We use cookies to operate this website and to improve its usability. Full details of what cookies are, why we use them and how you can manage them can be found by reading our Privacy & Cookies pages. Please note that by using this site you are consenting to the use of cookies.

Home Winners > Winners 2013 > NEW WORLD: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Bordeaux blends: Chile

Winner Details

New World: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc & Bordeaux blends – Chile

A decent medal haul, plenty of safe wines and good prices, but could they have done better?

If you wanted to send a wine undercover to infiltrate Dr Evil’s underground lair, on this evidence it would be Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. (Eh? Ed). A lot came in, were tasted and left without leaving any impression at all. (Er… where are you going with this? Ed) Their anonymity would make them fantastic superspies. (Ah. Now I get it. You’re fired. Ed)

This can, of course, work in their favour (scientists call it the Pinot Grigio effect). ‘It is very formulaic, tick-box winemaking, but commercially those wines will sell from gastropubs to Michelin-starred restaurants – whether we like them or not,’ said the Vineyard Group’s James Hocking.

All true enough, though it doesn’t make for happy teams of sommelier tasters. Comments ranged from ‘it’s all about winemaking’ and ‘it gives me no impetus to drink it’, to ‘really formulaic’, ‘hugely disappointing’ and ‘all a bit meh’.

There was the odd specific grumble about alcohol levels, but in general there was nothing majorly wrong here – just little to get excited by. Most of them tended to be wines that trimmed the hedge, mowed the lawn, watched Match of the Day and went to bed.

‘The winemakers need to have fewer creases in their jeans,’ mused team leader Simon Woods. ‘If they could learn to relax in their winemaking and the things they see as potential faults – only attack them when they actually turn into faults.’

And yet, where things are done well, there’s a real sense of style allied to the customary ‘good value’ tag. Overall medals might have been slightly down on last year, but the three Golds was the best the country has managed for a couple of years. And Caliterra, in particular, ought to be pleased with its performance.

The biggest disappointment was Maipo. Not only was a Gold and a pair of Silvers and a couple of Bronzes a disappointing performance from what is still Chile’s premier Cabernet region, but tasters weren’t even convinced that they could detect much in the way of a definite regional character either.

In fact, it’s probably this as much as anything that remains the country’s biggest challenge. Very few wines over £10 picked up medals – but that’s largely because very few were sent in. The Chileans themselves seem to be resigned to the fact that ‘approachable, well-priced and generically Chilean’ is their lot in life, and that attempts to branch out beyond this are doomed to failure. We beg to differ.


Caliterra, with Golds at two price points in this highly competitive section to add to a third for its Edición Limitada Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon/Viognier in the Other Reds category.

‘People who drink good Chilean reds at the moment want something they know at £35 a bottle.’
Charles Pashby-Taylor, Dabbous

‘Most of the wines were too pristine – there was no terroir or sense of place.’
Laura Ward, Vivat Bacchus