Celebrate Chile's National Day With These Premium Chilean Wines
As Chile celebrates its independence from Spanish rule on Saturday (September 18), here’s one agricultural product that’s deeply rooted with the country both figuratively and literally that you should know about. It’s said that European Vitis vinifera vines were brought to Chile by its colonizers and missionaries. Based on local legends, it was conquistador Francisco de Aguirre himself who planted Chile’s first vines. From these vines grew Chile’s grapes that have since been turned into fine wines through the centuries.
Chilean wines have been gaining popularity with wine enthusiasts since the turn of the millennium. While they’re considered New World wines, Chile is home to some of the world’s oldest vines that were brought to the country in the mid-16th century. By the middle of the 19th century, other wine varieties began to emerge, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere.
The combination of age and the terroir produces grapes that are more concentrated and nuanced. Some of these century old vines have reached a certain level that is capable of providing layers of complexity and a unique combination of concentration that comes with smooth and open tannins on the palate.
As a country, Chile is unique in many ways. For one, it is the world’s narrowest country, with 356 kilometers at its widest point and about 175 kilometers at its narrowest. It’s over 4,300 kms long, however, with almost its entire length facing the cool winds of Pacific Ocean on the west and a large part facing the snow-capped Andes mountains on the east.
While its climate varies depending on several of its wine regions, Chile generally has a lot of sunshine and dry conditions. Because of this, Chile is the only major wine country that is free from phylloxera, a vineyard pest that wiped out most of the world’s vineyards in the early 19th century.
In the ‘80s, the country’s wine industry enjoyed a renaissance that began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. There was a resurgence of wine production and so did its exports which grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. From only a dozen wineries in 1995, but that number quickly grew to over 70 by 2005.
In the ‘90s, international impression of Chilean wines were somewhat mediocre at best. But nowadays, some of its wines stand on the same table as Old World greats. It has even produced 100-pointer wines, thanks to big name French wineries that began investing and partnering with local wineries.
Spanish roots with French connection in Chilean wines
One such winery is Los Vascos, which recently introduced its new range of Cromas wines. Over 30 years ago, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) fell in love with a vineyard nestled in the heart of the Colchagua Valley and worked with them to write the Los Vascos story. The brand has defined its own approach to winemaking, combining Chilean traditions with the know-how from the wine-crazy French. Thanks to an ideal micro-climate—with plenty of sun, water, semi-arid soil, and the high Andes mountains that act as a backdrop to its vineyards and combined with cool nights refreshed by the ocean breeze from the Pacific—the country offers ideal conditions to produce exceptional wines. With more than 1,000 hectares of nature, it has been able to create its own ecosystem most suitable for premium wine production.
About a decade ago, Los Vascos and the Rothschild family found and planted new terroirs on the slopes of the estate. “It opened a universe of microclimates with different exposures, soil types with its own colors and textures,” said Philippe Rolet, technical director of Vina Los Vascos. “That is what inspired us to create the Cromas wines. The idea of the name actually came from inside the Los Vascos team, from Maximiliano Correa, our winemaker. The name is derived from the Greek word for color. It is by looking at the colors in nature that one can interpret its messages, may it be vine cycles or soil types. The observation and knowledge of these messages is key for the Los Vascos people in the art of vine growing and winemaking.”
The Cromas Cabernet Sauvignon initially will give a nose that presents scents of fresh strawberry, red cherry, gooseberry and blue flowers. It is followed by subtle notes of bay, tobacco, caramel and graphite. On the palate, the wine is generous with soft yet lively tannins, leading into a long, lingering finish. The Cromas Carmenere on the other hand gives a nose that reveals fruit aromas such as blackberry, plum and black cherry that gradually evolve with notes of white pepper and the herbaceous notes characteristic of this grape variety. On the palate, the tannins are soft, silky with a pleasant balance between density and acidity.
The 2019 Carmenere was rated 93 points by wine critic James Suckling and 90 points by Wine Spectator, while the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon was rated 92 points by James Suckling and 90 points by Wine Spectator. Both reds are available in the Philippines and priced at P2,200 per bottle.
These two new wines are the fruit of those new terroirs and replaces the Los Vascos Grande Réserve and Carmenère Grande Réserve. Each Cromas wine has its own color, painted on the label, that tells the story of the wine in the bottle. Aged for 12 months in barrels, the wines reflect the specificities of the Chilean terroirs and the know-how of the team. To accompany this change in the market, these new bottles with their labels will have neck tags placed on them to explain to consumers the change between the old and the new range.
Two other noteworthy whites from Los Vascos are its Chardonnay that has a fruit-scented nose of ripe pineapple, banana, honeydew melon with lime with fresh hazelnut notes. The wine is very well-balanced with creamy and persistent mouthfeel and is rated 88 points by Decanter. Its Sauvignon Blanc, meanwhile, has a nose that reveals notes of white peach, pear, lychee and citrus fruits followed by a herbal finish of peppermint and tarragon. The fresh palate offers delicious acidity and is rated 86 points by Wine Enthusiast. Both whites are priced at P1,000 per bottle.
Check out Los Vascos, DBR Lafite and other fabulous Chilean wines online by visiting Artisan Cellar Door.