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Riverbank Wines from Chile and Concha y Toro


Riverbank Vineyards – courtesy of Concha y Toro website

Concha y Toro is, by now, a venerable name in wine.  Certainly they are one of the most well known names when it comes to Chilean wine.  We have reviewed many of their wines over the past few years, and are rarely disappointed.  Here, we’ll take a look at two wines from their “riverbank” series, or Serie Riberas, which are sourced from vineyards on the banks of the three major rivers in Chile.  Previously, we have reviewed the Carmenere from this line, which comes from vineyards adjacent to the Cachapoal River.  You can read more about that by clicking here.  The two wines in this article are a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  We loved the Carmenere, and expect equally great things from the remaining two varietals.  Let’s see.

2016 Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine comes from IMG_1462vineyards on the southern banks of the Tinguiririca, specifically from the Palo Santo vineyard.  The vines are pre-phylloxera, and Chile is one of the few places that you can experience the major international varietals on their original rootstock.  Isolated by desert, mountain, ice and ocean, Chile was spared the scourge of the phylloxera louse, which devastated vineyards throughout Europe and the U.S.  in the late 1800’s.  This is the Cabernet Sauvignon grape the way nature intended it.  At least sort of, as the grape is a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc to begin with, created by chance in France in the 17th century.  Sometimes great things happen by chance.

The wine fermented in stainless tanks, and was then aged in French oak barrels and foudres.  A foudre is a large wooden vat, some holding more than a thousand liters of wine, more than four times the average oak barrel.  After 13 months in wood the juice is put into bottle.  Our impressions:

This is a dark, purple red in color.  The nose is rich, with very ripe, dark fruit including some black cherry and blackberry.  There are floral and perfume nuances, and the oak is quite prominent.  The prominent oak is fairly typical in Concha y Toro red wines.  It’s not oppressive however, and the wine also shows some nice spice notes.  Full bodied, the core of fruit carries the wine throughout the tasting experience, and it finishes long.  The tannins are firm here, but there is balance.  Words like “rustic”and “chewy”, would apply.  It’s very good, and a good value at $17.

Now the white:

2016 Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Chardonnay – now we move to the southern shore ofIMG_1463 the Rapel River, and the Ucúquer Vineyards in D.O. Lituech, in the Colchagua Valley.  The Pacific Ocean is just 15 km away, which provides a marine influence.  After being settled in stainless tanks, the wine is moved to oak barrels for fermentation (10% new, 90% 4th use).  It stays in the same barrels for an additional 9 months of aging.  You might be thinking that the oak here is going to be overpowering, but remember the vast majority of that oak is in it’s 4th season, and provides a much more subtle impact to the wine.  Let’s see what we thought:

A light straw color, the wine presents a bright nose, but a complex one.  Apple, pineapple, tropical notes and a strong mineral quality are all present.  On the palate, this is very clean.  The oak is a nuance, lending a soft cloak to the core of bright fruit.  This has it all, depth, balance, fruit and complex nuances that all last into a lingering and satisfying finish.  We have a nice addition to our short list of favorite Chardonnays here.  This is really, really good.  Also $17, and a great value there.  This wine should be a crowd pleaser.

So with these two, we have now reviewed three of the Serie Riberas line, and are much impressed.  These provide solid value in the $15-$20 range, and the Chardonnay is outstanding.  The Cab is more rustic, but still very good.  With a Malbec, Syrah and Sauvginon Blanc remaining in this line we have something to look forward to!

A votre santé!

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