I recall the names Santa Rita and Santa Carolina from my early days of burgeoning wine-worship. These two were patron saints of great wine value. (Or at least they were at the time -- I haven't seen a Santa Carolina bottle in years and Santa Rita only makes occasional appearances around here these days.)
[UPDATE: Six Santa Carolinas and a Santa Rita have been spotted as part of the LCBO's "Latin Fever" promotion, on until the end of the month.]
It's interesting to think that that part of my wine education went the way of Chilean wines. I was a Niagara Peninsula boy who loved Cabernet Franc, not that other one, and who had inside of him a blog fairly devoted to the wines of the Old World. But at the time, Chilean wines were indeed great values, especially the reds, which made fantastic everyday bottles.
Here, I check in on the Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Valle del Maipo 2003, a wine I recall drinking as long as I've been drinking wine. Yes, all eight years of pounding.
Thorough decanting opens the up the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon substantially, which, even though it was three years old when I uncorked it, was at first quite tight.
It had a deep red velvet colour with a magenta rim. Vanilla and savoury spice with very lush berries were present on the nose -- delicious! Like a wonderful combination of grenadine and vegetable soup!
On the nose it is almost better than it is on the palate which shows licorice, medicine, dark carbonized fruit, and wood. Slightly too acidic but it is balanced and with a long finish. It has a full body and tannins that are not totally elegant but at least integrated enough to give the wine structure without being totally domineering. The whole package is well served by a nice dry edge.
At a glance, this is a wine that needs some time but it possesses a beautiful bouquet with eucalyptus flavour -- that medicinal quality that can be a bit off-putting at first. Don't have it on its own, serve it with dinner. When paired with the right food it is a 100 percent luxurious addition to your meal. Try a very rare steak with roasted root vegetables, hardy greens like Brussels sprouts are also a good match for this wine. There's a juiciness to the wine that perfectly echoes the iron and tender red meat of the steak.
To sum up: This is still wise value, done in a typically international style.
Alto Jahuel, Buin, Chile. 13.5%.