by Fred McMillin
for April 28, 1997

Catch a Cab from Chile

Prologue: May, 1989—"The daring might try one of the much-discussed Cabernet Sauvignons from Chile. The wines are rich, rounded and tannic enough to make them matches for some of the well-known crus bourgeois of Bordeaux".. from the New York Times

The Rest of the Story: Since Frank Prial wrote that suggestion eight years ago, Chilean Cabs have gained considerable recognition. Here's one of the reasons. In 1851 Don Silvestre Ochagavia brought the first Cabernet Sauvignon vines from France to Chile, along with other classic Bordeaux varietals. Thirty years later, the phylloxera insect infected the French vineyards. This made it necessary in France to grow French vines on resistant U.S.A. rootstock. However, phylloxera has never reached Chile. So Chilean Cabs are grown on descendants of the original French rootstock, a claim which France cannot make. A second reason that Chilean Cabs have been gaining popularity is price. There are plenty of good bottles under $10. Here's one my tasters liked.

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rancagua, Chile Santa Monica Winery, Chile Importer: Gundlach-Bundschu, Somoma County, CA $8.50

Category: Recommended in its price range

Postscript: Where's Rancagua (rahn-KAH-gwah)? Chile's wine vines grow on a 900-mile-long strip of foothill land running north-south below the spectacular, 20,000-foot- high Andes Mountains. The capital, Santiago, is located in the middle of the strip. The town and wine district of Rancagua is 40 miles south of Santiago. This is premium red wine country, with nearly half devoted to Cabernet Sauvignon planted, of course, on that French rootstock.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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