Fans of Chilean wines can look forward to some new releases -- from the inexpensive to the high-end -- in late summer and early fall.
Viña Carmen of Chile has joined the growing list of South American wineries that are producing luxury-priced Cabernet Sauvignon cuvies. In recent years, Chilean wines have been posting record prices, including Baron Eric de Rothschild's Le Dix de Los Vascos at $40, the Mondavi-Viña Errazuriz joint venture Seña at $50, Montes Alpha M at $60 and Almaviva, from Concha y Toro and Chbteau Mouton-Rothschild, at $70.
Now Carmen has released two new upscale reds from the 1997 vintage: Winemaker's Reserve ($45), a blend of Cabernet, Carmenhre, Petite Sirah and Merlot, and Gold Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($65). Only 1,000 cases of the Winemaker's Reserve and 1,650 cases of the Gold Reserve were produced. The wines show solid potential, with modern-style fruit and admirable concentration. (Look for full tasting notes and scores in an upcoming issue of Wine Spectator.)
On the other end of the spectrum, Chilean value producer Viña MontGras has changed importers and returned to the U.S. marketplace after a brief hiatus. Five wines from the 1999 vintage -- Chardonnay, Merlot, Carmenhre, Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet blend called Quatro -- are about to be released.
The new releases, priced in the $12 range, represent the first wines made by MontGras' overhauled winemaking team. Santiago Margozzini (formerly of Santa Ema) has been hired as the new head winemaker. American Paul Hobbs -- who works for several other South American brands, including Argentina's Bodegas San Telmo, in addition to running his own California label -- is now a consultant for MontGras as well.
Learn more about Chile and its wines' rising prices: