At MWH Wines we pride ourselves on being the home of affordable fine wine.  For years we have scoured the market to find the best Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Vintage Port.  As fine wine prices have continued to soar as investors and collectors look to snap up the increasingly scarce stocks of mature wines from great old vintages, so we’ve been casting around for new sources of affordable fine wines.  This has led us, inevitably, to a country that’s been known for everyday drinking value for years but which, until fairly recently, hasn’t enjoyed an equally deserved reputation for fine wines. 

That country is Chile.  In this latest blog from MWH Wines, lifelong Chilean wine fan Giles Luckett, looks at some Chilean wines that are the equal of any in the world, but which remain affordable. 

Chile: Vineyard Heaven

While Chile has an ancient wine making history – the first vines were planted by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century.  Its rise to prominence on the international market dates back to the 1980s.  In common with other New World nations, notably Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, the explosion of demand for good quality, affordable everyday drinking wines saw its wines appearing around the world.  The introduction of stainless steel, refrigeration and other wine making advances, allowed countries such as Chile to produce good wines at scale.

An advantage Chile had over the other re-emerging wine nations, was that its industry wasn’t based on the production of fortified wines as was the case in Australia and South Africa.  This, coupled with the influence of French settlers in the early twentieth century, meant their wines were often produced from popular, noble varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.  They were also produced from vines that were from non-grafted vines, the phylloxera blight having not hit Chile, which gave the wines an extra degree of quality.

Climatically Chile is an outstanding place to grow vines.  The climate lies somewhere between that of California and Southern France, with altitudes and an array of soils allowing for the successful cultivation of everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir.   The vine growing area is contained within an 800m stretch (just under a third of the country’s length) that runs from the heat of the Atacama Region to the cool Bio-Bio Region in the south.  All regions are dominated by the effects of the Pacific.  Despite its proximity, most vines need to be irrigated.

Chile: New Classic Wines

Like Australia, South Africa and, to a lesser extent, California, having established its core markets in everyday wines, over the years Chile has been looking to establish its own elite wine class.  This has required extensive research into appropriate sites, experimentation with vines and significant investment in vineyards and wineries.  The result of this investment has been the emergence of a clutch of Chilean wine superstars that have taken the wine world by storm.  Some examples of these wines are listed below, but one of the most striking things is how these wines have largely retained Chile’s famed affordability.  OK, the Vinedo Chadwick is around £200 a bottle, but since its first vintage in 2006 it’s been favourably compared to the world’s greatest Cabernets with scores into the 90s from leading critics.  Compare it to Opus One, for example, which has an average bottle price of £400 a bottle and even at this price it looks like a bargain.

At a recent tasting we looked at a number of Chile’s superstar wines, and as you can see from the following; we were impressed:


Dom Maximiano Fouder’s Reserve – this is a wine I first encountered in 2000.  I was impressed by its richness and depth and by its striking resemblance to fine Bordeaux.  The resemblance to claret is, perhaps, inevitable.  The vines come from the temperate Aconcagua Valley where they enjoy a long growing season with plenty of hang time.  The wines are aged for 22 months in French casks, 65% of which are new.  The resulting wine typically boasts a dark, inky colour, with a nose that combines the fresh, mint and blackcurrant notes of Cabernet, with richer tones of plum and cherry.  Full-bodied and nuanced, there’s a distinct taste of place here that seems to become more evident with each passing vintage.

Las Pizarra Pinot Noir – great pinot noir remains the grail for many winemakers and Chile has more success than most in producing wines that are fit to stand alongside the wines of Burgundy.  The Las Pizarra Pinot Noir 2018 was included in James Suckling’s top-ten wines in the world, giving it 99/100. 

The Pizarra hails from the Aconcagua Coast region in central Chile.  Produced on a mix of metamorphic rock, schist, and slate, this cool region is ideal for producing outstanding pinot noir and chardonnay.   While the Las Pizarra aims to be the equal of Burgundy’s Grand Crus, it’s very much it’s own wine.  High-toned, and dominated by red berries in its youth, it develops in glass to reveal fine, black-skinned fruits, minerals, and a certain savouriness.  This is a wine that is capable of aging and development, but in its youth is an ideal partner for lightly cooked red meats.

