Chilean wine: What is in the bottle and what can you discern from the label?

Chilean Wine
Chilean wine: What is in the bottle and what can you discern from the label?
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Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides

Cynthia Silversides is an accredited Sommelier certified by both the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) and Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS). Passionate about great wine, food, and travel experiences, Cynthia is owner of Niagara Vino providing tutored wine tasting and tour services in the Niagara Peninsula wine region of Ontario, Canada. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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At the April gathering for the American Women’s Club of Oakville (AWCO) Wine Group the theme was Chilean wine. In the course of wine tasting, label details became a topic of conversation. How do you begin to understand what is in a bottle of wine, and what can you discern from a label?

This varies in each winemaking country, and many appellations have their own regulations. By law in Chile wine bottles must be labelled with:

Winery Name: Either the official name of the company or a brand name

Alcohol Level: This must be stated in Guy Lussac degrees (law requires a minimum alcohol level of 11.5°)

Wine Volume: This must be stated in metric units (the majority are 750 mL)

Producer/Bottler Name and Address: Generally found on the back label with an optional description of the wine.

Chilean Wine Label

Other optional information for labels include:

Quality Level: “Reserva” indicates a higher quality wine (legal definition: distinctive organoleptic properties) and it must contain a minimum of 12° alcohol, whereas Gran Reserva is the highest quality which must contain a minimum of 12.5° alcohol and have oak treatment

Varietal Name: Single varietal wines must include a minimum of 75% of the varietal stated, and for wine blends up to three varietals may be stated on the front label in descending order with each making up at least 15% of the blend

Vintage Year: The year grapes were harvested – 75% must come from the year stated

Wine Appellation: In Chile this is called “Denominacion de Origen” (D.O.)

You can often find out more online about a particular wine. For the Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenere 2009, producer Santa Rita provides a good amount of information on their website including that this wine is made from 100% of the varietal stated on the label, and more in reference to where the grapes came from – two different vineyards in the Colchagua Valley D.O., along with many other details and comments by the winemaker.

All the wines tasted by this group were good values with price points under $20. Do you have a favourite Chilean wine? Write me a comment and tell me about it!

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