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Decanter magazine calls Chile a ‘wine nation that offers value at all levels’ with Sauvignon a star

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Decanter magazine did a poll a couple of years ago in which it asked readers to rank wine nations by quality vs value for money. It made for fascinating reading.

Well, it did to terminal wine bores like me, at least. Spain came in second (a shock, and a fiver lost) France eighth (sounds about right) and the US 18th, but then a bottle of Screaming Eagle does cost more than a deposit on a house in Wootton Road these days. The winner? Chile, a ‘wine nation that offers value at all levels’, a review that the following bears out.

New World Sauvignon Blanc can be a tricky wine. I’ve had ones from New Zealand that have so much residual sugar squirrelled away behind the zesty acidity that you wonder if they’re aimed at children, to ones that are so dry it’s surprising they are still liquids. Chile’s Sauvignons are remarkably consistent though and tend to offer fruit-driven wines that are dry and well-balanced.

Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2020.
Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

A great example is the Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (Majestic £8.99). Fresh, clean, and tangy, the focus is on the fruit, and it delivers plenty of grapefruit, green apple, and lime with touches of green pepper and savoury blackcurrant leaves.

Another stunningly good Chilean white is the Cono Sur Riesling (Tesco £6). Chile seems to like Riesling almost as much as I do, and this bone-dry offering has lovely notes of apples, pears, and watermelon underpinned by tones of blossom and tight, restraining citrus acidity. Put this with barbecued poultry and you have a match made in heaven. And so, to the reds. No mention of Chilean reds is complete without a Carmenere recommendation.

Carmenere is a fine grape that was once popular in Bordeaux but given its tendency to rot after a drop of rain, it’s all but disappeared. In Chile with its dry, high-altitude vineyards it thrives and gives such jolly little wines as imaginatively named, The Best Chilean Carmenere (Morrisons £6). Plump, juicy damson and black cherry tones, a touch of jam, and a hint of spice make this an easy-to-love, affordable glassful.

Koyle Cerro Basalto Garnatxa 2019.
Koyle Cerro Basalto Garnatxa 2019.

To finish with a mighty flourish, we have the Koyle Cerro Basalto Garnatxa 2019 (The Wine Society £14.95).

This is the definition of an affordable fine wine. Garnatxa (Grenache to you and me) can be sweet, oily, one-dimensional, and dull as last night’s dishwater if not shown respect. The care lavished on this wine shines through.

It’s medium-bodied, complex, and packed with notes of everything from red cherries and chocolate to raspberries and herbs, all tied together harmoniously by gentle strawberry acidity. It’s brilliant on its own and even better with things like roasted goats’ cheese or spring lamb.

Next time out I’ll be looking at Jubilee celebration English fizz. Long may it reign.

Giles Luckett

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