Chile is a wine producer on the rise. This is short-term good news for thrifty shoppers, because it does not have the kind of highbrow prestige associated with the region the way, say, Bordeaux does. So right now, fairly inexpensive Chilean wine is flooding the market, most of it pretty delicious, some of it exceptional, and the odd example here or there that you’ll want to avoid.
I say “short-term” because I have it on good authority that Chile is making some outstanding stuff that is holding its own against many of the heavy hitters in California and Europe. It’s only a matter of time before a real division appears, and like so many other “new world” producers, the improbably wonderful bargains will be fewer and farther between.
This week’s selection is Emiliana Natura Chardonnay, made from organically raised grapes that are farmed sustainably. I’m not even going to wade into the insanity of the natural/organic/biodynamic controversy in this post. First off, I don’t know enough to have a position. Second, I know that each country has unique labeling laws, so one can make a wine seem like it’s made in some hippie commune with minimal intervention and then another country’s labeling laws will require the label to state that it contains sulfites and won’t get the “bio/organic” label at all on a technicality.
That said, I picked this up at Mom’s Organic (Rockville only…ain’t no hooch at the other locations) who has a pretty killer stable of wines for a place that is more about alfafa sprouts than alfredo sauce. If you’re local, the beer selection is on point, too. Lots of local brews, including nearly every DuClaw, Dogfish Head, DC Brau, and Flying Dog variety on offer, and even Charm City mead, which is a –potent– treat.
Anyway, back to the vino! It’s just what you expect from a steel-fermented and aged Chardonnay: some citrus tingle in the nose and on the palate, maybe a whiff of a sprig of herb, and a generous dose of tropical fruit with zero sweetness. This is definitely a crisp wine, but unlike other white varieties (Sauv Blanc, I’m looking at you) at this price, it’s not crass or so huge that it competes with food. It’s usually $12, but I picked up a few bottles for $9 a pop earlier this week.
Thirsty Cellist score: 8/10
Pros: an easy, affordable, reliable Chardonnay that goes with food or a warm night on the patio.
Cons: the structure might get a little disorganized as it comes to room temperature, so drink it on the colder side of cool.
Recommendation: buy multiples, excellent for bringing to parties or giving as gifts.
PS: Unless you’re local to the DC market, I understand that many of the recommendations here are sort of academic. Technically useful information, but perhaps your vendor in Florida or Mpls doesn’t carry the same bottles. I hope that each wine of the week can serve as a loose guide. So maybe you can’t find this particular bottle, but maybe seeking out other Chilean Chardonnays below $15 is a place to start.