Chile has a long viticultural history for a New World wine region dating to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. In the mid-19th century, French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Cabernet Franc were introduced. In the early 1980s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Reasons for this sudden expansion varies, but all are essential to understanding Chilean wine culture. The largest factor, and arguably most prominent, relates to the large amount of French families immigrating to Chile during the late 20th century. The French were able to share their fine tastes and experience with the native Chileans, expanding their knowledge of the wine world. Chile is now the fifth largest exporter of wines in the world, and the ninth largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère.
- Item #: i_378147Bottle Size: 750mlJames Suckling: 100If you're looking for one of the finest densely-packed Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines in the spirit of Bordeaux and Napa greats, look no further than the recently arrived 2017 Almaviva! This is a wine that regularly makes it onto top wine lists (the previous vintage was on Wine Spectators' top 10 for 2019), and this vintage will be no exception. In fact, James Suckling gave it a perfect score! As you can see, this is no fruit bomb, but excites the palate and the imagination with brambly vine-fruit accompanied by classic herbal and mineral qualities.
JAMES SUCKLING 100 POINTS - "The aromas of blackberry leaves and iodine are wild and exotic here with mussel shells and earth underneath. Full-bodied, tight and chewy with powerful tannins that show muscle. It's structured and powerful. Dense and very, very deep. Don't touch this until 2025."
Since 1998 Almaviva has been the sole wine of the Almaviva winery in Chile, just as the flagship wines of Bordeaux are known by the name of the chateau, and is a collaboration between the famous Baron Philippe de Rothschild company and the Chilean powerhouse Concha y Toro (it's named for the character Count Almaviva in the French play by Beaumarchais, The Marriage of Figaro, which Mozart famously made into an opera).
The complex flavors and textures of Almaviva are built by blending separately-vinified Cabernet Sauvignon with a significant amount of Carmenere, followed by small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot, and then by aging in French oak barrels for 19 months, which promotes a more elegant mouthfeel and adds subtle spices. This was a warmer growing season than 2016, resulting in a slightly softer and rounder mouthfeel, which means it's a little more approachable. Nevertheless, like most great wines, this is one that will reward patient cellaring as it unwinds and grows in complexity and elegance through the years, though with a long time in the decanter and a great meal, you can always enjoy it earlier!
- Item #: i_381046Bottle Size: 750mlWine Advocate: 96James Suckling: 99Tucked away in a broad, dramatic amphitheater of the Aconcagua river valley in Chile, an organic and biodynamically farmed vineyard belonging to the Vina Errazuriz winery forms the foundation for a wine that feels equally broad and dramatic. This now-iconic wine was named Sena for the "signal" its creators wanted to send to the world that Chile was capable of making more than value table wine. It's a tapestry of Bordeaux varieties, driven by Cabernet Sauvignon with the details and accents of South American favorites Malbec and Carmenere, and hints from Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Luxury wine drinkers will appreciate the attention to detail that goes into crafting Sena, which owes much to two big names of Napa and Bordeaux. The wine began as a collaboration between Eduardo Chadwick of this family-run winery, which goes back to 1870, and Napa icon Robert Mondavi, along with the help of internationally renowned Bordeaux specialist, Michel Rolland. The result is a wine that has reached the heights of critical acclaim, and will satisfy fans of concentrated Napa Valley reds, super-Tuscans, and modern Bordeaux. Even better, this sunny, semi-Mediterranean land offers their best at a value compared to the ever-increasing prices of those other regions!
JAMES SUCKLING 99 POINTS - "The aromas of blackberries, cedar, sandalwood and black tea are compelling. Black olives. Rosemary and sage undertones. Full-bodied, rich and powerful Seña with impressive and powerful tannins, yet harmony and balance. Fruit-forward. Lightly chewy. Fresh and energetic wine in a hot year. Broad-shouldered."
WINE ADVOCATE 96 POINTS - "They explained how the 2017 Seña was produced with "grapes that were handpicked in the morning and transported to the winery in 12-kilogram boxes for a careful inspection on a double sorting table. The grapes fermented in stainless steel tanks at 25 to 31 degrees Celsius (77 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit), depending on the variety and the level of extraction desired. Three pump-overs were carried out daily during fermentation to rotate the volume of the tank 0.5 to 1.5 times. Total maceration time ranged from 15 to 30 days for the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Carmenère and eight to 12 days for the Petit Verdot, according to the development of each block vinified. The final blend was racked to French oak barrels (67% new) and aged for 22 months, during which time malolactic fermentation and stabilization occurred naturally." They harvested early and managed to keep the same alcohol level as the 2016. This has less aromatic exuberance and is a more serious vintage with good concentration and weight, not as aerial as the 2016. They increased the amount of wine matured in larger 2,500-liter foudres instead of barrique. This is more powerful, structured and concentrated, like a drier version of the 2015, with some grainy tannins, more acidity, more austerity and less primary fruit. The tannins have some grip (the earlier harvest perhaps?) and might need a little bit of time in bottle, and the wine seems to have what it takes to develop nicely in bottle.