines, Springfield, VA. Tel. (703) 455-4700.

Big Tattoo Wines 2006 Red Cabernet-Syrah Colchagua Valley ($9) 88

Dark ruby garnet color showing aromas of bay leaf, mint, plum, and spice. Light to medium weight palate with a soft, rich attack of black fruit, spice, and chocolate. Ripe but gripping tannins.

Big Tattoo Wines 2005 2 Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Colchagua Valley ($15) 90

Dark ruby color with a rich, mint and savory nose with plum and spice. Attacks softly with rich, plum fruit and a touch of sandalwood. Finishes with nice, gripping tannins. Excellent value!

Cousiño-Macul

Cousino MaculThis is one of Chile’s most successful wineries and has been in operation for over 150 years. In 2002, it moved its operations from the center of Santiago to a new modern facility with 300 hectares in Buin, a commune in the Maipo Valley wine region. The winery is best known for producing good quality wines at affordable prices. Its best wine by far is Finis Terrae, a first- class Bordeaux blend.

Importer: Billington Wines, Springfield, VA. Tel. (703) 455-4700.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2007 Chardonnay Maipo ($9) 89 Top Value

Pale straw color with an attractive clean nose of melon and ripe pear with passion fruit notes. Very clean and crisp with good acidity.. Nicely balanced with good honeydew melon fruit and a touch of citrus

Viña Cousino-Macul 2007 Antiguas Reservas Chardonnay Maipo ($14) 89

This medium straw color chardonnay has a Burgundian nose of oak, pear and green melon. The pleasant palate of sweet stone fruit finishes flavorful and long.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo ($9) 88

Yet another bargain from Cousino-Macul! This medium dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon shows a pleasant nose of cedar, herbs, and a touch of black currant. The medium weight palate exhibits flavors of cassis, graphite, cigar box, and loam complemented by fairly assertive, chunky tannins. Needs another year of cellaring.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2006 Antiguas Reservas Maipo ($14) 90 Top Value

Dark ruby color with inky plum and blackberry with a touch of cedar on the nose. Round and ripe on the rich, highly extracted palate with an intriguing set of complex, rich flavors. This beautiful and beautifully balanced wine finishes with ripe, gripping tannins. Another excellent value!

Viña Cousino-Macul 2006 Merlot Maipo ($9) 85

Dark ruby color showing a rich, ripe dense plum and blueberry nose with a green tobacco note. Has a modest weight, dry palate with dry tannins and a tart finish.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2006 Riesling Maipo ($9) 86

Pale yellow color with a dry nose of tropical fruit and petrol notes. This very dry, somewhat tart wine has a soft attack of wet stone and petrol notes with good acidity and finishes on the astringent side.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2007 Dona Isidora Riesling Maipo ($10) 87

This lemon gold, German style Riesling has a varietally correct nose with touches of banana, mango and petrol that doesn’t fully carry through to the very dry, stone fruit palate. Nicely balanced with brisk acidity.

Viña Cousino-Macul 2005 Finis Terrae Maipo ($20) 93 Top Quality and Top Value

This 60% cabernet, 40% Merlot blend is dark ruby, almost opaque, in color with a rich, ripe nose of cedar, toasty oak, cocoa, and red and black fruit. Displays a ripe, velvety attack of luscious flavors of cassis with notes of violet, graphite. Finishes very long with persistent flavors of cassis and chocolate and round, ripe but still youthful tannins. An absolutely lovely wine!Vina Los Vascos

Viña Los Vascos

Viña Los Vascos is the winemaking venture of Domaines Barons de Rothschild-Lafite in Chile. Launched in the late 1980s, the objective of the venture has has been to apply Bordeaux winemaking techniques in producing very “drinkable” wines at affordable prices. This goal has been accomplished to varying degrees.

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, NY Tel. (914) 630-8200

Los Vascos 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley ($14) 86

Pale lemon gold color with a creamy ripe fruit nose with touch of banana peel and vanilla. The lovely, attractive nose doesn’t carry through to the palate which offers up very dry, restrained fruit flavors. This is a good, commercially styled wine.

Viña MontGras 2005 Antu Ninquen Syrah Colchagua Valley ($20) 90

Antu NinguenViña MontGras began operations in 1992 in the Colchagua Valley, one of Chile’s best winemaking regions southwest of Santiago. Vineyard management and winemaking are state-of-the-art. This is a beautiful wine that shows what a top Chilean producer can do with Syrah! Opaque in color and beautifully concentrated, this bottling boasts a ripe nose of dried dark fruit, plum, and leather. The lush attack is rich and soft with dark chocolate and black fruit flavors. The tannins are round and integrated. This high quality wine is also reasonably priced.

