Featured Monthly Tasting:

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

April 2008

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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!


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.


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.

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