For several years now, I have been tasting the wines of Viñedos Calcu from the Colchagua Valley in central Chile. The winery produces a range of small-production wines from Bordeaux varieties — Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Carménère, and Malbec — priced at $13 or $14.
Global Vineyard Importers, which brings Calcu’s wines into this country, says the line is made for everyday drinking but is “far more interesting and distinctive than most in its category.”
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
It’s a description I happen to agree with, and Calcu’s 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserva Especial illustrates the point well. The blend is 91 percent Cab Franc, 6 percent Carménère, and 3 percent Petit Verdot, and the wine shows unusual complexity.
Aromas of red and dark berry fruit are followed by a core of blackberry and cassis in the mouth, with notes of earth and tobacco on the long finish. There is a refined tannic structure, subtle use of oak (eight months of aging in used French barrels), and an overall freshness that makes the wine as easy to drink as it is interesting. Alcohol is a moderate 13.5 percent.
While Cabernet Sauvignon may get more attention in Chile, I believe that Cabernet Franc shows real potential to produce distinctive and memorable wines there — if only it could emerge from the shadow of its better-known cousin.
Two other Calcu wines are worth trying: The 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is classic Chilean Sauvignon with floral, green apple, and pink grapefruit notes. The 2018 Rosé, a blend of 90 percent Malbec and 10 percent Petit Verdot, combines floral, strawberry, and tropical fruit notes in a refreshing and versatile wine for summer and beyond.