so you want to be iconic!?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Attendees of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival have a generous à la carte menu of seminar options from which to choose. I was particularly interested in a tasting entitled “Chadwick’s Iconic Quest.” Host Eduardo Chadwick is the president and owner of Viña Errazuriz in Chile’s Aconcagua region. Chilean wines were the feature at the Festival this year, and I guessed (rightly, as it turned out) that this would be an outstanding tasting with some of the country’s very best wines on display.

The promotional material noted that “Eduardo Chadwick was inspired by some of the world’s top wine regions on his quest to produce greater expressions of Chile’s terroir.” It promised a chance to “come taste the iconic Chilean wines, discover their aging potential, and experience the journey that has led Chile to the super-premium world wine stage.”

The rather sparse attendance provided the first clue that Chadwick’s Iconic Quest was far from over.

A competing seminar entitled “Kings of Cabernet” attracted far more interest, though I suspect it offered less compelling wines. Chadwick himself, a trim, athletic, handsome man in his early 50s, was engaging and animated, though the gist of his presentation came down to a re-cap of many, many blind tastings conducted around the world, in which his wines placed higher than any number of Bordeaux first growths and California cult wines.

Most interesting to me was the history of his collaboration with Robert Mondavi, who first visited Errazuriz in the early 1990s. The inaugural vintage (1995) of Seña, a Cabernet, Merlot and Carmenère blend that was the outcome of that initial meeting, was one of the wines presented.

I remember tasting this wine when it was released to the press in the late 1990s. I was underwhelmed at that time, and though the wine remains quite drinkable at 16 years of age, it definitely took a back seat to the real stars of this tasting. Among the many highlights were a 1989 Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve (92) – supple and smooth, dark and peppery, elegant and dense, pure Cabernet, still beautifully integrated.

The 2001 Viñedo Chadwick, another pure Cabernet Sauvignon, honored Eduardo’s father, and came from vines planted on what was once his father’s polo field. A stellar, classically structured wine, it offered a luscious array of black fruits, olives, herbs, and darker notes. Just 13.3% alcohol, it was a wine of great finesse, still youthful after a decade of life. I would have loved to put this wine up against any Bordeaux in the world from 2001. I have no doubt it would be its equal. I’d rate it a 95.

The 2009 Parker Bordeaux scores have just been announced, and there are no fewer than 19 (!) wines rated 100 points – perfect. Of course the blogosphere is ablaze with commentary. I have not tasted any of the wines, so I have nothing to add. The only 100 point Bordeaux I have ever tasted is the 1982 Mouton, which I’ve had on many occasions. I don’t think I’d have given it more than a 91 or 92, but I am no Bordeaux expert.

To return to the Errazuriz wines, for me, the point was made. These are truly world class. Along with those mentioned above, I was especially taken with the 2008 La Cumbre Syrah – a great wine, meaty, smoky, gamy, rife with dark espresso and coal dust, yet balanced, long, and elegant. It could stand alongside the best from Washington, and I mean that as a very high compliment.

Only two improvements could have been made to this event. First of all, every one of my glasses smelled of detergent. I had to do a whole lot of swirling (reverse engineering the conditioning of the stemware) to get the stink out and smell the wine. Other than that, I would advise the marketers of Errazuriz to send these top-flight wines to reviewers, along with the cheap stuff. My impression of the brand up until now has been entirely based upon tasting only the $8 wines. I had no idea that there were genuinely iconic and world-class efforts being made as well.


The Sediment Blog said...

"The only 100 point Bordeaux I have ever tasted is the 1982 Mouton, which I’ve had on many occasions."


Ah, 'tis truly another world...

The Sediment Blog

PaulG said...

As it happens, I bought the '82 Mouton as a future - paid $42/bottle for it. So, yes, on many occasions. Recently sold the last bottle for $800.

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