Chilean wine: Top 5

The earthquake that struck Chile late last month took a toll on the country's wine industry, with more than 12 percent of its "cellared wine" lost according to the Washington Post. "About 70 percent of Chilean production takes place in areas badly affected by the quake, including the Maule, Colchagua and Cachapoal valleys, all key areas for Chilean wine production," the paper reports. In response to the devastation, which included the tragic loss of hundreds of lives, funds have been established to donate to those who have suffered losses related to the quake. Some are recommending consumers simply buy more Chilean wine. Here are five local wine shops' top Chilean wine recommendations:

1. Andy Hall, wine manager at Surdyk's, recommends a few of Cono Sur's "bicycle series" wines, particularly the carménère (a red, "kind of becoming" Chile's signature grape), pinot noir, and the viognier (a "relatively full-bodied white") varietals. Hall describes them as "everyday, affordable wines." Each runs $10.99 a bottle but can frequently be had for just $7 or $8, he says.


2. Haskell's in St. Paul's top-selling Chilean wine is from the Andean Ridge label. "It's probably our hottest brand, and it's reasonably priced," says store manager Brent Gregoire. While the label offers several kinds of wine, including chardonnay, malbec, and a cabernet, it is its carménère that Gregoire says he particularly enjoys. "It's something out of the ordinary," he says. And the taste? "[B]ig and rich and heavy but with a soft edge to it." Bottles of Andean Ridge run $9.99 a bottle at Haskell's.


3. For something a little more special, First Grand Ave. Liquor Store manager Nick Nadeau recommends Montes Alpha's syrah. "It's a real inky, full-bodied style of syrah," he says. "It's pretty fruit-driven, almost jammy ... It comes from hillsides and stresses the vine a little more so you get a really intense style of syrah ... It's nice also that it's smooth. It doesn't have any rough edges." The wine, which costs $23.99, hails from the Apalta Valley of Chile.


Chilean wine: Top 5
thejourney1972 (away until april)

4. McDonald's Liquor and Wine is running a special on Chile's Casas del Bosque wine throughout April, with the label's "Reserva" cabernet and chardonnay running $2 off at $10.99 and the "Gran Reserva" carménère and carignan (a "nice, big, red grape" with an "almost earthy" quality) selling for $3 off regular price, at $14.99. Wine manager Michael Hennessy describes them as "big, rich, full well-structured wines ... These are wine definitely for food pairing, great with steaks and for summer grilling," he says. "There's nothing there that tips the scale too much in one direction."


Chilean wine: Top 5

5. You've probably had or at least heard of Concha y Toro wine, but the label is well known far beyond its 1.5-liter bottles. A great example is the 2007 Marques de Casa Concha cabernet sauvignon says France 44 Vice President David Anderson. "It's a very rich, full-bodied cabernet with a good balance of fruit and tannins," he says. "It has some wonderful blackberry kind of flavors, which you look for often in cabernet ... It's smooth and has a long finish." Lending the wine, which runs $21.99 at France 44, some additional credibility is its 90-point Wine Spectator rating.

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