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Top 10 Cabernets from Chile

Following a big ‘blind’ tasting of Chilean wines last year, here are 10 brilliant reds based on the country’s most planted grape: Cabernet Sauvignon.

For many decades Chile and Cabernet have gone together like avocado and toast, but it has been over recent years that this Latin American nation’s wine producers have perfected the handling of the grape – famous for yielding tannic, long-lived reds with flavours of blackcurrant and mint.

As a result of such focus, Chile’s top Cabernets have become increasingly good, and, at the top-end, wines of flavour-intensity, fruit-concentration, and fine-structure, ensuring they are cellar-worthy, while remaining pleasurable to drink in their youth.

Although this could be said of other source areas for Cabernet, Chile offers something that’s rare to find elsewhere: very old vines, which have been planted piè franco – without rootstocks. Such vineyards are believed to produce wines of complexity, power, and balance that can’t be rivalled by similar sites planted with Cabernet on rootstocks.

The wines below include some exciting expressions from such old, ungrafted Cabernet vineyards – such as Manso de Velasco from Torres, or Lapostolle’s La Parcelle 8 – and it’s due to the quality of these reds that more producers are now planting Cabernet in Chile today without rootstocks, something made possible by the fact that the country is still free from phylloxera (the American louse that devoirs the roots of vines without American rootstocks).

How the wines below were chosen

The wines featured in this selection were taken from 28 leading producers in Chile. Wines of Chile asked them to submit no more than two wines for sampling. The wineries put forward commercially available samples that they were most proud of, representing new and exciting bottles, along with the latest vintages of established labels. All the samples were assessed blind in August 2022, with the full results of the tasting featuring in the September edition of the drinks business. Featured below are the single-varietal and Cabernet blends from the tasting. 


Varieties: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Cachapoal Andes
ABV: 14%
RRP: Approx £16
Score: 93

Following a delicious Carmenère from Los Boldos earlier on in this tasting came this fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Using grapes from the underrated Cachapoal Andes, it’s a great value expression of fine, barrel-aged Cabernet – a style of wine that Chile does so well for relatively little outlay. In this case, there’s something pleasingly bright about the wine, which, although featuring some cassis and chocolate, isn’t sweet and concentrated in style. Dominated by red berry fruit, with some stewed plum and cherry, cedar and tobacco leaf, it’s a layered, lively red, with some appealing fine dry tannin on the finish.


Varieties: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Curicó
ABV: 14.5%
RRP: £30-£50,
Score: 94

Using Cabernet from a 120-year-old ungrafted vineyard at the base of the Andes in the Curicó Valley, Manso de Velasco is the top-end, and singlevineyard expression from Miguel Torres Chile, and has been since this wine’s launch in 1985. This example, using grapes from the 2018 vintage, is a powerful wine, with concentrated blackcurrant, a touch of fleshy cherry, then dried mint, bay and chilli-pepperlike spice, complemented by cedar, chocolate and toast. Along with the intense fruit flavours is a touch of alcohol warmth, and dry, firm tannin. The wine tastes as though it’s only recently been bottled – not from the 2018 vintage – and has potential to develop and soften.


Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon 92%, Syrah 8%
Region: Colchagua
ABV: 15%
RRP: Approx £45
Score: 95

Among the many fine topend Cabernets coming out of Chile today, Le Dix is one I particularly favour, because, while warming and concentrated, there’s also a refreshing, dry character to the wine that makes it surprisingly easy to sip – this is not a blockbuster style with the sweet heaviness that can come from new oak barrels and overripe fruit. Flavour-wise Le Dix (named to commemorate 10 years of DBR Lafite in Chile) is complex, with the 75-year-old Cabernet vineyard used to make it yielding a wine with notes of cassis, dried herbs, black cherry, cracked pepper, then a long, mouth-watering finish, with plenty of fine tannins to frame the core of fleshy, fine dark fruit. A modern classic in the making.

LFE, PATER, 2015

Varieties: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Colchagua, Puquillay Alto Mountains
ABV: 14.5%,
RRP: Approx £50,
Score: 94.

Crafted to commemorate 20 years since LFE’s first Cabernet in 1994, and now on its second vintage, Pater is a relatively new top-end expression, partly because it’s released after several years of cellaring. Using grapes from a high-elevation area called Puquillay Alto in Colchagua, it’s a powerful, structured and impressive wine that is just starting to show some tertiary characters now it has had a few years ageing in bottle. Among these are notes of stewed black fruit, leather, hay, and cedar, along with fresher flavours of dried mint, dark cherry, and blackcurrant. On the finish, there’s lots of dry but fine tannin, and a touch of toast and roasted coffee bean, as the influence of two years maturing in French oak starts to come through.


Varieties: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Apalta
ABV: 15%
RRP: Approx £100
Score: 97

Made from a 110-year-old vineyard in Apalta that’s been planted with ungrafted Cabernet Sauvigon, La Parcelle 8 from Lapostolle is a special wine. Crammed with flavours of cassis, bay leaf, and creamy vanilla, there’s also coffee bean and coconut husk, cedar and pepper, plums and black cherry in this layered and intense wine. As for the mouthfeel, it’s dense and tannic, with concentration and youthful strength, despite its five years of age. And while there’s power, there’s also finesse, even freshness in this surprising Cabernet, which clearly has many years ahead of it.


Varieties: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 10% Syrah, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Petit Verdot
Region: Curicó Valley
ABV: 14%
RRP: Approx £20
Score: 95

A reliably good top-end Cabernet blend from Aresti, the Family Collection is always released with a little bit of bottle age, following 18 months in barrel. The result is a wine of density, but also a touch of evolution, with cigar box and stewed fruit mingling with the fresher notes. Among the latter are lovely characters of blackcurrant and plum, chocolate and toast, and, as the wine slowly fades, some fine-grained tannin to refresh the palate. In short, a balanced, fleshy complex red that’s released ready to drink, but certainly with plenty of potential to age for many more years.


Varieties: 61% Cabernet Sauvignon; 7% Cabernet Franc; 8% Syrah; 23% Carmenère; 1% Merlot
Region: Cachapoal Valley
ABV: 14%
RRP: Approx £30
Score: 93

This relatively affordable wine from Vik’s estate in Millahue, Cachapoal Valley, delivers plenty of appealing characters from a blend of Bordeaux grapes, along with a little Syrah. Mixing red and black fruit, with white pepper, nettle, vanilla, and cedar, followed by a touch of toast, it’s a complex red with a nice fresh finish, and plenty of fine tannins too.


Varieties: 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenère, 8% Cabernet Franc
Region: Maipo Alto
ABV: 14%
RRP: Approx £31
Score: 96

A Cabernet blend from the rocky vineyards of the Maipo Alto at more than 700m above sea level, this top expression from Santa Ema is a delicious example of Chile’s ability to craft ripe, fleshy reds with a dry structure and a fresh acidity. So, while this wine has soft, ripe blackberry and raspberry fruit, and plenty of creamy vanilla oak-derived characters, and a toast-like edge, it’s still bright and mouth-watering on the finish. An impressive, powerful, top-end Maipo Alto Bordeaux blend for a relatively affordable sum.


Varieties: 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah, 18% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Franc, 7% Grenache, 3% Mourvèdre
Region: Aconcagua
ABV: 13.5%
RRP: Approx £45
Score: 95

The second wine of flagship Errázuriz Cabernet blend Don Maximiano, Villa takes its name from Villa Errázuriz, which was built by the founder, Don Maximiano, in 1870. The wine is made from a selection of grapes from the Errázuriz Max vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley, and represents a seriously good sibling to its big brother, Don Max. With Villa you get a lovely core of fleshy ripe – not too ripe – fruit, from black to red and blue, along with violets and green pepper spice, backed by fine dry tannin then a touch of dark chocolate and toast from the 22 months this blend spends in a mix of French oak barrels (50% new) and Stockinger foudres. There’s an appealing middleweight feel to the wine, so, while there’s plenty of fruit, it doesn’t come at the expense of finesse.


Varieties: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon; 5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot
Region: Puente Alto
ABV: 14.8%
RRP: Approx £95
Score: 96

The ultimate expression of Chilean red wine from Concha y Toro, Don Melchor is a Cabernet-dominant, Bordeaux blend from Puente Alto in the Alto Maipo Valley – and a consistently excellent one too. The 2019 release – from a dry but moderate year weather-wise – displays the characters of a great wine in its youth, with masses of concentrated blackcurrant and blackberry fruit, and layers of supporting flavours, from violets to toast, cedar to green pepper, then a persistent finish with plenty of finely-structured tannin to frame the intense and fleshy heart of this powerful, ageworthy wine.

Also, for something a little bit different, and more affordable…


Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon 36%/Grenache 20%/Carigñan 13%/Petit Syrah 13%/Malbec 8%/Mouvèdre 5%/Carmenère 3%/Petit Verdot 2%
Region: Aconcagua
ABV: 14%
RRP: Approx £12
Score: 92

Employing eight grapes from Cono Sur’s vineyards in Aconcagua – specifically an estate called El Encanto – this is a characterful and complex blend. There are some intense cassis notes, followed by notes of fleshy red fruit, dried mint, liquorice and black pepper, and then a touch of creamy milk chocolate, along with subtle a cedar-like taste. In terms of texture, while the core is soft and fleshy, the finish is dry and slightly chewy.


It should be added that there are a handful of other great Chilean Cabernets that did not feature in this tasting, such as Vinedo Chadwick or Almaviva, Seña or Casa Real, along with Cono Sur’s Silencio and Carmen’s Gold – all of which are brilliant expressions of this grape in both a blended form and as a single-varietal wine.


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