Thursday, January 5, 2012

Report from ... An Afternoon with Marcelo Papa (Concha y Toro) – October 24, 2011

Heck, I just like the picture ...

I seem to be playing catch-up in the early part of the year ... Yes it’s January 2012 and I’m writing some of my late-year On the Road articles – as you can see I’m a little behind, but better late than never as I like to say.  With that said there are some days you remember better than others and some you get very excited to share with others.  This was one of those days.  A group of press folks were getting a chance to meet and taste wines with Marcelo Papa, he is the winemaker behind the “super premium” Marques de Casa Concha label from Concha y Toro.  Marcelo has been heading the Marques label since 1999 and has really raised the bar for these wines and their notoriety … it is truly one of the most consistently good wine values coming out of Chile at the under $20 price point.  Marcelo has quite the resume including 2 winemaker of the year honors from his fellow countrymen (2004 – Chilean Wine Guide; 2008 – Chilean Food and Wine Writers).

Marques Wines …
I’ll start by (re-)introducing you to the Marques de Casa Concha wines – if you have never bought or tried these wines you truly are missing out on some of the best values from Chile:

2008 Syrah ($19.95) – very raspberry throughout with a good tannin backbone and a sour cherry finish. (*** ½+)

2009 Merlot ($19.95) – aged 60% in French and 40% in American oak for 18 months … this wine delivers the juicy, minty, blackberry you expect from Chilean Merlot with a smooth mouth-entry and delicious easy to drink palate. (****+)

2009 Carmenere ($19.95) – the Carmenere has 15% Cabernet Sauvignon added for structure as well as aged 90% in French and 10% in American oaks.  A pretty nose of raspberry, floral, mint, and vanilla spice, all lead to a good mouthfeel and some blackberry, mocha, vanilla flavours on the palate … fresh and delicious. (****+)

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95) – it says Sauvignon on the label, and 94% of it is – the other 6% combine Carmenere, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot into this juicy package.  The nose gives it all up: chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, cassis, blackberry … and it all follows on the palate – a real pleaser of a wine that’s always available as a Vintages Essential (Ontario). (****)
The delicious new Marques Pinot Noir

2010 Pinot Noir ($19.95) – the newest entry into the Marques line is made from relatively young vines, planted in 2006, and has 25% new French oak involved in its 14 month ageing process.  This is a welcome addition to the line as it seems to bridge the gap between the California juicy and the Burgundian earthy-minerality of Pinot.  Juicy cranberry, cherry and strawberry combine with some coffee notes to give this one some focus on both aroma and flavours along with excellent length on the finish. (****+)

A New Line of Wine …
It sure was nice to get re-acquainted with the Marques wines, but the real news isn’t what lies in Concha y Toro’s past – but instead what is in their future.  In 2005 Marcelo took on a new line of wines called Vina Maycas del Limari, these are wines that start their lives as grapes grown in the Limari Valley in the north of Chile, 450km from the Maipo Valley.  Limari is considered a cool climate region within this hot country with foggy mornings and lots of calcium in the sub-soils, this helps to give the wines a different character than those grown to the south.  The vineyards are 18-20km from the coast and, unlike their hotter more southerly vineyards, these grapes see January temps (Chile’s hottest month) of 25C – 12C, maximum to minimum.  According to Marcelo: “the big problem in Chile is too much sun (heat), it’s good for sweet fruit but not good for acidity.”  The Limari Valley help reduce direct sunlight on the grapes with its foggy mornings, a fog that doesn’t relent its cover till between 1-3 in the afternoon.  It was after all this preamble that Marcelo presented these wines (thankfully they are soon to be in the Ontario market).

Maycas del Limari wines …
To call these wines excellent or outstanding just doesn't seem quite appropriate enough to let you know how good these wines really are.  I gave each and every one of these wines (Chardonnay, Cabernet, Syrah), four-and-a-half stars which says a lot about - I also look forward to trying them again for Vintages tastings as they can only get better with more time in bottle.  There are three reasons I am looking forward to seeing these wines in the market:  First, I can’t wait till they hit LCBO shelves so that I can snap up a few bottles, and put them in my cellar to share with friends.  Second, at under $20 they might just be the best quality for value wines you’ll see out of Chile all year.  And three, these just might be the best under-$20 Chilean wines I’ve tried, period.

2009 Chardonnay, Reserva Especial ($19.95 – previously released) – a fresh, clean Chardonnay that delivers on all levels.  Lovely fresh white fruit of peach, pear and apple, there’s also quite a bit of minerality that keeps this wine lively on the palate … great finish with palate cleansing acidity. For a guy who doesn't impress easily with Chardonnay I can tell you I was ... very. (**** ½)

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserva Especial ($19.95 - Feb 4, 2012 Vintages release) – the vineyard for this Cabernet is 45km from the coast, so the afternoon starts a little earlier (as the fog dissipates) which the Cab requires.  The fruit jumps out of the glass: blackberry, cassis, cherry and blueberry – the palate is lively with fruit and an acidic backbone that keeps things from getting jammy … the fruit coats the palate but that acidity keeps it from sticking there.  Rich, supple and tasty.  11% Syrah is also added to the wine.  (**** ½)

2009 Syrah, Reserva Especial ($19.95 - June 9, 2012 Vintages release) – dark fruit and chocolate without being cloying and sticky, this wine has a freshness about it that is not often seen in hot climate shiraz/syrah.  It’s juicy and jammy with tons of flavour in the mouth and those flavours seem to hang on forever, but there’s also a great seam of acidity that washes through the mouth keeping the finish clean and the palate ready for more - it would take more than a bottle to tire the palate out, but the brain might get a little fuzzy (14.5% alc).  This is one fantastic and delicious wine. (**** ½)
Look for these wines ... you won't be disappointed
All these wines have wonderful cellaring potential of up to a decade – but they taste so good now it might be hard to keep your hands off them till then.

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