Until recently, Chile has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the wine world. For the most part, wineries were more focused on maximizing profitability than garnering respect, and Chile became the darling of the supermarket shelf. Things are now turning around, as many producers have focused their efforts on making at least one high-quality label: It’s fair to say that wines such as Almaviva, Seña, Viñedo Chadwick and Clos Apalta rank with the best of Napa and Bordeaux.
Near the top, if not at the apex, is the Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Concha y Toro. Concha y Toro is the largest winery in Latin America and one of the ten largest in the world (nearly 30 million cases exported to 135 countries). It was founded in 1883 by Don Melchor Concha y Toro, a Chilean businessman and politician, who brought in cuttings from Bordeaux. To honor his memory, the winery released the first vintage of Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon in 1987.
Don Melchor was the first ultra-premium wine for both Concha y Toro and Chile, and it paved the way for the company’s joint venture with Château Mouton Rothschild to produce Almaviva. The 2018 vintage ($125), which received a perfect score from one wine critic and near-perfect ratings from many others, is a blend of 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. It is composed of grapes from seven separate parcels of vines set on the north bank of the Maipo River in the Puento Alto region and is crafted by veteran winemaker Enrique Tirado.
Don Melcor’s 2018 Cabernet has a deep, brooding color and a fragrant nose with aromas of roasted cocoa, fresh herbs and blackberry jam. It enters the mouth gracefully, displaying a rich, unctuous texture and a supple tannin structure. The age of the vines (30+ years) is immediately apparent. The herbal component is most noticeable in the mid palate, where it’s highlighted by good acidity and a panorama of reduced black fruit flavors. The finish is long and succulent. This is a profound red wine that will provide pleasurable drinking either on its own or with food.
While it might seem silly to some consumers to describe a $125 bottle as a bargain, Don Melchor is firmly in that category. $125 doesn’t buy much in the way of a high-end California Cabernet these days, and this one compares favorably to famous names from the Golden State at two or three times the price. The price equivalent in Bordeaux would be a top-level Cru Bourgeois, but it’s doubtful those wines would provide the same pleasure so soon after release.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats. Has America’s greatest chef cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune?