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

Only one Gold-listed wine was a disappointment, but overall this was still a decent showing for Chile, with a lot of positive feedback from the tasters

As the New World’s biggest exponent of Bordeaux blends in the Sommelier Wine Awards, it’s no surprise to see Chile dominating this category in terms of overall medals received. Its 16 medals were almost as many as the next two biggest players, Australia and South Africa, combined.

But while there are signs of progress for Chile, with a higher ratio of Silvers to Bronzes compared with last year, there will surely also be disappointment that there was (again) just the one Gold-Listed wine. Although the Cousino Macul Finis Terrae (described as a ‘well-priced alternative to Bordeaux’) was within a whisker of picking up Gold as well, narrowly being bumped by other New World competitors in the final stages.

This inability to have a more sizable presence on the Gold List must be all the more galling for the Chileans because the overall feedback from the tasters was extremely positive. The country was praised for its value for money, its good varietal expression and the fineness and integration of the tannins.

Moreover, there were medals from Aconcagua down to Maule and even for Leyda, which you might think would be too cool for Cab. Is there anywhere in Chile that they can’t make a success of the Bordeaux varieties?

‘There was ripeness of fruit, but the wines were refreshing, too,’ said consultant Richard Bampfield MW. ‘What was really impressive was that as you went up the price scale, the intensity and quality increased.’

Three or four other tasters made exactly the same point, and the result was a heartening willingness to award medals to pricier wines. Last year, Chile’s most expensive medal-winning wine was, incredibly, barely over £8. This year more than half of the medals were over that price. It’s proof, perhaps, that sommeliers are starting to see Chile as more than merely a producer of ‘just above entry-level’ Cabernet.

The most impressive performance came from Maipo, with wines that showed elegance, balance and, crucially, typicity. ‘I liked the mint flavour, the red fruit and the easy-drinking style,’ said Hakkasan’s Philippe Moranges. It’s consistent with expectations of the Maipo Valley.’

For all the optimism surrounding Maipo and higher-priced wines, the sole Gold-Listed wine was a cheapie from the Rapel Valley, which performed brilliantly in the arena that has made Chile famous. ‘You can’t really ignore the price point. At that quality, it’s a no-brainer and a perfect wine By the Glass or by the bottle,’ said The Vineyard Group’s James Hocking.

‘I like the intensity of the red cherry fruit,’ added Gergely Barsi Szabó of Borough Wines. ‘And we’re talking about a wine below £30 on a list.’

‘There were fine and integrated tannins throughout. The price differential from top to bottom is small, but the jump from cheapest to most expensive in quality is very high.’ Roberto Loppi, Hakkasan

‘These were really very good value. They are well made and you have to say they are in fashion: customers see Chilean wines in a wine shop or supermarket and they want them when they go out, too.’ Sara Bachiorri, The Glasshouse