Importer: Palm Bay International, Port Washington, NY Tel. (516) 802-4735

Vina Santa RitaViña Santa Rita

This estate is one of the pioneers of the Chilean wine industry. It was founded in 1880 in the Maipo Valley, and was among the first wineries to introduce European grape varities in Chile. The winery has grown rapidly over the years and today produces a wide variety of wines at all price ranges. Its top flagship wine is Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon.

Importer: Palm Bay International, Port Washington, NY Tel. (516) 802-4735

Santa Rita 2007 Floresta Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Leyda and Casablanca Valleys, Chile ($23) 90

Medium straw color with fresh citrus and tropical fruit aromas and a touch of white pepper. On the palate, it offers a creamy mouth feel with a mélange of citrus, white peach and tropical fruit flavors, beautiful balance and a long finish. A delicious wine offer at a fair price.

Santa Rita 2006 Medalla Real Chardonnay Casablanca Valley ($17) 91 Top Value

This intense gold straw colored wine exhibits a very rich nose of ripe mango, a touch of coconut, and some wood spice. Intense but fresh and elegant on the palate with a nice balance of oak and fruit. A lovely wine, and quite a bargain, too!

Santa Rita 2005 Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile ($19) 89

This opaque ruby bottling displays aromas of very ripe black fruit, cassis and cedar on the nose. It offers a lush attack with good concentration, velvety mouth feel and round tannins on a long lasting palate. Well done.

Santa Rita 1999 Casa Real Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley, Chile ($61) 91

This wine follows the recipe for outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile: Start with great fruit, add some professional winemaking, and age until ready. This dark garnet colored wine shows a complex nose of dried cherries, plums, and touch of leather. The soft attack displays mainly secondary flavors of dried cherries, leather, and mushrooms and finishes with ripe but gripping tannins.

Veramonte

This winery is located in the remote Casablanca Valley on Chile’s Pacific Coast. The region offers ideal cool climate growing conditions for Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The estate currently consists of 1,000 acres of densely planted vineyards. Paul Hobbs is consulting winemaker here. The wines are of excellent quality. Producer website: www.veramonte.com

Veramonte 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Casablanca Valley ($10) 89

Here’s an excellent example of Chilean sauvignon blanc. Pale straw in color with green citrus and grapefruit aromas. Very fresh and bright on the beautifully balanced palate with brisk acidity and showing intense flavors of grapefruit with a slight vegetal note. This is a great food wine.

Veramonte 2006 Pinot Noir Reserva Casablanca Valley ($10) 88

Medium ruby garnet color with a cherry nose. This interesting example of Chilean pinot noir has a soft, round mouth-feel and a rich palate of brambly cherry and wood. Finishes a tad astringent but pleasant nonetheless.

Viña la Reserva de Calibobo 2004 Erasmo Maule Valley ($28) 88

A sweet nose of vanilla oak, spice, black and red fruit provide the greeting for this dark ruby, garnet tinged Bordeaux blend. The medium-weight, quite elegant palate of black and red fruit with herbs is nicely balanced with somewhat drying tannins on the finish.

FRANCE

France, of course, is one of the most fabled countries in the world when it comes to wine with numerous regions, varietals, and types of wine being produced. This month we taste new releases from three regions – Alsace, Bordeaux, and the Rhone. We were most impressed with the Rhone wines of Pierre Gaillard, who is producing wines of unique character and excellent value.

French Wines Reviewed

Lucien Albrect      
Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)    
Pierre Guillard      

ALSACE

Lucien AlbrechtLucien Albrecht

Maison Lucien Albrecht is among the pioneers of viticulture in Alsace. Jean Albrecht, the family’s eighteenth generation is chief winemaker and vineyard manager. Lucien Albrecht produces a wide selection of domaine, grand crus, and reserve wines. Those reviewed here are moderately priced reserve wines.

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, NY Tel. (914) 630-8200

Lucien Albrecht 2006 "‘Cuvée Romanus’ Pinot Gris Reserve" Alsace ($21) 86

An atypical pinot gris of medium straw gold color with a hint of honeysuckle on the nose. Shows ripe apple and pear flavors on the soft, medium acid palate and finishes a tad short.

Lucien Albrecht 2006 "Gewurtztraminer Reserve" Alsace ($22) 87

Straw gold color with aromas of rose petal and cinnamon spice. Exhibits a very ripe, soft attack with light tropical fruit flavors on the medium dry palate. Finishes sweet and long.

Lucien Albrecht 2006 Balthazar Pinot Blanc Reserve Alsace ($16) 85

This 100% pinot blanc is pale lemon color with aromas of apple and citrus with a touch of green banana. Shows light, tart apple flavors on palate and finishes fairly short.

Lucien Albrecht 2006 Reisling Reserve Alsace ($19) 85

Medium straw gold color with cloves and baking spice aromas. Very ripe, fruit cocktail flavors on the fairly light palate. Not your typical Riesling.

BORDEAUX

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite)

Over the years, the Bordeaux-based owners of Château Lafite Rotschild, have expanded their offerings through the acquisition of several French Châteaux and joint ventures abroad. Among their acquisitions in Bordeaux are Château Duhart-Milan, a fourth growth property in Paulliac, Château Paradis Casseuil in Entre-Deus-Mers and Château Peyre-Lebade in Haut Medoc. The wines from these estates and other properties are reviewed here.

Importer: Pasternak Wine Imports, Harrison, NY Tel. (914) 630-8200

Château Milon de Duhart Paulliac ($45) 88

This wine is a blend of 55-60% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 40-45% Merlot and spends 10 months in two year old oak barrels. Dark garnet in the color, this Bordeaux displays aromas of cherry fruit and warm toasty oak with leather notes. It has a medium weight palate of dark cherry fruit and cedar with earth and leather notes. It boasts deep, firm tannins and a long lasting finish..

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2004 "Château Paradis Casseuil Blanc" Bordeaux ($19) 88

This is an attractive, well-priced Bordeaux Blanc. Medium straw gold in color, it shows clove and anise spice and white peach on the nose. Clean and somewhat steely on the palate with stone fruit flavors, good acidity and a pleasant mouthfeel. Finishes very bright and crisp.

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2004 "Château Paradis Casseuil Rouge" Bordeaux ($19) 86

Medium dark ruby in color with a cinnamon spice and ripe cherry nose, this inexpensive, quite light bodied Bordeaux provides plum flavors, dry tannins, and finishes light with a bitter note.

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2002 "Château Peyre-Lebade" Haut-Medoc ($28) 88

The wine from this 55 hectare vineyard estate is a blend of 65% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc. It displays a dark garnet color with aromas of cedar and plum. It boasts a round and ripe attack with a soft, silky texture., good fruit intensity and notes of sandalwood and leather. The finish is somewhat earthy.

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2006 Reserve Speciale Bordeaux ($17) 87

Medium straw color with a tropical nose of lychee and passion fruit. The attack is soft but brisk with good acidity, showing uncomplicated very light green apple fruit on the palate. A good wine

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2003 Reserve Speciale Medoc ($18) 86

Aromas of oak, herbs, and dark fruit offer the introduction to this dark ruby 2003 Medoc. Herb and dill flavors dominate the fairly hard and closed palate with very dry tannins on the finish.

Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) 2005 Paulliac ($45) 90

Here’s a nicely balanced, dark garnet Bordeaux from Paulliac worth searching out. Showing black currants and touch of mint on nose, it provides a soft attack of ripe, lush mouthfilling black fruit.

Pierre GaillardRHONE

Pierre Gaillard

Located in the remote village of Malleval, Pierre Gaillard crafts elegant, complex and compelling Cote-Roties and lovely renditions of St. Joseph and single-varietal and blended Vin de Pays wines.

Importer: Dionysus Imports: Lorton, VA (703) 550-2250

Pierre Gaillard 2005 Cote Rotie ($59) 93 Top Quality

Medium dark ruby color with aromas of meat and leather. This elegant wine displays a soft, intensely flavored attack of black cherry with violets and leather notes on a very expressive palate. While young, this nicely balanced wine is already approachable.

Pierre Gaillard 2005 Clos de Cuminaille St. Joeseph ($25) 92 Top Quality and Top Value

Opaque ruby. Red and black fruit and earthy notes on nose. Soft on palate with uplifting flavors of violets, blueberries. Silky texture. Elegant. Great balance. Long finish of delicious blackberry, blueberry fruit. Modern style. Great price! Great value!

