Errazuriz beat out Chateaux Haut-Brion, Lafite-Rothschild & Opus One.
I’m on my way to Chile with a group of Wine-Knows. One of the first things I intend to discuss with the group is the findings of a blind tasting by 100 of New York’s top wine critics, sommeliers and retailers. It was like the “shot heard round the world,” but, not terribly surprising since Chile has really upped its quality game in the last ten years. The country is producing some world-class wines.
In an experiment similar to the famous Judgement of Paris in which California wines were blind tasted against the best of France (and won!), Chile conducted a similar tasting against some of France, Italy, & American's super-star reds. Chile beat out Bordeaux’s highly revered Chateau Haut-Brion, as well as Chateau Lafite-Rotchild (both of which sell for $500 more). It also beat out Tuscany’s most famous wine, Sassicaia, the price of which also exceeds Chile’s champion. The victor, as well, beat out California’s cult classic, Opus One.
The wine that took this tasting by storm was Errazuriz’s Kai. Not cheap by Chilean standards, it sells for < $150 per bottle in the US. Another surprise is that it’s made from a little known Bordeaux grape, Carmenere. Ironically, very little of this varietal remains in Bordeaux today as the phylloxera bug wiped most of it out in the late 19th century. Chile’s Carmenere was thought to be Merlot for many years until DNA analysis showed it to be the “lost” varietal from Bordeaux.
Out of the Top Ten wines in the Big Apple's blind tasting, Chile placed not only first, but also 4th, 6th and 9th. (Amazingly, the 4th and 6th slot winners were both produced by Errazuriz). The Chilean winners are all available online but sell for >$100 per bottle. If, however, you’re looking for a less costly but very well-crafted Chilean wine you should try Purple Angel by Montes ($60-70; Costco for $50’s). It’s made from mostly Carmenere so you could kill two birds with one stone: taste a superlative wine, and begin exercising your Carmenere muscle.