Chile’s Viu Manent produces a wide array of killer wines
I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in Chile, exploring the country and its culture as well as -- most importantly -- tasting lots and lots of wine. I’ve long been an admirer of the value coming from Chile. Over the last handful of years there has also been greater and greater quality emerging. My trip underscored this, and served to show my travelling companions and me the far-ranging diversity available there. Bargain priced Cabernet Sauvignon was the first thing from Chile I ever tasted years back. Some of that is still available now, but there is so much more. Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is in general terms among the very best values in the world, to name but one example. There are small and large productions of all types of wine. Over a week we visited quite a few wineries and tasted wine in several others settings as well, including with just about every meal other than breakfast. One of the great things about Chile is that many of the wineries have several tiers of wine. So while their entry level wines are around $10, and their highest priced ones over $50, there are often many choices in between. So when you find a producer you like there are many wines to explore, no matter the occasion you have in mind. One producer that fit that bill for me is Viu Manent located in Colchagua, Chile. I spent half a day there tasting wines, touring the facility and enjoying lunch at their onsite restaurant. Their varied portfolio offers a lot to like. But three wines in particular stood out to me as awesome values for their quality and price.
First up is the Viu Manent 2012 Secreto Sauvignon Blanc. Secreto is the name of the entry level wines that Viu Manent produces. They’re distinctively packaged with labels created by Chilean artist Catalina Abbott specifically for each varietal. This range of wines is also aimed at immediate enjoyment; these are not wines you want to age or fret over. All you need to do is twist off the screw cap, or pop the cork, and knock a couple back with friends. That said, these are clean, well-made wines which offer excellent bang for the buck. In total there are six varietals in the Secreto line. This particular release has 85 percent Sauvignon Blanc with the balance literally being a “secret.” That’s another part of the story and charm of this tier -- they leave it up to your imagination a bit. These wines sell for right around $10. Lemon aromas burst forth from the glass and are part of a very inviting nose. White peach, bits of grass, as well as loads of minerals and spice are part of the palate. The finish is crisp with zesty citrus, reverberating with continued minerals and spice. This wine is but one of the many examples of excellent Sauvignon Blanc in the $10 range coming out of Chile. It’s clean, refreshing and fun to drink by itself or paired with lighter foods. This is a secret you will want to share with your friends.
The Viu Manent 2010 Gran Reserva Malbec was produced from fruit sourced exclusively in the Colchagua region of Chile. This wine is composed largely of Malbec (93 percent), with a bit of Syrah (7 percent) blended in. The fruit was hand picked. Fermentation took place with select yeasts. Most of the wine (85 percent) was aged in a combination of French (93 percent) and American oak (7 percent). The balance was aged in stainless steel tanks. The Gran Reserva range of wines retails for around $12. Blue and black fruit aromas are in evidence on the nose of this wine, with blueberry and plum leading the way. Those fruits are joined by blackberry flavors through the palate, along with spices galore. The finish has nice length, and the firm tannins contribute to a well-structured wine. Malbec from Argentina gets a lot more attention, but I tasted numerous excellent examples of this wonderful grape in Chile. Often times they were made in a style similar to this one, with lots of structure and balance. If you enjoy Malbec this selection from Viu Manent may be a stylistic and dollar-for-dollar eye opener for you.
Finally we come to the Viu Manent 2010 La Capilla Estate Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The fruit for this wine comes from three specific blocks within the single vineyard. La Capilla is a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It spent 16 months in a combination of new (55 percent) and used (45 percent) French oak barrels. Most often this wine sells for right around $20. Fresh berry flavors leap from the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon along with bits of leather. Each sip reveals a mouthful of red and black fruit flavors as well as chewy tannins and spices to spare. Cherry, earth and black pepper are all prominent throughout the impressively long finish. This Cabernet Sauvignon shows a combination of classically styled old world structure, and the willing fruit and appeal of a new world wine. It is a remarkably excellent example of Cabernet Sauvignon for the price. If you want a Cabernet that’s affordable for everyday drinking and has the structure to age gracefully over the next 6 to 8 years, grab a case of the Viu Manent 2010 La Capilla. You will thank me from the first sip right through the last bottle.The amount of quality, value and diversity coming out of Chile right now in the wine world is really quite exciting. Time will increase the selections on U.S. shelves as well as make the wines even better. Everywhere I went in Chile, winemakers indicated that they are not comfortable staying pat, they’re doing everything they can to raise their game to the next level. This is true both in newer properties and in long-standing places that are already highly successful. Viu Manent is just one example, and an excellent one, of a Chilean winery you can count on for excellent wine at a reasonable price. Drink some of their wine tonight -- you’ll be glad you did.