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Wine Review - Los Vascos Chilean Wines

Reviewed by: Jennifer Giglio

For some lover's of American wines Chilean wine is not exactly thought of as hot tamale. Often these wines are snubbed for a costly California Cabernet or the wine of the moment, Merlot. The upside to being undiscovered is most obviously price. Chilean wines are a good value asking only $8-$20 per bottle. Most wine merchants have created a small Chilean wine section normally situated alongside other up in comers, like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. These countries all produce high quality varietals that traditionally have seen wider distribution in Europe. As the say in Chile, "Se le cayo´ el cassette." (Or in English," To let the cat out of the bag.")

The palates of American wine connoisseurs are slowly discovering Chile as a promising, emerging wine region. Chile has ideal climate conditions for growing grapes: perfect humidity and long dry summers. It succeeds in producing consistent vintages from year to year. Over all five wine regions, Cabernet is King. It is by far the most planted and produced grape in the country; Chardonnay accounts for a mere 20% of the plantings.

If you're keen on Cabernets take your already peaked interest to your local wine vendor. Resist the urge to visit the Golden State section, and head toward Chile. While your browsing about, look for Los Vascos. In my humble opinion, it is the chief of Chilean Cabernets. It's magic, magnificent and modestly priced. I first spotted Los Vascos, sitting on the shelf in a Hell's Kitchen Bodega. Only having $10.00 on me at the moment, Los Vascos was a find at $8.99. I was amazed at the quality of wine I received for the amount of money I spent. I relished in my findings with each savory sip. With each tasting the wine seemed more familiar and friendly. It was a half a bottle later, when I realized that this Cabernet was really Bordeaux in disguise.

Glancing at this accrue colored label, I noticed the name Rothschild staring back at me. Certainly, this famed last name was placed mistakenly on the bottle. Wasting no time at all, I did what any computer inclined, Internet loving, twenty-something would do, I went on-line. www.google.com yielded exactly the result I was searching for, the Los Vascos homepage. Sure enough, there was no mistake.

In 1988, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) sought to expand their estate by way of Latin America. The name Rothschild carries much weight in the Bordeaux arena, as it is one of the five premier first growth grand crus. After an exhaustive search, they were most impressed with the over 250 year old Los Vascos Vineyard, located in the Colchagua Valley. They purchased 50% of the land, and the deal became the 1st major wine venture in Chile.

This capital investment gave rise to the modernization of the entire winery. The grapes are produced with winemaking techniques used in Bordeaux. The staff of Lafite is on hand at harvest time in late March. They supervise the viniculture, harvest, maceration, and aging process. Cabernets are kept in stainless steel vats to preserve the fruit. Afterwards, they are bottled very quickly to insure freshness and aroma. Approximately 300,000 cases are produced per year.

There's no doubt, this winery is a winner. Both the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon and the Reserve are best bets. The Cabernet nominated for best supporting role, and the Reserve for best actor. Each of these fine selections shares similar characteristics in: nose, color, taste, and weight. Immediately after uncorking, one is overwhelmed with aromas of cassis and tobacco. These wines have an intense ruby color and seem to shine in the right glass. They have a strong berry and tannic taste. Allow the wine to breath for several minutes to calm some of the tannins. In the mouth, they are lush and full, without a heaviness that traditionally defines the California Cabernet. Their finish is silky and somewhat smooth.

In summary, good breeding, good story, and good economics. Served at your next dinner party, it's sure to be a hit. Introduced to your wine connoisseur friend and they'll be impressed. Stock and save a few bottles at home, just in case you have "company". Look to pay $8.99 to $10.99 for the Cabernet and $14.99 for the Reserve.