Chile has always possessed great potential, but it hasn't always produced great wines. Historically, it churned out too much heavy-handed plonk that had an eye on American mass market rather than budget-conscious European palates - over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over here.
These two wines show what Chile is capable of at UK supermarket prices.
The Carménère is Chile's signature red grape variety; long mistaken for Merlot, it was rediscovered only in 1994. Its flavour profile, unsurprisingly, is similar to Merlot, but somehow darker and artier with more soy, coffee and dark chocolate.
The Malbec is another Bordeaux grape that has found a home in South America, but is more associated with Argentina on the other side of the Andes.
A notes on the labels
I've long argued the the role of a wine label is to make a promise to the purchaser that the liquid in the bottle keeps. See here for more on this:
Of the wines bottles here, the Bio Bio Malbec has the more elegant and interesting label, IMHO, but don't let the Carménère label put you off; it's much more adept and sophisticated than the somewhat garish artwork on the bottle might lead you to believe.
Co-op Irresistible Carménère (£7)
From the Maipo Valley, it was awarded a Gold and Value medal at the Decanter awards, with the judges observing:
“A deliciously peppery style and a lot of wine for the price! There are attractive varietal aromas: roasted red pepper, soy, rich cassis, and a hint of mint. The palate is dense, with firm-ish tannins, yet rounded and showing a lovely freshness. Impressive”.
soy, iodine and red meat with pencil shavings and dark-berry fruits; juicy dark berries, cherries and peppery vanilla spice; fresh, full and supple with gentle rounded tannins. Well-made with good underpinnings.
Benefits from some aeration.
Good and Good Value.
Match with a plate of salami or a pizza.
Bio Bio Malbec (£8)
Won Silver at the Decanter wine awards, with judges commenting:
“Plum and blueberry with some ginger, cedar, and dried herbs. Good concentration of fruit, some floral freshness.”
dark, black fruits, violets, spice, pencil shavings and liquorice; fresh, supple and savoury. Plump and inky yet focused with fine, rounded tannins. Well-made, accomplished and harmonious.
Good and Good Value.
Match with roast lamb or rare steak; for a meat-free option, match with griddled courgette and aubergine drizzled with balsamic vinegar.