Import Selection: Cabernet Sauvignon, 1988. Los Vascos

The Vina Los Vascos winery lies sheltered in its own private vit­icultural paradise, the 4900 acre Caneten Valley, about 90 miles south of Santiago, in Chile’s cli­matically-endowed Colchagua re­gion. Don Pedro Gregorio Eche­nique, a knight of the Order of Santiago, built the winery in 1750. It has stayed in his family ever since.

The soil, weather and irrigation conditions in Chile are ideal for cultivating premium grapes. The dreaded root parasite, phylloxera, is non-existent there. Land and production costs are considerably lower than in Europe or California. The country has a good reputation among winemakers and drinkers.

In 1988, aware of these fac­tors, Baron Eric de Rothschild, the managing partner of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), had become very enthusiastic about in­vesting in a Chilean winery. The Lafite technical team would be available to supervise harvesting and vinification in both Chile and Bordeaux every year, as the crush occurred five months earlier in the Southern Hemisphere. The Baron dispatched Lafite’s chief winemaker and technical director, Gilbert Rokvam, to scout the territory. Rokvam tasted 163 wines (sounds like us!). Vina Los Vascos consis­tently rated high. So, Rothschild arranged a 50/50 partnership with the Echenique family, invested $3 million into state-of-the-art wine-making equipment and assigned Rokvam to supervise each subse­quent vintage.

The results? Baron Eric cur­rently reports, “We are now mak­ing a world-class wine down there.”(After meeting us, Rokvam extended an open invitation to the WOMC tasters to visit Chateau La­fite.)

With proper cultivation and vinification, Cabernet Sauvignon vines yield princely vintages capa­ble of ageing and improving for decades. These wines receive uni­versal acclaim for their aroma of cassis (blackcurrant), violets, earth and cedar, and their velvety tex­ture. This selection has a brilliant, deep-garnet color and an intense cassis/berry bouquet with honey and vanilla (oak) overtones. Very well-balanced in the mouth, the wine offers a smooth package of ripe Cabernet flavor, bold acidity and firm tannin in a structure nota­bly more similar to Bordeaux than to California Cabernet. It finishes smooth, dry and slightly tannic with the berry flavors lingering.

Serve at room temperature with broiled steak or roast leg of lamb.

Cellaring Notes: Will complex and improve for 2 to 4 more years.


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