Pierre Gaillard 2005 Rouge Saint Joseph ($28) 91

Dark ruby opaque, purple tinged in color with a nose of black fruits, spice, and loam with hints of leather. Big and lush on the palate with mouthfilling dark fruit accented by violets. Shows a lovely gripping finish of round, ripe tannins.

Portugal

In January 2006 the International Wine Review issued a major report on the Red Table Wines of Portugal. At the time we stated, “Portugal is producing some of the most exciting and improved red wines in Europe today.”  This month we taste a few Portuguese wines from the recent vintage, and our evaluation remains the same as before.

Jose Maria Da Fonseca 2007 Twin Wines Vinho Verde ($9) 87

This new Vinho Verde by J.M DA Fonseca is pale straw in color and pleasantly aromatic. It offers a big zesty attack of green apple, citrus, and stone fruit followed by bright crisp acidity and a short dry finish. This is a wine to drink with shellfish. Offered at a good price.

Importer: Palm Bay International Port Washington, NY (800) 872-5622

Quinta da Padrela

This small estate is located in Portugal’s Douro region, where exciting red table wines are being produced. These two modern red blends are of excellent quality and are reasonably priced.

Importer: LGL Imports, Fall River, MA Tel 508-454-6213

Quinta da Padrela 2005 Douro Douro ($12) 89

A blend of 40% Tinta Roriz, 30% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Barroca, 10% Touriga Nacional aged 12 months in French oak. Opaque ruby in color with a purple tinge showing a fruity, young nose of boysenberry and oak. Exhibits a silky texture and soft attack of concentrated red and black fruit with young but ripe tannins. Will benefit from a couple more years in bottle.

Quinta da Padrela 2005 Reserva Douro ($25) 91 Top Value

A blend of Portuguese varietals aged 12 months in French oak. Opaque ruby in color with aromas of dark black and blue fruit and toasty oak. This modern style, elegant and seamless wine has a lovely, soft, rich attack of very expressive fruit and violets. Finishes long with gentle but gripping tannins. Could benefit from another year in bottle.

Spain

Last month the International Wine Review evaluated a large number of Spanish wines, including many from regions of the country not previously well-known for wine in the U.S. and other major export markets. We found numerous wines of incredible value. This month we tasted a few more wines from non-traditional regions, with similar results.

Bodegas San Isidro 2007 Carril de Cotos, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($8) 87

Carril de Cotos is made of 100% Airen, a widely grown grape native to Spain. Light in color, it offers flavors of banana and pineapple with a soft pleasant mount feel, a slightly steely mid-palate, and good acidity on the finish. A unique summer sipper offered at a good price.

Importer: Norstar Global Imports, Inc. Smithtown, NY (631) 366-0210

Pago Casa del Blanco, Quijote, 2005 Vino de la Tierra de Castilla ($25) 89

An opaque ruby blend of 53% merlot, 27% Tempranillo, and 20% petit verdot with a lovely, extracted nose of sweet vanilla oak. The palate is soft and warm with juicy ripe dark fruit, vanilla, and a note of bitter chocolate. This pleasant, traditionally crafted wine finishes long with prominent oak notes.

Importer: Norstar Global Imports, Inc. Smithtown, NY (631) 366-0210

Bodegas y Viñedos Vega Tolsa 2006 Finca Los Halcones, Manchuela ($8) 87

This rustic, dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon was fermented in barrel. It has a very ripe, extracted nose of blackberry and a touch of cedar and, on the palate, a chewy texture with flavors of cedar and herbs and slightly bitter tannins on the finish.

Importer: Norstar Global Imports, Inc. Smithtown, NY (631) 366-0210

Vinyes Domenech 2005 Furvus Montsant ($40) 91

This medium dark ruby colored international style wine shows spicy leather and new wood on nose and soft, very ripe and concentrated, delicious red and black fruit on the palate. The attack is soft and lush with round, gripping tannins and a lovely, long finish. A superb modern wine but not distinctly Spanish in character.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain New York, NY (212) 608-0722

Vinyes Domenech 2005 Teixar Montsant ($80) 92 Top Quality

Here’s a modern blockbuster, medium dark ruby 100% Garnacha wine from 40+ years old vines exhibiting a subtle fruit rich nose of black cherry, oak, and spice. The palate is super saturated with flavors of black cherry, violet, and loam, complemented by ripe, gripping tannins.

Importer: Quality Wines of Spain, New York, NY (212) 608-0722

To submit wines for review, contact the publishers at info@i-winereview.com or call 703-448-5566