Viña Santa Carolina offers a peek into Chile’s quality, value and diversity
On my recent trip to Chile, I had the opportunity to visit Viña Santa Carolina. In fact this was the last winery we visited on a week-long press trip I took with Wines of Chile. It’s a funny thing about last stops. On the one hand, you could say they had the last chance to make an impression, and that’s true. On the other hand, between formal sit-down tastings, meals and extracurricular drinking, we tasted 30 to 40 wines on most days. After a while, the palate and the part of the brain that break down a wine get tired. So walking around the historic facility at Viña Santa Carolina, and then sitting in a lovely room and sampling a broad range of their wines from numerous ranges, I was a bit physically tired. So I see it as all the more impressive that these wines really broke through the fatigue and stood out to me, making a lasting impression that I was contemplating over several days. As with most Chilean producers, Viña Santa Carolina offers a wide array of selections under their umbrella. Another part of their diversity is the fact that they have vineyards in half a dozen distinct Chilean appellations. So when tasting their wines we covered a pretty wide swath of Chile, all from the perspective of one overall winery. What follows are my impressions of three particular wines that shone brightly for different reasons.
First up is the Viña Santa Carolina 2012 Reserva Moscato. The fruit for this wine was sourced in the Elqui region of Chile, which is northernmost appellation in the country. The fruit was hand harvested and fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. This wine saw no wood influence at all. The Reserva range of wines from Viña Santa Carolina each have a suggested retail price of $12. Apricot and lychee fruit aromas burst forth from the nose of this wine. Stone and tropical fruit flavors fill the palate, which is balanced and light bodied. The finish shows off gentle acidity and continued bits of fruitiness, as well as subtle spice notes. This is a very pretty Moscato that really tickled my taste buds. Oftentimes this grape is turned into syrupy wines that I have a hard time consuming more than a little of. This wine is the opposite of that -- it has hints of sweetness but is quite appealing and goes down remarkably well. It’s great on its own and will work very well with light appetizers.
The Viña Santa Carolina 2009 Dry Farmed Carignan is part of their Specialties range of wines. These are offerings that are unique in their collection for a variety of reasons. They might be dry farmed, as the Carignan is, from old vines, from a section of Chile that has yet to emerge, or made from varietals that have yet to make a huge mark to date at that location. The fruit for this wine came from a small vineyard where the vines are 60 to 80 years old. This range of wines sells for right around $18. Dark fruit aromas such as blackberry and plum are resplendent on the nose of this Carignan. The palate is dry with a slightly rustic feel, showing off dark fruits, earth and savory notes. The finish is long, clinging to the back of the throat for an impressive period of time and showcasing some sour fruit notes and continued earth. The Viña Santa Carolina Carignan will absolutely shine when paired with hearty cuisine such as braised short ribs or funky, mushroom-heavy dishes. If you want to sample an inspiring wine from Chile a bit outside of the norm, this Carignan is one that is well worth seeking out. At around $18 it represents a very good value.
Finally, we have the Viña Santa Carolina 2010 Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon. All of the fruit for this wine was sourced in the Maipo Valley, one of Chile’s standout Cabernet Sauvignon regions. The fruit was hand harvested by block, based on clones, soil type and age of the vines. Fermentation took place with selected yeasts. Barrel aging was accomplished over 15 months in entirely French oak; 6 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. This widely available Cabernet Sauvignon has a suggested retail price of $20. Briar and berry aromas emerge on the nose of this wine along with subtle bits of appealing green herb. Black raspberry and cherry flavors dominate the palate, along with black pepper spice. Pencil lead and graphite are part of the finish along with hints of earth and continued spice. This wine has good length and solid structure marked by firm tannins and good acidity. The Reserva de Familia is an excellent example of the kind of tremendous value Chile continues to provide in Cabernet Sauvignon. If this wine were from some other regions in the word it would easily sell for over $30, probably closer to $35.Chile is a go-to country for me when it comes to value and diversity. A producer such as Viña Santa Carolina, with a portfolio loaded with different ranges and varietals, is a microcosm of that. I heartily encourage you to try these wines, as well as selections under their other labels such as Nimbus (which focuses on single vineyard releases). I fully believe that if you try the Viña Santa Carolina wines they will become a go-to label for you too.