Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How will I help the country of Chile get back on their feet; I’m going to purchase more Chilean wine

In the wake of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile on Saturday, I asked myself how can I help. The answer was easy, buy, support and promote Chilean wine. Chile's wine industry was severely affected by the devastating earthquake that struck the southern part of the country early Saturday morning. Wineries in both the Curicó and Maule valleys were hard hit, and wineries to the north in Rapel and Maipo also reported damage. Many wineries report damage to equipment, tanks destroyed, millions of liters of wine spilled on the floor and bottles strewn everywhere.

In January I tasted 120 Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon and it was divine. Later that month I picked up a bottle of 2006 Santa Rita Reserve Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon at my local BJ’s Wholesale Club. No better time to crack it open then now.

The color is a ruby red with aromas consisting of plums, blackberries, vanilla, oak and herbs. Flavors are complex, and well balanced. Hitting the palate first is the taste of cassis, oak and black pepper. Fantastic lingering finish makes me go back for sip after sip. Wine Spectator rated this wine with 89 points for Top 100 Best Buys of 2007 and 87 points for Great Values under $20 or less, not too shabby.

Santa Rita was founded in 1880 by Domingo Fernández Concha in the area of Alto Jahuel where the main winery is still located. He introduced French varieties and the most advanced winemaking techniques. In 1980, Grupo Claro acquired the Santa Rita property, introducing technological improvements and wine elaboration techniques unknown in Chile at that time. Checkout the Santa Rita Cares section on their website where you can nominate a hero in your life or support the troops.

Chile’s viticultural history dates back to the 16th century. In the mid 18th century, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced to the region. In the 1980’s, Chili experienced a winemaking resurgence due to the use of steel tank fermentation and oak barrel aging, low cost of labor, mostly disease free conditions and the mild climate that is described as a climate between California and France. All of these factors allowed the region to produce and ship inexpensive wines to the United States with the familiar Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay labels. The number of wineries has grown over time with just 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005 and is now the fourth largest exporter of wines to the United States.

Wine is a leading industry in the two regions around the epicenter, Maule and Bío-Bío, and wineries will be crucial to the area’s long-term economic recovery. The timing of the quake couldn’t have been worse as harvest is about to get underway, but with roads and bridges damaged, damaged facilities and no electrical power, it will be difficult for wineries to process grapes.

So do your part and go drink some Chilean wines, who knows when we’ll get a plentiful supply on store shelves again.
2010© Kellie Stargaard. All Rights Reserved.

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