Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Icon Wines: Old and New -- A Guild of Sommeliers and Wines of Chile Tasting

A tasting co-produced by the Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation and the Wines of Chile, and titled The Real Deal in Chile, was held at the Downtown-Fort-Lauderdale location of Morton's Steak House on April 26th.  The tasting was presented in two flights of six wines each -- Undiscovered Gems of Chile and Icon Wines: Old and New -- and was led by Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier and Wines of Chile Educator.  I reported on the first flight in a previous post and will cover the "Icons" flight here.  The Icon flight featured 6 wines from three producers: Santa Rita Casa Real (2005, 1998); Concha y Toro Don Melchor (2006, 2000); and Los Vascos Le Dix (2006, 2000).

The Casa Real is a "super-premium" wine which is only produced in years of "exceptional" vintages.  The vineyards are located south of Santiago in the Maipo Valley at elevations varying between 1200 and 1500 feet.  The climate is Mediterranean with 350 to 450 mm of rain annually and thermal oscillation in excess of 68 degrees.  The soil is a combination of riverine deposits and eroded rock.  The grapes are sourced from 50-year-old vines and are hand-picked and double-selected.  The fermentation process includes a 10-day cold soak followed by a 12-day oak-vat fermentation and 15-day post-fermentation maceration.  Malolactic fermentation occurs in new French oak barrels where the wine matures for 16 months prior to bottling.

The 2005 Santa Rita Casa Real is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with 14.5% abv.  This wine exhibited rich, ripe black fruit and wet stones on the nose.  On the palate it was all primary fruit and oak, with a hint of spiciness.  The 1998 -- also 100% Cabernet Sauvignon -- was markedly different and presented tasters with the opportunity for a classic old/new comparison.  This wine showed browning and orange tones in the glass and secondary characteristics on the nose to include a green note, richness, leather, and dried fruit.  The oak has become better integrated into the wine and the fruit is toned down.  On the palate the wine is round, balanced, rich, and soft.

The second "Icon" considered was the Concha y Toro Don Melchor.  As is the case for the Santa Rita Casa Real, the Don Melchor grapes are grown in the Maipo Valley and on similar soil.  The winery contends, however, that its proximity to the Maipo Canyon renders its vineyards the coolest in the region.  The Don Melchor vineyard consists of contiguous sub-divided plots with each of the six Cabernet Sauvignon blocks having its own distinctive style.  The vineyard is also home to 7 hectares of Cabernet Franc vines.
The Don Melchor 2006 was tasted first.  This wine, a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc, had a deep, extracted color in the glass and black fruit, oak, dankness, and green notes on the nose.  A cool refreshingness on the palate accompanies medium acidity and ripe fruit.  The wine is rich and creamy with soft tannins.  The Don Melchor 2000 (similar blend as for the 2006) threw off tar, asphalt, and eucalyptus on the nose.  On the palate a mintiness and sour eucalyptus.  Good balance with a hint of salt accompanying a long finish.  McNamara thought that this wine had some closed characteristics.
The third producer in this flight was Los Vascos, a Lafite operation in Chile's Colchagua Valley.  The associated wine, Le Dix, is only made in good years and, according to Lafite, was introduced to commemorate its 10 years of work in Chile.  According to Nick Passamore, writing in Forbes, Le Dix is a stylish wine of great depth and character, qualities resulting from: (i) the Lafite technical staff supervising the end-to-end winemaking process; (ii) >50-year-old vines with reduced yields; (iii) classic Bordeaux vinification methods; and (iv) rigorous barrel selection.
The vineyard, a single, 500-hectare plot, is the largest vineyard in the central Colchagua Valley.  It rests on volcanic sandy clay and granitic soils.  Grapes for Le Dix are sourced from a parcel called "El Fraile" that is home to 70-year-old vines.
The 2006 edition of this wine was 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Carmenere, and 7% Syrah.  It had 14% abv and was aged for 18 months in new French oak and 15 months in bottle.  The wine is redolent with black fruit and vanilla.  The 2000 version of the wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that had been subjected to the same aging regime as the 2006.  On the nose stewed, overripe fruit, sweet baking spices, vegetality in the form of green beans and eucalyptus, and saddle leather.  The MSs talked of a hint of Brett. On the palate, dark ripe fruit, unbalanced, and a retiring finish.  Drink now.

This tasting was thoughtfully organized and impeccably executed.  It was organized to take the attendees up the ladder -- from unknown (undiscovered gems) to known (Icons) wines and then through a temporal shift (new Icons versus old).  It was artistic in its conception and was much appreciated by the roomful of aspiring Master Sommeliers.


  1. Thanks for these posts! Just somehow dug them up! Very thoughtful and thorough! Fred Dex MS!

  2. You did a great job leading the event. Thanks for the kind words.