Mar 17, 2015

Chilean Reds Tasting March 17th

On St. Patrick’s Day evening, 40 members of Toronto Vintners Club and guests gathered at the University of Toronto Faculty Club, not to drink pints of Guinness or glasses of whiskey but to taste 8 great Chilean reds. The wines promised to provide a real treat – new world wines, many influenced by old world Bordeaux techniques and blending styles. Today Chilean reds are considered some of the best in the world, even beating out top French wineries for top honours in 2004. Of the 8 Chilean’s in the tasting, 4 were from the 2007 vintage which according to our guest speaker Howard Kaman of Charton Hobbs, was considered a vintage of the century.

Guests were also treated to a bonus, as part of the Club’s 40th anniversary, a 9th mystery wine which turned out in the end to be a 1997 Chateau la Croix duCasse, Pomerol. It was a fitting end to the tasting and provided a real contrast to the younger Chilean wines in terms of nose, palette and colour. Such was the contrast, the group didn't have much difficulty identifying it as the mystery wine.
Following a brief introduction to Chile by Howard where he identified some of the regions and the grapes primarily used in the production of its wine, the group got down to the business of the tasting. 

The wines in pouring order were;

1.      2005 Altair Tinto. Cachapoal Valley. $ 42
“From a small, very classy winery focused on high end blends only, this combines 85% cab sauvignon with syrah and carmenere. It’s a super rich red with a saturated nose of cassis/rhubarb jam, mincemeat and chocolate fudge. It’s full bodied, very dense, soft and supple with great fruit. Chilean to its core. Excellent to outstanding length. It should age well for a decade but it’s not a requirement for enjoying it. (They need to lose the overweight bottle). Best 2012 to 2020. Tasted February 2011. 94 pts.” David Lawrasson,

2006 Perez Cruz, Quelen Special Selection. $49
“. . . blend of Petit Verdot, Cot (Malbec), and Carmenere. It offers up an inviting nose of licorice, tar, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. Dense, rich, and muscular on the palate, this is a large-scaled effort with impeccable balance and exceptional length. It will require 4-6 years of additional cellaring to reveal its full potential but has the balance to become something special.” 94 pts”. Jay Miller,, #192, Dec. 2010

3.      2010 Santa Rita, Casa Real. Maipo. $60
Cabernet Sauvignon “After a rooty, spicy opening that includes aromas of tree bark, leather, marzipan and ripe berry fruits, this perennial winner shows superb balance, mouthfeel and overall integration. Flavors of cassis, cherry, plum, dry spice and chocolate finish long, lightly herbal and with complexities. Drink through 2020. 93 pts.” Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast, Dec. 31, 2013

4.      2007 Montes Alpha, Alpha M. Santa Cruz. $79
“Blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, with the balance Merlot and Petit Verdot aged for 18 months in new French oak. It exhibits a striking perfume of pain grille, pencil lead, herbs, spices, a hint of balsamic, and assorted black fruits. Dense, structured, and incipiently complex, this velvety textured wine conceals enough structure to evolve for another 5-6 years. It offers a drinking window extending from 2017 to 2027.” 94 pts Jay Miller, Feb. 2012,

5.      2007 Concha y Toro, Don Melchor, Puente Alto. $80
“Blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Cabernet Franc aged in French oak (78% new) and one-year old oak. It has a rounded, smooth tobacco and cedar scented bouquet with plush red fruit. The palate is full-bodied with chalky tannins, smoky black tarry fruit and a reserved, slightly austere finish with dark chocolate lingering on the aftertaste. It has Old World sensibility and is well crafted. Drink now-2016. 90 pts.” Neal Martin. #204, Dec. 2012

6.      2009 Viña Errázuriz, Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve, Aconcagua Valley. $80
“Blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenere, 5% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc from the Maximiano vineyard, aged for 20 months in new French oak. It has a more elegant, fresher nose than the 2008 with a red rather than black fruit profile: wild strawberry, raspberry, kirsch and a touch of shortcake. The palate is medium-bodied with finer tannins than the 2008, with ripe graphite infused black fruit and a masculine, tannic finish that is still continuing to show too much oak in proportion to the fruit. Drink 2015-2022. 88 pts.” Neal Martin.

7.      2007 Viña Seña, Aroncagua Valley. $85
“57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, 12% Merlot, with the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It puts forth an enthralling bouquet of sandalwood, underbrush, exotic spices, incense, floral notes, blueberry, and blackcurrant that borders on kinky. Already remarkably complex on the palate, with layered flavors, a plush palate feel, and precision balance, this beautifully rendered offering will evolve for another 6-8 years and provide a drinking window extending from 2016 to 2032. 96 pts.” Jay Miller,, #192, Dec. 2010

8.      2007 Cousiño-Macul, Lota. Maipo. Blend $ 87
“Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot. The “LOTA” project started in 2003, when the Cousiño family decided to create a world class wine to celebrate the 150th anniversary. “The 2007 Lota, again raised entirely in new French oak, has a ripe blueberry and cassis nose augmented by orange zest and shoe polish. There seems to be a little more volatility here. The palate is sweet and peppery on the entry. It has ripe, plump tannins, plenty of spicy fruit and aniseed. It is endowed with a dense, oaky finish that is balanced and clean, offering a sweet kirsch-tinged aftertaste. Drink 2015-2025. 88 pts.” Neal Martin. #204, Dec. 2012

Pour Order
Name Group Rank Speaker Rank
1 Altair Tinto 8 7
2 Perez Cruz 3 8
3 Santa Rita Casa Real 5 4
4 Montes Alpha 6 5
5 Concha y Toro Don Melchor 7 3
6 Vina Errazuriz 1 6
7 Vina Sena 2 1
8 Cousino-Macul Lota 4 2
9 97 Ch La Croix du Casse (Pomerol) Mystery Wine 9 NR *

* No rank

The assembled group agreed that all of the Chilean wines were well balanced and structured with no faults. All were drinking well now but still had a number of years of good drinking left in them. The same however could not be said about the mystery wine which the group ranked last out of all the wines. May be it was a result of being overpowered by its far fresher Chilean predecessors, but the majority of the room felt this Pomerol was past its prime in terms of drinkability.

Chile beats Bordeaux once again!!!

About the guest speaker

Howard Kaman has worked in the wine industry for over 20 years, the past 10.5 years as the Specialty Brands Manager (or Vintages Specialist) at Charton Hobbs – agents for Perez Cruz winery whose Quelen we are tasting this evening. He has worked as a Cellar Hand in both the Languedoc (at Mas de Daumas Gassac) and in the Willamette Valley in Oregon (at Amity Vineyards), and also spent a year in Niagara as an Assistant Winemaker and two years in Harrods’ Wine Department, in London England. He is a graduate of the Diploma program of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

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