Vina Almaviva – from its first vintage back in 1996, Almaviva made waves.  The product of a joint venture between Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Mouton fame and Chilean wine producer Concha y Toro.  I first encountered it when a client in Singapore asked if I could get a few cases of this curiosity.  Since then it’s become established as one of the great names of Chilean and while its price has risen sharply – selling for £400 a dozen in 2000 – it remains a highly sought-after.

A blend of cabernet, carmenere, cabernet franc, with dashes of petit verdot, and merlot, Almaviva is produced in the Maipo valley at Puenta Alto near Santiago.  The soils are free draining and stony, becoming sandy toward the river.  This is a wine that firmly aspires to be considered a Bordeaux, indeed it is traded on the Bordeaux Place. 

Tasting Almaviva is like tasting a fine claret, only the noticeably plummy spiciness of the carmenere revealing as something else.  Elegant and refined, it takes some aging to reveal its best.

La Pizarras Chardonnay – this is without question the finest Chilean chardonnay I’ve ever tasted.  As with the pinot, this is a wine that promotes freshness and delicacy, but which bears an underlying structure and power.   Citrusy, with nutty overtones, this is a classical styled chardonnay that is better a couple of years post release.  It’s a wine to buy now, as I suspect the La Pizarras fortunes are set to rise further.

Montes Alpha M, Apalta – Montes is one of the great names of Chilean wine.  Like Errazuriz, they make excellent wines right the way through their range, but the Alpha M is my favourite.  A classic Bordeaux blend produced in the Apalta Valley, the Alpha M combines generosity with precision.  Notably fragrant – perfumed in some years – it’s a wine that offers plenty of extract and has a more classically New World feel to it.  There’s plenty of black fruits that supported by rounded tannins and a fresh, clean finish. 

Sena – a colleague of mine once remarked that Opus One tasted as good as you always hope claret will.  When I finally tasted Opus I could see where he was coming from.  The richness, suppleness, and approachability of the wine did make for a taste like an enjoyable version of a great Bordeaux, and that’s exactly how I feel about Sena.

Sena was created in 1995 by Robert Mondavi and Eduardo Chadwick with a view to creating a world-beating wine.  Since then Sena has scooped many accolades and ranks amongst the worlds’ finest wines.  Crafted from a blend of cabernet, carmenere, petit verdot, and cabernet franc, it’s a wine that delivers complexity, sumptuous quantities of red and black fruits overlain with smoke, minerals, and a fleshy, meaty tone to the finish. 

Vinedo Chadwick – is produced at the foot of the Andes at Puenta Alto at an altitude of 650m.  This is a wine that sets out to be the best of the best, and it’s hard to argue that the wine making team haven’t achieved this.  I tasted the 2020 recently and even at this tender age it’s hugely impressive.  Inky in colour, much swirling and breathing coaxed red berries, earth, smoke and eucalyptus from it.  The mouthfeel is glorious.  Its rich, yet poised, the tension between super-ripe blackcurrants, mulberries, blueberries and plums and tangy raspberry acidity is fascinating.  Impeccably well-structured, the tannins are firm but round and support the impressive length.

While this isn’t cheap, if you look at it in the context of the likes of a good second growth, top drawer Aussie or Californian cabernet, the value is clear.

Like Some Fine Wine Help?

We hope you’ve found this blog on Chilean wine to be of interest.  We’re delighted that Chile is flexing its fine wine muscles and we love the fact that while they are producing wines that are as good as any in the world, they’ve retained their attitude toward sensible pricing.

If you would like some wine advice then please do get in touch by calling Mike on 0118 984 4654 or by emailing MWH Wines here.  A recognised authority on wine, he’ll be happy to advise you on which wine is right for you.