Chile No Longer Translates to Cheap Wine

Where once they were classified as “value” wines, the wines of Chile now available in North America are completely blowing away their cheap wine image.

Sure, there are the $12 carmenére’s – cheap by BC standards – but there is far more selection in the premium category, as well as super premium.

This realization hit me last week at a tasting at the new offices of Icon Wines and Spirits. We got a tour of the Lapostolle range from Canadian director Javier Santos and were delighted with the wine’s quality.

“French winemaking, but Chilean by birth,” is how Santos described the company.

Lapostolle used to be Casa Lapostolle, and it appears that change came somewhere around 2006. The Santa Cruz-based winery was founded in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle. That’s Marnier of the Grand Marnier family.javier santos, tastingroomconfidential.com

Entry Level Casa

The Casa part of Casa Lapostolle seems to have been relegated to the entry level range.

We tried the 2012 Casa Sauvignon Blanc, which is crisp and fresh with tropical fruit, gooseberry and a savory note of jalepeno pepper. $19 Private.

The 2011 Casa Cabernet Sauvignon is 86% cabernet 7% carmenére 3% merlot. It’s dense and muscular but has excellent balance and a decidedly carmenére finish. $19. Private

Premium Cuvée Alexandre

Wines from the Alexandre vineyards are all certified organic as of 2011, Santos says. Cuvée Alexandre is the mid-level label.

2010 Cuvée Alexandre Syrah is opaque in color and hefty in body. Super ripe fruit with notes of cocoa, it has good complexity, velvety tannins and a persistent finish. $28 Special.

2011 Cuvée Alexandre Merlot was quite elegant, even with it’s big body. Juicy with black and red fruit, and long in the finish. $28 BCLS

New Canto de Apalta

Canto de Apalta is a new label of blends dominated by carmenére.

2011 Canto de Apalta is the second vintage with a blend of 36% carmenére, 31% merlot, 18% cabernet and 15% syrah. It’s medium bodied and elegant with a round palate of spicy fruit. Impressive. $25 Special.

Clos Apalta

Clos Apalta is Lapostolle’s top tier production.

The 2009 Clos Apalta blend is 78% carmenére, 19% cabernet, 3% petite verdot. The brochure introduced this wine as “Round packed attack followed by…” and it did indeed have a packed attack on the palate. Super complex with layers of fruit and spice and chocolate, and with that perfume on the nose, it was something to relish. I did not want to dump it out. $99

“Every year the wines keep getting better,” Santos said, “It all about the perception.”

So true. I will never think of wines of Chile as being cheap again.

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Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Studio.com. Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.