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Concha y Toro with Marcello Papa

by Tom Cannavan, 04/03

winemaker  Marcello Papa is the young and dynamic new member of the winemaking team at Concha y Toro, one of Chile's leading producers. Marcello joined Concha y Toro in 1998, working under the legendary Ignacio Recabarren. In 1999 he was made head winemaker of the Puente Alto Estate, taking on responsibility for both the Marques range, which immediately gained 90+ Parker points and was the only Chilean wine in the Wine Spectator's "100 best wines", and for the extremely popular Casillero del Diablo brand. Marcello has a specific interest in Cabernet Sauvignon, but there are a number of varietal wines in his portfolio.

I met up with Marcello in Glasgow, when he visited mainly for a tasting with the staff of local Oddbins branches one afternoon. He described what sounds like an idyllic and perfect situation in the Casablanca Valley, where all Concha y Toro's whites originate, with cool winds emanating from the Antarctic lowering temperatures and suppressing vine diseases. Famously, the Phylloxera louse never made it to these shores. The Casablanca Valley is around 20 kilometres wide and 10 kilometres long, and at certain points ranges from being 12 to 25 kilometres from the ocean. Marcello explained that the vineyards closest to the water can ripen up to 10 days later than those further inland.

Red wine grapes come from the Rapel, Maipo, Curicó and Maule Valleys. The company has long-established programmes for management of vineyards and barrel selection, using mostly French oak for their premium wines. They operate a total of six state of the art cellars, meaning grapes can be handled quickly and efficiently soon after harvest.  

Marcello expressed an opinion that although there is much experimentation in Chile currently with Gewürztraminer, Viognier, Pinot Noir and a host of other varieties, he believes that the traditional and established grapes are the country's real strength, and the ones in which he is most interested. He specifically mentioned Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère, with Chardonnay for white wines. Interestingly, there were various of these "new wave" wines from the "Trio" range on show here, of which the Viognier was probably my favourite, whilst the first ever vintage of Pinot Noir was a little disjointed, but certainly promising.

And so to the wines. This was an impressive tasting, proving that Concha y Toro deserves its place amongst South America's top producers. Three ranges were on show: Marcello's own Casillero del Diablo, which is the bedrock of the portfolio with 800,000 cases per year; Trio, a mid-tier range and Terrunyo, the super-premium range made by Ignacio Recabarren. All wines are available from Oddbins and Oddbins.com, though please note that new vintages have recently arrived for some of these wines.

Tasting was not blind. Prices in pounds sterling (approx £5=$7.50US/€7.50).

White

Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay 2000 - £4.99
Big, round, creamy nose with vanilla over sweet tropical fruit suggesting pineapple and ripe pear. The palate has a nuttiness, and quite a rich, powerful apricot kernel and peachy fruit quality. Long and rich in the finish, this is spicy and big, but a really good wine. Very good indeed.

Trio Sauvignon Blanc 2000 - £5.99
Very pale colour. Quite pungent and leafy, with grassy and gooseberry aromas. The mouthfeel is quite rich, with a zesty, citrus fruit and nuances of richer, tropical style. An orange acidity and a little herbal note complete an attractive picture. Very good.

Trio Chardonnay 1999 - £5.99
Lovely nose here; cool and creamy with clean, crisp, ripe orchard fruits and a lush, pineapple quality emerging. The palate is powerful and quite stridently alcoholic, with a dry acidity on the finish. Good.

Trio Viognier 2000 - £5.99
Very attractive, with deep, ripe apricot fruit on the nose. Perfumed and quite fragrant, there are also nutty nuances. The palate is full-bodied with clean, but rounded pear and peach fruit and broad-based acidity. Very good.

Trio Gewürztraminer 2000 - £5.99
Malolactic fermentation is prevented on this wine to retain crispness. It has an extremely spicy nose, with definite herbal notes; really nettly. The palate is dry, with a great core of grapefruit flavour and acidity, though it is quite weighty and rounded. Very good.

Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc 2000 - £7.99
Pale, with a much more vivid nose than the Trio version; pungent aromatics, much more tropical with notes of lychee and mango all with a herbaceous, green edge. The palate is quite broad and generous, with clean, crisp apple flavours and fine acidity. Very good indeed.

Red

Casillero del Diablo Merlot 2000 - £4.99
There is 8% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend here. It is a lovely deep, spicy, smoky wine on the nose, with a cedary component and lots of deep, silky fruit. Rich on the palate, there are plum and Christmas cake flavours, lots of blackcurrant and a nice, if soft, balance of tannins and acidity. Pretty much a fruit-bomb style, but also with some savoury character. Very good indeed.

Casillero del Diablo Syrah 2000 - £4.99
Only the second vintage of this wine, it has a massive nose of vanilla and spice suffused with blackcurrant and damsons. Rich on the palate, with fleshy, chewy black cherry and cassis flavours rounded out with vividly spicy clove flavours. Big, dry tannins and full-texture add to the large-scaled profile of this wine, which is very good indeed, maybe excellent in its price range.

Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 - £4.99
There's about 5% Merlot in the blend of this dark, liquoricy, cassis and mint wine. There is just an underpinning presence of coffee and cream toasty oak. On the palate lots of punchy acidity and ripe tannins dry the mouth, with savoury black fruit of cherry and blackcurrant. Good length here, and another impressive red. Very good indeed. (in Oddbins)

Casillero del Diablo Syrah 2001 - £4.99
This was a tank sample, and also the first vintage in which Marcello had "green harvested", removing growing bunches to endure the remaining fruit had extra concentration/ It has a lovely charcoally, typically Syrah nose (more so than the 2000) and lots of pepper, minerals and spicy black fruit. Lovely palate too; suffused with dry, creamy, dense black fruit and fine balance. terrific length too. This is potentially excellent and is now in Oddbins.

Trio Pinot Noir 2000 - £5.99
Only the second vintage, this comes from selected sites in the Rapel valley and is aged in French oak. It has a seductive nose of toasted hazelnuts and cappuccino coffee. The palate is quite silky, with more toasty, charry and softly spiced flavours over red berry fruit. There is a tart raspberry acidity, then more toasty oak dominates and possibly overpowers the finish. A seductive wine, that doesn't quite pull it off. Very good.

Trio Merlot 1999 - £5.99
More subtle on the nose, with black cherry and gentle spices. The fruit is quite deep, with a jammy edge of ripeness. Soft plum and chocolate flavours are joined by a toffeeish oak, and the smooth, savoury texture is supple into a long finish. Very good/very good indeed.

Trio Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - £5.99
From mostly Maipo fruit, this has quite a firm, leathery quality on the nose with fine blackcurrant fruit and little notes of minerals and cedar. Savoury on the palate, this has good fruit and balance, and is drinking really well in a cool, quite sophisticated style. Very good indeed.

Terrunyo Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 - £12.99
This has around 10% Carmenère in the blend, and spends time in French oak, about 35% of which is new. It is deep and intense, with a minty concentration, eucalyptus and cassis. There is a toasty background of espresso coffee. Grippy on the palate, a tannic background underpins firm , slightly leafy mint and blackcurrant fruit. Lovely purity though, and fine acidity into a long finish. Very good indeed.

Terrunyo Carmenère 1999 - £12.99
And there is around 11% Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend of this single vineyard wine. Extremely dense, big and full, with a plummy nose and fine, creamy, fudgy, spicy character. There are nuances of really sweet blackberry and violet. Lovely palate, with a balance of savoury plum and black cherry fruit with some black olive notes and lovely sweetness. Good balance here, and a long, fine finish. Very good indeed.

Concha y Toro is available in the UK from Oddbins.

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