Saturday, 21 January 2012

Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)

Don Maximiano Errazuriz was ridiculed when setting up his winery in the Aconcagua Valley in 1870. Never before had vines been planted as far north as the Aconcagua Valley, 100 kilometres north of the Chilean capital of Santiago. Today, not only do vines thrive within the Aconcagua Valley (at Don Maximiano’s Errazuriz estate and others) but also even further north in Chile, in the Elqui Valley and the Limari Valley, thus not only vindicating Don Maximiano Errazuriz, but also opening up an entire new winegrowing topography for ambitious vintners and entrepreneurs.

In recognising the potential of the Aconcagua Valley’s cool rainy winters, hot dry summers and moist Pacific breezes, Don Maximiano Errazuriz realised his famous saying: “From the best land, the best wine”. Whereas further south in Chile, where the climate tends towards being a little too warm at times, seeing grapes ripen quickly and developing only relatively simple favours in the finished product, in the Aconcagua Valley, Don Maximiano Errazuriz saw the potential for slow ripening grapes to develop complexity in his Errazuriz Estate vineyards and his winery has been turning out top quality Chilean wine across a broad range of prices ever since.

Today run by a fifth generation descendant of Don Maximiano Erraruriz, the Errazuriz estate still only produces wine from grapes sourced from the their own, owned vineyards. This is the case even for their entry level wines – something which is unusual in wines that occupy the under £8 per bottle price range that this Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon does. The cheapest Cabernet Sauvignon that the Errazuriz Estate produces, this Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a significant reputation to maintain, with the Errazuriz Estate’s top wines (the Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve and the Vinedo Chadwick - both primarily Cabernet Sauvignon) receiving exceptional critical acclaim each year.

Hand-picked in April and May, the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes destined for this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon were gently crushed before being fermented in stainless steel tanks at the state of the art Errazuriz Estate winery. After fermentation, one third of this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was aged in a mix of French and American oak barrels for 6 to 8 months (depending on the characteristics of each batch of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the different vineyard blocks). Following this, the final blending of this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon occurred and a light filtration was completed before bottling.

The bottle of this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon displays the Cabernet Sauvignon grape’s Bordeaux roots, with the bottle tall shouldered in the traditional Bordeaux style. Sealed with a screw cap, Errazuriz has also added a note to the bottle of this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon showing that the bottle is 12.5% lighter than in previous vintage. A caption explaining that this is part of an initiative entitled “Errazuriz Goes Green” is also attached.

In the glass, this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep ruby red, with some intensity to the centre of the glass. Fading to the rim, a more obvious and vibrant damson hue becomes apparent with no rusticity imparted by this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon’s (limited) time in oak. The legs of this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon are average for Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, with an alcohol content of 13.5% perhaps appearing a little higher than this due to the intensity of the colour of this wine.

On the nose, restrained blackberry and cherries mingle as they gentle waft up from the glass. A pleasantly beguiling set of aromas also features a hint of jammed strawberries, tobacco and vanilla from the oak aging that this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has experienced. Not as powerful or overt as some Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon on the nose, this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is nonetheless nuanced and accomplished.

In the mouth, this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is soft and medium bodied. Blackberry, cherry and mulberry show the way through the main part of the palate into a surprisingly lifted and gentle finish. There is a fantastic balance of these component flavours into one smooth wash of fruit. Tannin extraction is limited in this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, although there is a sense of an underlying but subtle structure that comes in with the finish in the form of a light gripping on the gums. Very approachable, the watchwords for this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon must be subtlety and balance.

Whilst not as heavy, or as smoky (or even dare we suggest as seriously structured and complex) as some Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, this does not stop this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon being an extremely enjoyable wine. Many Chilean Cabernet Sauvignons which are un-oaked (or have seen only minimal oak aging) are terribly astringent and lack fruit flavours to match the potentially strong structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and thus lack balance. This is not the case with this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wonderfully balanced and approachable, this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine which does the memory of Don Maximiano Errauriz proud.
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Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)

Score: 85/100 – Lifted and fragrant, a subtle and excellent expression of Cabernet

Value for Money: 8/10 – At £7 per bottle this 2009 Errazuriz Estate Cabernet Sauvignon seems well priced for such an accomplished effort
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