56
BEVERAGE MEDIA
June 2013
Apalta, a bowl of vineyards within
Colchagua Valley, has proven to be a
great source for multiple red varieties.
B
lended wines are as old as the prover-
bial vine-covered hills, but in Chile,
the allure of combining red varieties
has a decidedly modern feel. Uncon-
strained by rules and empowered by widely
improved viticulture, winemakers—and, in
turn, consumers—are reaping the rewards
of strategic experimentation.
Blending makes perfect empirical
sense. Jorge Perez—national sales manager
for T. Edward Wines, which imports highly
regarded blends from Altair, Quebrada de
Macul (Alba de Domus) and Antiyul—com-
pares making single-varietal wine to “asking
a chef to cook with one ingredient.”
Several factors make blending in
Chile especially fresh and exciting.
While the country enjoys the plethora
of quality Rhône and Bordeaux grapes,
neither appellation requirements nor
tradition compel producers to follow
those formulas—opening the door to
more creative combinations. Perhaps even
more important: Carmenere, Chilean’s
rediscovered red grape, is a wild card.
Late to ripen and prone to exhibit a green
character, varietal Carmenere bottlings
can be a challenge. But in hands of
winemakers looking to create distinctive
blends, Carmenere is not unlike a chef’s
secret spice. (Interestingly, at last
year’s “Tapestry of Terroir”
tasting stage by Wines of Chile, the number
of Carmenere blends outnumbered the
varietal Carmeneres, 44 to 30.)
One Chilean winemaker with an
interesting perspective on blending is
Rodrigo Soto, who has worked all over
Chile and recently returned from a multi-
year stint at Benziger in Sonoma. Now, as
chief winemaker for Huneeus Vintners, he
crafts blends for the Veramonte, Primus
and Neyen labels. “Chileans have always
been very conservative and academic—
focused on stand-alone Cabernet, Merlot,
Carmenere, etc.,” says Soto. “California
is much less conventional, and they are
more open to utilizing all of the elements
available. That is what we are trying to do
with blends. You need flexibility to make
more complete, interesting wine. That was
original concept in Europe, too.”
Pricing in Synch with
Quality
Not surprisingly, blends are becoming espe-
cially prominent among many brand new
wines reaching the U.S. from Chile. Chalk
it up to the category heating up, and to
Chileans becoming more strategic in vine-
yard and product development.
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF WINES OF CHILE
RED HOT
Chile’s palette of grapes inspires
the
ART OF BLENDING
and yields red winners at
multiple price points
BY W. R. TISH
Nielsen reports that
for 2012, the red
blend category was
up 5.1% in value—a
stronger showing than
any varietal wine except Moscato.
While domestic wines are driving
the category and imported examples
were flat in 2012 overall, a fourth
quarter surge suggests a shift in
momentum. Chilean red blends were
up 18.9% in value and 13% in volume
in the final 13 weeks of 2012, com-
pared to the same period in 2011.
RED
BLENDS
SIZZLE
Historic Santa Rita cellars
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