By now, most wine lovers know Chile as a source for excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Those paying closer attention also realize that there is terrific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reaching our shores from Chile. That, however, is just the entrée into the remarkable diversity and quality that Chile offers, often at outstanding price-points that will make you take note. Among the reasons that so many diverse grapes flourish in Chile is the regional diversity. Whether we’re talking about valley floors, mountain ranges or vineyards influenced by ocean breezes, Chile has them all — and more.
One of the things that particularly struck me when I was down in Chile was the number of aromatic white wines being produced by some wineries. Sometimes, they were small production items for larger wineries; in other cases, part of their main line of wines. The bottom line is that there are many wines in this general category worth both the time and money of interested wine lovers. With that in mind, I sat down and tasted some offerings that fit the grouping, and selected three standouts to look at.
First up is the Cono Sur 2012 Bicicleta Viognier. This wine was produced using hand-harvested fruit from the Colchagua region of Chile. It is a 100 percent varietal wine. Fermentation was accomplished in stainless steel tanks followed by eight months of aging. This wine most often sells for right around $10. Apricots, Lychee fruit and hints of white pepper all but explode from the nose of this Viognier. Peach and apricot star on the light palate that practically bounces on the tongue with enticing fruity goodness. Lemon zest, minerals and continues spice make up the finish, which has nice length. This is a crisp and refreshing wine that is vibrant and alive; if it could speak it would scream summer. I taste a lot of wine every week and there are those that — even though I like them a lot — I can put down easily. This Viognier from Cono Sur was not one of those. It is so mellifluous and engaging that I was compelled to keep drinking it
The Meli 2011 Riesling was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the Maule region. The fruit for this wine is 100 percent Riesling and was entirely hand-harvested. Fermentation took place over two weeks in stainless steel tanks. This offering most often sells for right around $12. White flower and stone fruit aromas abound on the nose of this Riesling. The palate is gentle and layered with continued stone fruit joined by spice and almond characteristics. The finish shows off tiny touches of mesquite honey and petrol. This is a perfectly dry, remarkably crisp wine that’s delicious on its own, and also paired with lighter foods.
Finally, we have the Anakena 2011 ONA White Blend. This offering combines Riesling (43 percent), Chardonnay (42 percent), and Viognier (15 percent). The fruit was sourced at the winery’s Las Brisas Vineyard in Leyda Valley. After fermentation, this wine was barrel-aged for approximately nine months. This wine most often sells for right around $15. Golden delicious apple, lemon and Lychee fruit aromas are present on the nose of this blend from Anakena. The palate is loaded with flavors that are simultaneously diverse and harmonious in their cohesion. Peach, apricot, bits of lemon zest and hints of orchard fruit are all present, along with spices galore. Bits of Granny Smith apple and green herb emerge on the finish, which is crisp, clean and pleasing. This wine grabs you and makes you reach back for sip after delicious sip.
With the warm weather months here I find myself reaching for white wine more often than not. In fact, I generally always have a few bottles chilled, whether it’s to pair with the lighter foods of summer or simply to sip on my deck. There is something about the warmth of the season that brings out my desire to drink whites far more often than at other times of the year. These three wines from Chile are perfectly suited for drinking all summer. They’re aromatic, refreshing and loaded with character. Each of them also represents an excellent value. I heartily recommend them and hope they’re a jumping off point for the exploration of the bounty that Chile offers in diverse, well-made, fantastically priced, aromatic white wines. There is no end to the diversity that Chile offers; even these wines are from three unique regions. The more of Chile you taste, the more impressed you’re bound to be.