November 18, 2008
Each year, Wine Spectator makes a list of the 100 most exciting wines of the year. This year, the winner is a Chilean wine! Chilean wines, especially the red ones, are world renowned because of their quality and attractive prices. In the last few years, Chilean wines have been spotted among the top 10, but this is the first time a Chilean wine tops the list as the best one.
The winner, Casa Lapostolle’s Clos Apalta 2005, is a vintage wine made of a blend of Merlot (26%), Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), aromatic Petit Verdot (4%) and Chilean distinctive Carmenère (42%). This blend was originally made in Bordeaux, France. However, in 1867 a plague attacked all the vineyards in Europe, and Carmenère – the Bordeaux variety hardest to grow – virtually disappeared. At least that was what people thought.
Chile has a long history of wine production. Because of the wonderful dry Mediterranean climate in its central valley, the conquistadors realized they could bring wine grapes to Chile and began to produce wine around Santiago. It wasn’t a particularly good wine, partly because it was made for use in the Mass. However in the 19th century, Chile adopted France as a role model (you can experience the French feeling in Chile looking at some interesting architectural corners in Santiago and around the vineyards). Because of the French connection, Chile changed its production of wine. They imported cuttings from Bordeaux, and among them they brought Carmenère. Without knowing, Chilean producers continued to grow this wine grape thinking it was Merlot. Only in 1994 a French specialist confirmed that it was Carmenère! Since then, this lost grape has become a staple among Chilean wines. I personally believe Carmenère is the most interesting wine from Chile since it has a unique and very intriguing flavor. So, it doesn’t surprise me that the most exciting wine in the world has Carmenère as its main grape!
The year 2005 was particularly good for every Chilean wine!