We’ve reached peak heat and no one wants to turn on the stove. Backyard grilling and barbecue are the kings of summertime and the only challenge they present is finding the right wine to go with all the smoky, charred flavors they bring with them.
Enter Viña Los Vascos, the largest single-estate vineyard in Chile, with all the offerings necessary for your next patio or fire escape or park-side dinner.
Located in central Chile’s Colchagua Valley, the nearly 5,500-acre property was originally planted by the Echenique family, who immigrated from Spain’s Basque region (hence the name Los Vascos) in 1750. The valley is a winemaker’s dream, with the Andes to the east and the mighty Pacific to the west, creating a diverse multitude of microclimates that allow for many different styles of wine.
In 1988, the Rothschilds — yes, those Rothschilds, of Bordeaux’s Château Lafite Rothschild fame — purchased the storied land and got to work. Unsurprisingly, they were drawn to the terroir of the region: a sedimentary combination of fine-textured clay and loam silt, ample sunshine, maritime winds from the Pacific, and pure water flowing down from the Andes. Plus, it was a sublime area for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape with which they were very well-acquainted in Bordeaux.
The fusion of over a century of winemaking know-how, exceptional raw ingredients, and the expressive terroir of Colchagua makes Los Vascos some of the most sought-after wines in Chile.
Which brings us back to the grill: Obviously, Cabernet Sauvignon is a first ballot choice to drink with big, bold cuts of meat like a porterhouse or ribeye steak. But what about everything else? Thankfully, Los Vascos has a colorful, flavorful range of wines to pair with whatever else you cook up tonight.
What to eat: Ahi tuna steaks
With every inch covered in salt, cracked black peppercorns, and coriander.
What to drink: 2017 Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon
This might ruffle the feathers of some purists, but we swear by it. The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon’s growing season in Colchagua was one of high temperatures during the day — and night — which resulted in lush, ripe red fruit flavors and peppery tobacco notes. Fully matured in stainless steel tanks rather than oak, this 100 percent Cabernet won’t overwhelm a gently seared ahi tuna steak, working in harmony with the meatiness of the fish and the grill smoke.
What to eat: Steak
Not some elaborate preparation — we’re talking: good meat, salt, cracked pepper, grill marks.
What to drink: 2015 Los Vascos Grande Reserve
A classic pairing if there ever was one. This mostly Cabernet (85 percent) blend easily stands up to the robust smoky flavors of the grill, the black pepper, and the meat. Chief Winemaker Marcelo Gallardo blends in Syrah and Carménère to mellow Cab’s powerful tannins and give the wine good acidity with an herbaceous backbone, to make sure every bite and sip have something new to discover.
What to eat: A big burger
Piled high with sauteed mushrooms, swiss cheese, and — wait for it — bacon.
What to drink: 2016 Los Vascos Carménère Grande Reserve
Fact: There’s nothing better than a burger on a summer day. This burger is bold and aggressive, meant for a wine equally rugged: Carménère. Originally from Bordeaux, the grape escaped the European phylloxera debacle when cuttings were brought from Bordeaux to Chile in the late 19th century. For nearly a century, the grapes were confused with Merlot, but in the ’90s biologists determined them to be Carménère, a much more rustic, aggressive grape. Today, Carménère is widely regarded as one of Chile’s finest offerings, when made properly. This classic version brings high acidity and flavors of charcoal and funky earthy tones of bell pepper and green olives, which stand up nicely to the umami flavors of an over-the-top burger.
What to eat: Texas brisket
Smoked, not for the faint of heart.
What to drink: 2015 Le Dix de Los Vascos
Brisket isn’t an impromptu dinner decision. It takes time — hours upon hours — and attentive care. Enter the crown jewel of Los Vascos’s portfolio: Le Dix. Originally made to commemorate the first 10 years (dix ans for those who have forgotten their high school French) of Lafite’s work in Chile, Los Vascos made the first iteration of this grand cuvée in 1998. The wine, made from 70-year-old vines, is aged for 18 months in new oak barrels built by Château Lafite Rothschild’s own coopers. This powerful Cabernet-Syrah-Carménère blend is just the right thing for your smoky, meaty brisket. You’ll want to give this some time to decant, around a couple hours, to bring out the ripe red fruit flavors accentuated by spicy, herbaceous notes of cedar and laurel.
What to eat: Grilled chicken
Tiled in thinly sliced lemon, rubbed with rosemary and thyme.
What to drink: 2018 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc
For this bottling, Los Vascos sources Sauvignon Blanc grapes from Chile’s coastal Casablanca region. Given their proximity to the freshness of the Pacific, these grapes make wines that are leaner, more acidic, and typically more vibrant than those grown in higher temperatures inland. Classically full of grapefruit and lemon aromas, the citrusy, lemongrass-y notes of Sauvignon Blanc heighten the similar flavors of your chicken seasoning, and won’t disappear from your palate. But don’t be mistaken, it’ll definitely disappear from your glass.
What to eat: Salmon steaks
Salted, peppered, with fresh lemon squeezed over the top for good measure.
What to drink: 2018 Los Vascos Chardonnay
Salmon is meaty and firm and needs something to go toe to toe with it. That’s why a weightier wine, like this Chardonnay, pairs well. Differing from a white Burgundy or Napa Valley style, Los Vascos Chardonnay is a blend of grapes from Colchagua and Casablanca. The high acidity from the coastal grapes offsets the ripe inland ones and brings together tropical fruit flavors with citrusy ones. You’re certainly allowed to drink this on its own, but it’s a great companion for your fish.
What to eat: Grilled veggies
Go with whatever’s in abundance and can hold up on the grill, like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and bell pepper.
What to drink: 2019 Los Vascos Rosé
What would summer be without rosé? (Seriously. We actually don’t know.) This 2017 bottling, a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a little dash of Syrah, works wonderfully with vegetables on the grill. This wine tends to the more robust side of the rosé spectrum, with smoke, sweet strawberry aromas, and deep flavors of stewed cherries and black currants, perfect with the best of the farmers’ market.
This article is sponsored by Los Vascos.