Revisiting – Los Vascos, Cabernet Sauvignon; Colchagua Valley Chile

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LOS VASCOS 2011I originally wrote about this wine and the 2010 vintage about three years ago in my Grocery Store Wine series. I had discovered it in my role as a Wine Steward for a national grocery store chain and its Rothschild pedigree along with QPR [quality:price ratio] drew me in. When I became a Wine Buyer for Whole Foods MarketI was happy to see Los Vascos was an option for our set. At the end of this post I am including my original notes for the 2010 as we delve into the 2011 vintage.

As per the winemaker;

2011 vintage: The viticultural year was once again characterized by very dry climatic conditions, but not as severe as 2010. Advanced techniques ensured very efficient irrigation of the vineyard, and the vines were able to fully express themselves. Due to a cold spring, yields were lower than usual, comparable with 2010 levels. This resulted in smaller bunches and smaller grapes, which in turn translated into excellent concentration and remarkable quality.

It is interesting to me that the 2010 vintage is considered to be “comparable” to some degree to the 2011. For me the wines were very different. Maybe the varying use of irrigation was a factor and or even my changing palate.

The Los Vascos 5,436 acre estate is 25 miles from the sea in a closed valley at the center of Chile.  Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon is grown with small percentages of other varietals all estate bottled also included; Chardonnay, Carmenere, Syrah, Malbec. It is the largest vineyard in the Colchagua Valley and between 250,000-300,000 cases are produced of the Cabernet annually. That may explain the value factor of this wine: 3.5 million bottles. Luckily for us the quality is also there.

My notes: 

On the lighter side of medium bodied. Nose of rich dark fruit and peppery spice; cedar, tobacco box. On the palate; fruit at the forefront with spice at the mid-palate and a finish of black cherry. Lighter than your typical California Cab, more old world than new, low tannins making it an easy drinker poured right at the bottle with decanting possible but not required.

I recall the 2010 vintage as being a bit heartier but just as smooth.  I can see why this wine continues to fly off our shelves on a weekly basis. The under $10.00 price tag draws you in but the quality and easy drink-ability keep you coming back. I am looking forward to future vintages.  ¡SALUD!

Winemaker’s Notes

Bright ruby red color. Remarkably expressive with a fruity nose: aromas of blueberries, cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries blending perfectly with notes of pink pepper, paprika, curry and saffron. Velvety, full-bodied and seductive in the mouth with mild acidity and gentle tannins giving very pleasant mouthfeel.

Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite]/Los Vascos, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon; Colchagua Valley Chile′LOS VASCOS 2010

For a while now I have thought about reviewing and categorizing what I would consider “Grocery Store” wines.  These would be wines that you happen to come across while doing your weekly shopping, advertised bargains [love those!], non-advertised sales [love those even more!], a bottle you may pick up on the way to a dinner party etc.  Your standard variety wine which you can pretty much get anywhere; some people swear by them others avoid them like the plague. Luckily as the general wine drinking public expands their horizons so have grocery stores when considering the selections and variety they stock including some very nice higher end options.  Of course location may define a Grocery Store wine but for the most part I will use this as a generalized term including everything from a two buck special to high-end wines which some people would never consider buying with their hard-earned $$. RULE: The wine must be available at a grocery store but with one caveat; I may go as far as including drug stores since their wine inventory is ever-increasing also.

The icing on the cake [or some may say fate] for my Grocery Store idea was pretty much sealed when about two weeks ago I was hired to be a Wine Steward for the grocer WINN-DIXIE [as covered in a recent blog post]. Grocery store wines some may ask? Welcome to my world 🙂

I have chosen the Chilean Los Vascos to be my first Grocery Store wine selection. Being completely honest I was first drawn to this wine in particular because of its SALE price. Secondly by the fact that it was from Chile and I love my South American wines. As I have started to research I am now also impressed by its pedigree:

Los Vascos one of Chile’s oldest wine estates is managed by Domaines Barons de Rothschild [Lafite], who began a comprehensive modernization and investment program in 1988. The 560 hectare vineyard is located in the Cañeten valley of the Colchagua province which offers a pre-phylloxera Bordeaux rootstock.

My notes: Color, a rich dark garnet. At opening and prior to officially decanting I detected a strong wood [oak] scent on the nose. Not overly strong but detectable up front with more dark fruit scents [plum, raisin] as it breathed. Interestingly enough as I describe the scent as “dark fruit” I also detected some strawberry on the nose so it may be more accurately described as a combination of both.  Also noticeable on the nose was a distinct earthy, terroir, barnyard aroma that faded and somehow turned to a guava/fig scent as the wine opened over 30 minutes. As we began to sip and let the wine sit in our mouth I was very impressed with its smoothness. No heat or burn from alcohol. That is something to be said for a young mass-produced wine.  On the palate I detected; the same fruits referenced on the nose with the addition of cherry and black pepper on the finish. The finish was solid but not overly lingering which balanced well with the overall smooth factor and drinkability of this wine.

Grocery store retail price on this wine is about $12.50. Reasonable indeed if it were not on sale. Between manufacturer coupon and grocery in-store sale [in this case Winn-Dixie go figure]  the price was somehow actually reduced to $4.85! As you can imagine the wine was a big hit but just as surprisingly I think the sale scared off some possible buyers because of its low price and the shoppers own perceived price:quality ratio.  Unfortunately the sale price went up to $6.89 the following week but it is still selling well.

At a $12.00 price range, even though it is reasonably priced, I am not sure I would go out of my way to buy this wine. I would think twice or consider other options, even after admitting that I rather enjoyed it. At $4.00-$7.00 the decision is easy; BUY IT! Sure hope that $4.85 offer comes around again. ¡Salud!

From the winemaker’s web-site:

Cabernet Sauvignon is the classic production of Los Vascos, and is the grape that made the estate famous. The vintages all share a mature and fruity quality, fresh aromas, and a supple and fleshy structure. This wine has a sparkling ruby-red colour and a pleasantly fruity nose with aromas of black cherries, raspberries and plums, all with a hint of spice. This is a silky, flavourful wine, with a supple tannin structure. A great classic

Vintage 2010

There was a very dry period during the winter months (463 mm of rain compared to 726 mm the previous year), but carefully planned, controlled irrigation ensured a normal growth cycle. Low temperatures in the spring during flowering resulted in some flower abortion, and thus slightly less generous bunches of grapes. Production was reduced by 15% compared to the annual average (8.5 tons/ha vs. 10 tons/ha) but this resulted in greater concentration and remarkably well-balanced grapes.

Bright ruby red colour. Remarkably expressive, fruity nose: aromas of blueberries, cherries, blackcurrants and raspberries blending perfectly with notes of pink pepper, paprika, curry and saffron. Velvety, full-bodied and seductive in the mouth with mild acidity and gentle tannins giving very pleasant mouthfeel.

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