Top 10 Chilean fine wines7th 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.
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.