Ten years ago, one could write very few superlatives about wines from Chile. They were mostly inexpensive, lacking in substance, and while sometimes good, were overall unremarkable. As wineries have learned more about where and how to better grow grapevines, the wines have increased in character and quality. The best are easily world-class, and appear on the wine lists of the finest restaurants. There are a few Chilean wines that can fetch high prices, but most are still great values.
The most extreme price to points ratio we have yet seen in these tastings was Sarahís $8 Chilean Cabernet. An absolute steal, her entry into the Challenge was not only cheap, but earned 5 out of 6 first place votes. Balanced, expressive and well-made, the wine is an easy candidate for case purchasing.
The other surprise of the tasting was the entry of the same wine by David and Ali. Though they were tasted side-by-side, nobody guessed that they were an identical bottling, with marked differences on the nose and palate.
Kristinís second place wine was also an impressive value at only $13, supporting the conclusion that Chile is a reservoir of inexpensive, but well-produced reds.
First Place: Rio Alto Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Aconcagua Valley). Aromas reminiscent of grass, rainforest, oil slick, licorice, and pepper, with a vegetal quality. More expressive that most of the others. Balanced and consistent, showing vanilla, chocolate, berry, peach and cinnamon flavors. Kristin craved food with this one, saying "I want this with pasta", while Andy praised it by commenting "this one went to finishing school". David detected "dark ground spices" on the finish. Received 34 total points. Sarahís bottle. An outrageous value at $8.
Second Place: Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Rapel Valley). Tasters noted cloves, smoke, dark spices, wet soil, and peat on the nose. Andy felt that it "smells a little rotten". Weak attack, then exhibits a blueberry/blackberry mid-palate, along with dark chocolate and toast. Good finish. 23 points. Kristinís bottle About $13.
Third Place: La Playa Block Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Colchagua Valley). Sarah felt that it "smells like Dimetapp", while others detected oil, chalk, black cherries, toasted oak, celery, and "rotten fruit" (Andy). Tasting of blackberries, cherries, leather, tobacco, black tea, charcoal, and candle wax. Medium-bodied. Not very lasting on the finish. 12 points. Andyís bottle. About $20.
Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Maipo Valley). Vegetal scents of tomato and bell pepper, along with vanilla, burnt sugar, plastic, and touches of cream. Dusty. Kristin detected "erasers", and Stephen felt it was "less expressive". Blueberries on the attack, then becomes thin and fades away. Stephen noted that it would be "great with a hamburger with pepper jack cheese". 7 points. Stephenís bottle. About $15.
Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Apalta Vineyard 2003 (Colchagua Valley). Reticent aromas of caramel corn, cinnamon and black tea that Stephen described as "secretive". Ali felt it "tastes like rotten meat", to which others added cranberries, mushrooms, sawdust, licorice, leather and cherries. 6 points. Aliís bottle. About $20.
Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Apalta Vineyard 2003 (Colchagua Valley). Andy immediately determined that the nose was "weird, like smelling a shoe box". Scents of rubber, cranberry, and gravel. Fuller-bodied, sweet, then tannic. Ali felt it was "not complex, but loud", while David described it as "one-dimensional". Only 1 point. Davidís bottle. About $18.