Chile has long been a good source for just the kind of bargain reds you need in quantity for holiday parties and dinners. At $14 a bottle, this spicy, smooth 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc from the Colchagua Valley, with its taste of red berries, hints of cocoa, and wonderfully silky texture, really over-delivers for the price.
Elin McCoy’s Wine of the Week
2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc
Region: C0lchagua Valley, Chile
Grape: 100% Cabernet Franc
Serve with: Beef stews, grilled lamb chops, rich soups and pastas
HOLIDAY PARTY SELECTIONS
The rural Colchagua Valley, in the central part of Chile about 80 miles south of Santiago, is the southernmost sub-region of the Rapel Valley. It’s better known for big-name prestige reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère — such as icon wine Clos Apalta — than Cabernet Franc. But recently a few producers have become very interested in this varietal. Based on the examples I’ve tasted, including this one, I’m convinced Cabernet Franc has a promising future there. (Thanks to the brilliant new book “Wine Grapes” by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz and just published by Ecco, I now know that Cabernet Franc is one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s parents.) Bordeaux varietals were first planted in this region — also home to Chilean cowboys — back in the 19th century.
Calcu, which means “the magician” in the native Mapuche language, is a relatively new project, masterminded by winemakers Alejandro Jofre and Ricardo Rivadeneira-Hurtado. Rivadeneira, whose family planted vineyards at the nearby Viña Maquis estate in the early 20th century, manages that property, and he and Jofre in 2005 created the Calcu line to emphasize the Valley’s distinctive flavors. This Cabernet Franc is a recent addition to the line and is just as much a winner as Calcu’s terrific fresh, complex rosé.
You may remember that 2010 was the year of Chile’s devastating earthquake, which damaged many wineries. Fortunately, the quake’s epicenter was well south of Colchagua Valley. The growing season was long and dry, the summer cooler than usual, which slowed ripening and gives the wine expansive red fruit aromas.
The grapes come from a special vineyard block, were handpicked, and the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks and older French barrels, which preserves freshness and fruit and the juicy acidity that makes this wine so versatile with food.
Consider making the 2010 Calcu Cabernet Franc as your go-to party red for the holidays. It’s going to be mine.
Top photo composite:
Calcu Cabernet Franc label inserted on backdrop of vineyards from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. Credit: Courtesy of Viña Maquis