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Thursday 2 October 2014

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Top 10 Chilean fine wines

7th September, 2012 by Rupert Millar

We count down Chile’s highest-scoring fine wines as part of a look at the country’s growing reputation for world-class reds.

Apalta is a sub-region of the Colchagua Valley in Chile, and home to a number of the country’s top wines

Chile’s position as a truly renowned and serious fine wine producer is still a work in progress.

The country rocketed into the collective conscious of trade and consumer alike in a very short space of time and is now one of the market’s stalwarts.

However, like most New World countries, the rapid rise built on reliability and accessibility has left the other messages about terroir and history to catch up.

But they are, steadily, and have been helped by the enthusiastic research into soils and exploration of regionality that have been covered frequently in the pages of the drinks business.

As Giles Burke-Gaffney, buying director for Justerini & Brooks, states in the September edition, out next week: “Track record and history is very important to serious wine drinkers and collectors, and these are things that can take an incredibly long time to build up.

“This is Chile’s main battle when it comes to persuading clients to spend more money on its wines.”

But, he adds: “They are headed in the right direction – in terms of discovering new sub-regions that suit certain grapes and give specific characteristics to the wines.”

He concludes that Old World producers starting projects and investing in Chilean wines will be a great help and, as will be shown, this is happening.

A quick search among Chile’s best producers soon reveals myriad wines based on characteristics such as grape variety, region or specific vineyard – or all three ideally and what will also become apparent is that these are wines for ageing too – another important trait in anything claiming to be fine wine.

Another striking fact is that so many of the wines listed here are based on or at least use Chile’s “native” Carmenere, a grape sometimes rather maligned but also championed by the likes of Peter Richards MW and Tim Atkin MW.

Not that Chile’s aptitude for growing the big international grapes should be ignored. At a recent seminar on Chilean wines run by Santa Rita, Australian consultant Brian Croser even voiced the opinion that Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon is even more distinctive than Napa Cabernet and pointed to the main varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Cabernet Franc as “Chile’s backbone”.

For simplicity’s sake, the top wines here are based on Wine Advocates’ best scoring Chilean wines at 95 points and above.

It’s a wholly imperfect method of judging but convenient. Do see the extra page at the end for a list of other top wineries in Chile and another brief attempt at a “top 10” this time using scores gleaned from Jancis Robinson MW’s Purple Pages.

For more on Chile, its fine wine and wider industry, see the September issue of the drinks business.

6 Responses to “Top 10 Chilean fine wines”

  1. Nice article, … but I strangely miss THE rising star from Chile, VIÑA VIK at Millahue… Already one of the very best Chilean wines I ever tasted in 5 years…

    • Michael Cox says:

      In response to Christian Callec – I have heard much praise for Vina Vik and I can’t wait to visit the winery, however, one principal reason why this wine may not have been included in this line up is that the wine has yet to arrive in UK. I am sure it will receive acclaim when it does.

  2. I have visited Vik (even getting an early morning earthquake as an alarm call!) and at the time, they were only putting blends together. However, the wines showed promise. Surprised no mention of Altair, which I find to be extremely good and with more elegance than power. Still, about time people realised that there are truly world-class wines in Chile and that Australia has to watch its back. I have been impressed by the professionalism and open-minded approach of the Chilean wine industry and feel that too many view their wines as “fruit bombs” rather than as classy wines showing their origin. If I were to criticise the Chileans it would be (sacrilege of sacrileges) for not charging enough!

  3. Alex Hunt says:

    Wot, no Clos Apalta? Wine Spectator gave 2005 vintage 96/100 and #1 slot in Top 100 wines of the year, for starters….

  4. Nguyen Phu says:

    I Like Wine Of chile

  5. The list is pretty complete but it really is a list of the most expensive wines of Chile than anything else.
    In my experience the Chileans will always charge the maximum they can for any of their products.

    Neyen would be a worthy addition to the list IMHO

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