Most people are aware of the quality of red wines from Chile, but less well known is their ability to age and improve over time. Tim Atkin MW has explored the ageability of Chilean wine in his latest article for Club Oenologique magazine, along with his personal selection of the best bottles most suited for long ageing.
He admits that the perception of the country’s wines is that they don’t age particularly well – ‘there’s plenty of sound and fury, but the clamour dies to a whisper much faster than you’d like as primary aromas and flavours segue into tired tertiary ones within a few short years’ – but in fact, things are changing, with Chile’s best winemakers now employing a variety of styles and techniques in the vineyard and winery to ensure that their wines age more gracefully than their predecessors.
Chile may have made its name with Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but Atkin says a renewed focus on ‘Mediterranean’ grapes such as Carignan, Cinsault, Garnacha and Syrah are helping to create fresher, better-balanced and more ageworthy wines. Not only that, but new vineyards located closer to the cooling winds of the Pacific Ocean have helped, too.
‘Regions or subregions such as Alcohuaz, Colbún, Huasco, Leyda, Limarí, Malleco and Paredones are all comparatively recent creations, while older ones such as Bío Bío and Itata are enjoying a renaissance,’ he says. ‘Some of them have benefited from higher rainfall or lower growing-season temperatures, while others have profited from drip irrigation, a technique that arrived as recently as the mid-1990s from Israel and has made it possible to grow grapes on slopes in areas where dry-farmed vines would struggle to survive.’
With Chile enjoying what was widely regarded as its best-ever vintage in 2018, here are seven Chilean wines selected by Tim Atkin MW that are drinking well now, but will only get better over time – and compared to similar ageworthy reds from Bordeaux, they’re great value, too.