Summer has unofficially arrived, and with it, so too has demand for refreshing white wines.
I recently tasted through a collection of Chilean Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays, thanks to Wines of Chile.
Drought may limit the skinny nation’s wine crop this year. The country’s winemakers are putting a positive spin on the challenging growing conditions, saying that the drought will “increase the quality and concentration of wine aromas” in this year’s wines.
But they also say that 2012 will not be as bad as 2011. Fernando Almeda, chief winemaker at Miguel Torres Winery, told AFP that white wines — including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer — should be produced in larger quantities than last year.
The 2011 wines may be the ones to seek, though, as Almeda believes that the 2012 vintage will be “a little less fresh, less total acidity, a higher alcohol content and lower aromatic intensity.”
For my palate, not a great sales pitch for this vintage.
I tasted five 2011 Sauvignon Blancs and three Chardonnays (two from 2010 and one from 2009). Three of the Sauvignon Blancs scored well for me, as did two of the chardonnays.
The winners? A 2011 Cono Sur Vision Single Vineyard Loma Roja from the Casablanca Valley (SRP: $14.99) and a 2011 Vina Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard (SRP: $12.99) from the same region. The former was golden in color, with a huge floral nose that showed some contact with the lees. It was thick, creamy, and exhibited well-balanced lemon flavors. The latter was very light, with lime prominent on the nose and less so on the thick palate. Low acidity on the mid-palate and a short finish, with some cream. I also picked up some olives, oddly, on the palate.
These two outperformed more expensive offerings from Casa Silva in the Colchagua Valley and from Veramonte in the Casablanca Valley — though not by a ton. The big disappointment was a 2011 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc from the French powerhouse Lafite (Barons de Rothschild).
The top two chardonnays were a 2010 Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay (SRP: $17.99) from the Leyda Valley and a 2009 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay from the Limari Valley (SRP: $19.00). The former displayed buttered flowers on the elegant nose and buttered, sweet lemons on the palate. It was a little bit astringent across the mid-palate. The latter was simple but good — toasted oak on the nose, and balanced, ripe fruits throughout.
And here’s a bonus summer Sauvignon Blanc for you — the best I’ve had this year. Look out for the 2010 Thomas et Fils Sancerre La Crele, which might be available at your local grocery store. Beautiful light-gold color. Rich, full, floral nose, with notes of barely ripened fruit. Chalky, creamy tart lemons, and a really subtle olive note in the mid-palate. That last little olive-esque bite made it a tad harsh. Overall, though, exceptional. Nice combination of richness with chalkiness and minerality.