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Wine Review: Quality beats price in wine selection

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Last edited 11:27 a.m., Oct. 28, 2021

Just in time for the winter holidays, three very interesting and affordable red wines have arrived on our shores.

These wines are from Chile, a nation whose wines are gaining accolades at professional wine-tasting events while still remaining in the affordable range.

Veramonte 2019 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
This wine, as the king in the play and movie “Anna and the King of Siam” observed, is a puzzlement. For the acknowledged king of the red wines to sell for so low a price can't be real, or the wine must be pure junk. This wine is real and as far away from junk as a wine can get. It is a wine that offers quality usually found in wines that are much more costly.

This wine comes from the Casablanca Valley, the Napa Valley of Chile, and its low cost is reflected in the much lower cost of producing the wine than it is here in the United States. How is that possible? In the United States, growers must import the pickers, provide them with homes, food, cable TV, schools for their children and all the amenities of normal life, plus the cost of making the wine. In Chile, the pickers live down the block. Another point is the cost of living in Chile is much lower than here, so everything costs less.

The proof, however, is in the tasting, and what incredible proof it is. The aroma is alive with ripe summer berries, cranberries and dark raisins, with dark chocolate, spice and vanilla in the background. These carry over to the flavor and then on to the long-lasting finish. This is the final proof that price alone does not determine quality, and quality need not command a high price.

Ritual Organic Pinot Noir 2017 ($20)
Here we go again in the price versus quality discussion. I am not going to go through another long-winded tirade on price versus quality with this wine, too. Needless to say, the proof is there for the tasting.

The first thing that should be noticed is that this wine has been well aged. That alone should indicate that it was not quickly made and just as quickly bottled and released to the public. The grapes for this wine also come from the heart of the Casablanca Valley. The cooler climate there allows the grapes to develop slowly, allowing the fruit to gain more concentrated flavors. The flavor development on the vine, coupled with the careful selection of the grapes in the field, results in a pinot noir of classical dimensions. This wine exhibits a broad spectrum of flavors, with cherries, plums and wild summer berries being the most prominent. There also are many other flavors lying in the background with oak and an earthy mushroom being the most obvious.

As a pinot noir lover, I must say that I enjoyed this wine and would put it up against similar wines selling for many times its price.

Primus, The Blend 2018 ($19)
It appears Chilean winemakers have taken a hint from the French who love to tinker with their cabernet sauvignon by trying all sorts of blends. The Primus blend seems to have hit a home run. The wine is 65% cabernet sauvignon, 20% carmenere (a local red grape), 10% petite verdot and 5% cabernet franc.

While this is similar to many French and American blends, it is the carmenere that sets it apart from all the rest. While it is the cabernet sauvignon whose flavor and aroma dominate, it is the carmenere that adds body and smoothness to the blend without suppressing any of the other partners in this blend. The flavors and aromas of currants, blackberries and plum are followed by an obvious background of oak and vanilla. A long finish is among the hallmarks of this wine. If you are a cab lover or just curious, this is the wine for you.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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