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Wine Reviews: Review of Casa Lapostolle Merlot
by: Vino Joe (e-mail

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Casa Lapostolle: Fine Chilean Wine

For many years, Chile was the secret land of wine bargains, with very good bottles selling for only four or five bucks. However, the secret got out, and high-profile winemakers such as Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Robert Mondavi hustled down below the equator to invest in vineyards. As you might expect, the wines of Chile gradually raised in price. Today there are very few five-buck bargains, and in fact some Chilean bottles could be described as overpriced. However, you can still find wines of good quality and value from this South American country.

Nestled between the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile enjoys a winegrowing climate that is somewhere between Napa Valley and Bordeaux. As a result, it comes as no surprise that many of the vineyards are stocked with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Chilean reds will have similar character to wines from those areas, but tend to be softer, with milder tannins and rarely the cellar potential of a classic Bordeaux or Cal Cab. Personally, I see this as an advantage; who wants to wait 10 or 20 years to drink a wine? 

When buying Chilean wine, my suggestion is to stick with specific wineries that are well known and make a style you enjoy. For example, Los Vascos has the aforementioned Rothschild name and dollars backing it, so you know the wine is going to be of fairly good quality. Concha y Toro was one of the pioneers of modern winemaking in Chile back in the 1800s, and remains a reliable brand. Since the Spanish Conquistadors originally brought vines to Chile in the 16th century, it is fitting that Spain's Miguel Torres was the first foreign investor to buy vineyards -- and today they make critically acclaimed Chilean wines. One of my favorite Chilean wineries is Casa Lapostolle, which makes excellent wines at several price points. 

Casa Lapostolle is owned by the great-granddaughter of Grand Marnier's founder, but don't expect any orange-flavored wines. Rather, expect dry, full-flavored examples with a French accent provided by consulting winemaker Michel Rolland, who is kind of like the Reggie Jackson of winemaking and best known for creating amazing Bordeaux wines. An excellent and affordable introduction to this estate's wines is their Estate Bottled Merlot from Rapel Valley. The Rapel is one of the hotter wine regions of Chile and is known for producing rich red wines. Casa Lapostolle Merlot has what I feel are "typical Merlot" aromas: ripe blackberry, plum, black pepper, earth and a twinge of roasted green bell pepper. The nose also exhibits elements of boysenberry, mulberry and spice. The first thing you recognize on the palate is a very smooth texture, carrying ripe, forward fruit and spicy vanilla notes. The flavors are similar to what's found on the nose -- mulberry, blackberry -- and are backed by mild to medium acidity and mild tannins. The finish is very earthy, almost dirty in taste, and a touch hot.

Overall it is a very flavorful wine with good complexity and weight. At around 12 bucks, this is an excellent value, as there are wines from California of similar quality and character costing five to 20 dollars more.

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