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Chile, Part 2: Recommended Wines That Are Easy to Like, Easy on Your Pocketbook

by Sharon Kapnick

(Part One — Chile Is Hot: Good-Value, Familiar-Varietal Wines Grab Consumers’ Attention)

Many Chilean wines are distinguished by good quality and notable value. Here are six wineries that offer both. Some are among Chiles best-known wineries, others are exciting newer ventures (also see Great Everyday Wines at Great Prices: Wine Producers to Rely On for Concha y Toro).

RECOMMENDED VINTAGES: 2005, 2006 and 2007 are considered to be outstanding; 2008, very good to outstanding. The PRICES given are suggested retail. Youll probably be able to find the wines for considerably less (and occasionally more) money.

Lapostolle wines are made by the family responsible for the liqueur Grand Marnier and Chteau de Sancerre in the Loire, hence the winerys slogan Chilean by nature, French by design. Lapostolle (formerly Casa Lapostolle) was co-founded, with the Chilean Rabat family, in 1994 by Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle, the great-granddaughter of Grand Marniers founder, and her husband Cyril de Bournet. They searched worldwide before deciding to settle in Chile, where they had a coup de coeur — i.e., fell hard — for the Apalta area of the Colchagua Valley, believing it had enormous potential for great wines.

And they were right. Thanks in part to Apalta, 2008 was a banner year for Lapostolle. In December its top-of-the-line 2005 Clos Apalta — a blend of Carmenre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot — was designated Wine of the Year by the influential Wine Spectator magazine. This is the first time a Chilean wine received this sought-after award. And Lapostolle was named Wine Enthusiasts New World Winery of the Year.

Clos Apalta has been well received since its debut, but Lapostolles entry-level Casa wines — Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon — regularly get good ratings too. Part of the credit is due to renowned consulting enologist Michel Rolland, who has played a vital advisory role from the start. Rolland is involved in all aspects of winemaking, from the vineyard to the vinification process.

The winery adheres to organic and biodynamic practices — it expects to be certified organic in 2010 — and was recently declared carbon neutral.

Casa Chardonnay Casablanca Valley 2008, $13: Fresh, good acidity, well balanced; Aromas and flavors: Tropical fruit, citrus, apple, melon and spice from oak aging

Casa Merlot Rapel Valley 2007, $13: Soft tannins, medium body; Aromas and flavors: Black cherry, blackberry, red fruit, spice and herbs

Los Vascos dates back to circa 1750, when the Echenique family, of Basque origin, planted their first vineyards. In 1988 Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), producers of Bordeauxs first-growth Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, partnered with them and became co-owners of Los Vascos. We chose the place for its unique location and land, claims Baron Eric de Rothschild, who especially liked its site near the ocean, its outstanding soil for vineyards and its ideal climate.

A team of winemakers from Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) is at the helm. Its no surprise, then, that Los Vascoss best wines have been compared to Lafites. Although Los Vascos is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet blends, it currently also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and a Cabernet ros. The vineyard has some 15-year old plots and some 40-to-50-year-old plots; the oldest grapevines are 70 years old.

While its top-of-the-line Grande Rserve and Le Dix are complex and elegant, its entry-level wines have appealing character. Los Vascos is another successful blend of Old World expertise at a New World winery.

Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley 2008, $12: Crisp, light bodied; Aromas and flavors: Lemon, lime, grapefruit, pineapple and passion fruit

Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley 2007, $12: Fresh, good acidity, elegant tannins; Aromas and flavors: Red cherry, raspberry, plumy, redcurrant, red berries and spice

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