In 2016, Chile's Matetic Wine Group purchased an obscure but modern winery in the Colchagua Valley, one of the country's most renowned wine regions. Matetic, true believers in organic and biodynamic farming, did two things to move the needle for the TerraPura winery: hired a new winemaker, Felipe Vial, and enlisted the services of Napa Valley winemaker Bob Pepi as winemaking consultant.
Pepi brought a trove of experience in South America to the task, having served Argentina's Valentin Bianchi as a consultant for more than a decade. The TerraPura project is aimed at value consumers. The wines are "line" priced at $11.99 each, and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Pepi and taste four of the 2018 releases: a sauvignon blanc, a carmenere, a pinot noir and a cabernet sauvignon.
What struck me most was the clean, fresh delivery and fruit purity. None of the wines were barrel-fermented, though nuances of wood spice emerged because of the use of barrel staves during the winemaking process.
Pepi, who has his own label, Eponymous, that sources grapes from a number of top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, favorably compares the terroir of Chile to California.
"I consider Argentina somewhere between Bordeaux and California, but with a little more fruit than Bordeaux," Pepi said. "Chile is more like California with its diversity of soils and climate, and the wines have plenty of fruit."
The sauvignon blanc, from the Valle de Curico, was bright and fresh with notes of grapefruit.
The pinot noir, from the cooler Valle Itata, offered notes of cherry and spice and impressive persistence on the finish. Pepi is especially proud of the pinot.
"I'm pretty excited about this," he said. "I don't think you can touch it for the price." Indeed, tasty pinot noir for $12 is a rare and beautiful thing.
The carmenere and cabernet sauvignon, both from the warmer Colchagua Valley, are fresh and pure, with the carmenere delivering slightly more weight and richness than the cabernet, though each is distinctive in its own way.
Chile has long been known for tasty wines at value prices, and TerraPura does nothing to change that equation.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Two Angels 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, High Valley ($16.99) — The highly regarded Pepi has made this wine since its inception compiled an impressive track record over more than a decade. This vintage shows a bit of Bordeaux blanc character with aromas of white peach and citrus, excellent balance and length. Rating: 90.
Wakefield 2017 Estate Chardonnay, Clare Valley ($16.99) — Aromas of lemon creme and spice, baked apple and pear, and a smooth, creamy finish make this medium-bodied, pleasing chardonnay a serious candidate for an everyday house white wine. Rating: 88.
Groth 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville ($140) — The previous vintage of reserve cab from Groth was a stunning wine, and the 2015 is as good, if not better. This vintage is robust and muscular, showing layered notes of blackberry and cassis, a hint of graphite and firm tannins. Still tight at this stage, another five to seven years in the cellar would be optimum before serving this wine, though it is certainly drinkable now. Rating: 96.
Wakefield 2017 St. Andrews Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia ($40) — Australia's Clare Valley is home to many of Australia's finest dry rieslings, and I include Wakefield's St. Andrews among them. This vintage offers classic aromas of lime citrus and orange blossom, a hint of minerality on the nose and mouthwatering acidity that will preserve this wine for more than a decade. And that's the best part. Dry riesling from the Clare Valley evolves over time into a wine with extraordinary complexity and allure. Yes, you could certainly consume it now with pleasure. But for those with the patience to cellar this wine, a remarkable wine experience awaits. Rating: 95.
J Vineyards Brut Rose, Russian River Valley ($45) — Just in time for Valentine's Day comes the gorgeous J Brut Rose, consistently among the finest sparkling rose wines produced in the USA. This beauty offers succulent aromas of strawberry and spice, a fine mousse, a creamy palate and impressive length on the finish. Rating: 94.
Seven Hills 2016 Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, Washington ($25) — One of the Washington wine industry's best-kept secrets is Seven Hills. Its wines are beautifully balanced and impeccably made across the board. The 2016 merlot is another home run, showing notes of black cherry and red currant with a fleshy palate, hints of wood spice and supple tannins. It's a steal at the price. Rating: 93.
Matetic EQ 2014 Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($40) — The Casablanca Valley is east of Santiago toward the sea, and thus, cooler than Chile's favored growing regions for cabernet sauvignon and carmenere. That makes it just about perfect for pinot noir, which thrives in slightly cooler conditions that preserve acidity and elegance. The Matetic EQ shows aromas of cherry and wood spice, and is slightly fleshy but with firm acid and the potential for improvement in the cellar. Rating: 91.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]