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#12 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2008
Don Melchor was hailed the best Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile by both the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker. Named after the founder of the winery, Don Melchor de Concha y Toro, the wine has become a symbol of the best the land and the winemaker's hand can produce in Chile.
The Puente Alto Vineyard in the Maipo Valley has the perfect combination of climate and soils for producing world-class wine: the climate is ideal and predictable, and the soil is poor and gravelly to reduce yields and increase concentration naturally. After fermentation, the wine is matured in the finest French oak barriques for 14 months, followed by another year in the bottle before release.
Ripe fleshy fruit and berries lead off this highly aromatic wine. Later, the tobacco and chocolate come through and marry with the vanilla. Agreeable, mature tannins elegantly convey the best expression of the Puente Alto vines. The pleasant, long finish displays great harmony and balance.
"Still very tight, but the tannins that lead the way now are sleek and refined and should easily meld into the huge core of roasted chestnut, black currant paste, warm fig and tar. Has a long, coffee- and loam-tinged finish. Best from 2009 through 2019." 96 Points,
"Inky purple hue. Heady, perfumed scents of maple, cinnamon and blackberry. Juicy, velvety berry fruit explodes on the palate with continued sweet maple flavorings. Tart on a spicy close with focused red and black fruit and silky tannin impressions." 95 Points
The Wine News
The 2005 Don Melchor was cropped from an almost perfect year, when the grapes were picked between April 11 and May 19 in a slightly warmer year that provided powerful wines. The bottled wine was Cabernet Sauvignon with some 3% Cabernet Franc and had been matured in French oak barrels for 15 months, with 70% new barrels and the rest second use. Somehow this vintage had never been rated before, and I'm glad I did because it's a very good year, with average rain and not so high temperature, with a combination of power and finesse, notes of ash, earth, red and black fruit and a powerful palate. You see more the hand of a good winemaker here; there is very good balance, quality of tannins and freshness. This has balance, finesse and energy. It's evolving at a very slow pace, and it should continue aging forever in bottle.
A source of reliable, budget-friendly wines and, increasingly, more premium bottlings...
A source of reliable, budget-friendly wines and, increasingly, more premium bottlings, Chile is one of South America’s most important wine-producing countries. Long and thin, it is largely isolated geographically, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders gave Chile the very favorable benefit of being the only country to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s. As a result, vines can be planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted. Though viticulture was introduced to the country by conquistadors from Spain, today Chile’s wine production is most influenced by the French, who emigrated here in large numbers to escape the blight of phylloxera. These settlers have invested heavily in local vineyards and wineries.
Chile’s vineyards, planted mainly with international varieties, vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt current to produce cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on light-bodied Pinot Noir and cool-climate whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó, and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata, excellent cool-climate Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are made.
Dark, full-bodied, and herbaceous with a spicy kick...
Dark, full-bodied, and herbaceous with a spicy kick, Carménère has found great success in Chile, far from its birthplace of Bordeaux. Although Carménère once accompanied Malbec and Petit Verdot as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux, it is now virtually extinct there, though it has been thriving since the mid-nineteenth century in Chile. Originally mistaken for Merlot, it is now successful of its own accord and plantings continue to increase. It is bottled both on its own and as part of Bordeaux-inspired blends.
In the Glass
If not fully ripe, Carménère is often marked by a green, herbaceous character (think green bell pepper and green peppercorn), and expresses flavors of red berry and black pepper when just ripe. With additional hangtime at the end of harvest, it is reminiscent more of blackberry, blueberry, and dark plum, with rich and savory notes of chocolate, coffee, smoke, and soy sauce.
Carménère can easily overpower lighter fare, but makes a great match for a hearty steak or barbecued red meat. It can also work well with white meat when prepared with a richer sauce such as mole.
Perhaps Carménère’s herbal character can be explained in part by familial relations—due to the strange nature of grapevine breeding, Carménère is both a progeny and a great-grandchild of the similarly flavored Cabernet Franc.