I have been a fan of Chilean wines for many years… I often relate a funny story that happened way back in 1989 and cemented my admiration for Chile’s wonderful wines.

I was at a blind tasting that featured a collection of Cabernet Sauvignon from important regions around the world. Part of the exercise was to demonstrate that not just Bordeaux owned the bragging rights to producing fine Cabernet-based wines. The humorous part of the story revolves around the attendance at the tasting of a person who claimed that Bordeaux was “the definitive measuring stick by which all other Cabernets should be judged” and they went so far as to claim that they could” always pick the Bordeaux out of any line-up of Cabernets.” So the gauntlet was thrown down and I sat back to watch the fun unfold.

The group tasted through a nicely-varied flight of six Cabernet-based wines, of which two wines stood out on the list – a Château Montrose from Saint-Estephe and a Los Vascos from the Maipo Valley – primarily because one, the Montrose was a classified growth from Bordeaux and the Los Vascos was a fairly new, very inexpensive wine from a Chilean property owned by the premier Rothchild family. After ninety minutes, the panel was asked to pick their three favorites and, if so inclined offer their guesses as to which wines were which.

Our Francophile attendee who claimed preeminence in being able to identify the Bordeaux wine in such a mixed flight, proudly declared that their favorite was wine #6 and they were absolutely sure that the wine was in fact the Montrose. Much to their astonishment, they became quite hostile when wine #6 was revealed to be in fact the 1988 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon – average bottle price at the time – $4.99 before the discount. I tried to assuage their bruised pride by pointing out the “French” heritage of the wine, given Rothchild’s involvement. Needless to say, that only further amplified their anger, such that they never returned to another tasting… I personally didn’t mind, I hate wine snobs.

Anyway, since that fateful day I have been an avid supporter of Chilean wines, which has not been easy. An acquaintance of mine who is fairly well-placed in the wine industry has always given an unkind moniker to Chilean wines – he calls them “Airline Wines,” presumably meaning that they are insipid, innocuous, but not unpleasant. It’s an unfair stereotype, but understandable given that most Chilean wines are inexpensive and many lack the strong characteristics of European wines.

But I have long said that there is a time and place for every wine. Heck, several years ago I wrote about the ten things that became true to me about wine appreciation over that year and one of my points was: sometimes it’s okay to drink Riunite…

Cono Sur (www.conosur.com) is a young winery in Chile, established in 1993 with a vision, as their website states:

“…of producing premium, expressive and innovative wines that convey the spirit of the New World. Our name refers to the company’s geographic position, representing wines proudly made in South America’s Southern Cone, on whose western edge lies Chile and its gifted wine valleys. Our logo also evokes a freehand drawing of the silhouette of South America.”

Among a number of significant milestones, Cono Sur prides itself on their devotion to sustainability – in 2007 they became the first winery in the world to obtain CarbonNeutral® delivery status for neutralizing their CO2emissions from their product shipments and in 2009 they created a Sustainable Development Area and started using lightweight bottles for Cono Sur and Isla Negra Wines.

I have been buying Cono Sur wines for a few years now – their Riesling from Bio-Bio is a refreshing, light-weight pleasure and their Cabernets are always fresh and approachable.

ConoSurBicycletaCarmenere

I recently picked up the 2011 Carmenere, a part of their “Bicicleta” line and at $7.99 per bottle before the discount, the wine is a tremendous value. The wine is all about fruit and drinkability and does not pretend to be anything that it’s not. Would my acquaintance call this Airline Wine? Probably, but remember, sometimes it’s okay to drink Riunite…

My tasting note:

Bright, fruity nose with fresh currants, cherry and floral hints – Lively. Medium-bodied with moderate acidity and supple, well-integrated tannin – good balance. Ripe, juicy palate with fresh cherry and red berry notes – seductive. Moderate length – smooth and simple finish. Quaffable and not for aging – All around outstanding value!

Cheers!

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