Wines are like friends. I particularly like wines that are like those friends you bump into after you haven’t seen them for a while. Sometimes they’ve lost weight and look great. Others show the wear and tear of life and you remember why you lost touch with them in the first place.
I was in the cellar on Saturday night, looking for something to go with the rack of lamb, broccoli rabe and fava beans that Nancy and I had prepared for dinner. I was trying to force myself to pick something other than a Rhône wine, never any easy task for me, and even harder to do with the aroma of the roasted lamb filling the kitchen.
But there they were: five bottles of the 2001 Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Don Melchor. I’d bought a six-pack on release, tasted one right away to make sure all was well with my official prediction for the wine, and then I promptly forgot about the rest. I’ve tasted the wine here and there over the years in formal tastings, but hadn’t sat down for a meal with a full bottle since it was released. Now it was time to get caught up with this old friend.
Happily, the wine didn’t disappoint. It’s put on weight since the last time I saw it, but it’s all muscle. It shows the classic layers of loam, black currant, fig and cocoa powder of a young Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the sleek and refined structure you get from cellaring a great wine. It also didn’t lose a beat on the second day. It’s clearly classic in quality, and for me it remains one of the benchmark wines to come out of Chile so far. For contrast, I opened up a bottle of 2000 Château Montrose St.-Estèphe along side the Don Melchor, and the DM was with it every qualitative step of the way.
Drinking the two wines reminded me of an e-mail exchange I’d had earlier in the week with a Chilean winery owner, who felt that my reviews of Chile indicated the country's wines had a glass ceiling of sorts—that even though I reviewed the wines based on blind tastings, I was predisposed to hold down their scores since they were Chilean, and not say, Napa Cabernet or Bordeaux.
Obviously I disagree with his assessment. I think Chile clearly has the potential to produce great wines and the Don Melchor is a case in point. No, I don't think there's a glass ceiling for Chile in my book. Just too few wines at the elite level ...