Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung, 4 January 2004
Just Wine
The Elegance of Chile
Stuart Piggot

No other wine from overseas has had such an impact in the German supermarkets as the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. This has much to do with its reliable fruitosity, its mild character and its moderate price between €3 and €5. Simultaneously, the image of the best Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons has made an important leap forward. This is due to the praise that the international wine press has heaped on two of these wines:

"Seña", comes from the joint-venture between the Chilean Eduardo Chadwick and the Californian Robert Mondavi and "Almaviva" from the combined efforts of Concha y Toro from Chile and the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild from Bordeaux . In their youth, these wines are truly impressive and their ageing potential is still to be demonstrated. Their prices are notably higher than €50.

Unfortunately until now, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons have only been found at these two extremes, unable to convince the German consumer who is confronted with indecision. The problem is not so much the lack of good Chilean red wine, it is the lack of the individual identity with which to distinguish them. Furthermore, there exists a wide range of good Cabernet Sauvignons from other countries.

What happened to the special Chilean characteristics, the now hidden differences between the different valleys that claim distinct denominations and should therefore be differentiable? Surely not exempt from blame are the international oenologists like Michel Rolland, who has spread his own style of red wine from Bordeaux to India .

Other origins can be found in the make up of the Chilean wine industry that is dominated by large firms all working with the same formula, albeit at a high level. This results in a large quantity of strong and meaty wines that are initially impressive but then fade without achieving the expectations of the final taste.

It is interesting to highlight that there is one German oenologist who demonstrates the full potential of the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, branded at less than €50. Klaus Schröder's 2001 "AltaCima 6.330" (€16.50 at WeinMohr, Tel 0261/14626) shows the strength and opulence of other expensive Chilean reds, but in a refreshingly delicate way. Its taste lives long in the palate, with silky, smooth and distinctive elegance.

The elegance is enhanced by the climate of the Lontué valley - warm days, not torrid, and fresh, almost cold nights. It is a revolutionary example of Chilean red wine, possessing a distinct regional character.


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