Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WBW #52: Viña Maquis 2004 Maquis Lien (WN)

Wine Blogging Wednesday #52 is conveniently right up my alley. The subject: Chilean Value Reds. A Venn diagram of my typical drinking preferences and the red wines Chile has to offer would look something like this:

That's not to say most of what I drink is Chilean wine, but that I usually buy wines that are under $20 dollars and have a little something there to pique my interest. Chilean producers seem to be hitting the mark in this respect. They're usually neither excessively fruity or herbaceous, and have decent structure. That's far more than you can say about most domestic offerings at that price point. Chile also has its own signature varietal, Carmenère, that was introduced from France before phylloxera virtually wiped out the varietal in Europe. I haven't had a really great Carmenère, but it usually makes a decent earthy wine and may be even better as a blending grape.

For WBW #52, I've selected the Viña Maquis 2004 Maquis Lien. I tried the the 2005 Calcu from the same producer a few months ago and was not overly impressed as it came across as both herbaceous and hot. I can handle more green bell peppers and pickle juice than most in my wine, but the Calcu was too one-dimensional in this respect. The bigger problem was the un-integrated alcohol as it replaced any nuance that might have emerged on the finish with heat.

The 2004 Maquis Lien, a blend of 50% Syrah, 23% Carmenère, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot and 7% Malbec from the Colchagua Valley, is a bit better than its cousin, but still misses the mark by a bit. There was quite a bit of precipitate in the bottle suggesting the winemakers limited the fining and filtering prior to bottling. The nose is like pure blueberry juice, which is an aroma I usually get from Syrah. There's also earth and a savory, meaty component to the bouquet. So far so good. But there's also that unmistakable ethanol aroma. Unfortunately, the heat carries over to the palate. The wine is fruit-forward on the attack and mid-palate, then unleashes the kind of pure heat on the finish that you catch in your sinuses. OK, that's a bit of hyperbole, but this wine does not carry its 14.5% alcohol particularly gracefully. That's unfortunate since there's a solid backbone of structure with dry, tough tannins to prop up the fruit.

It's a bit frustrating in the end because this one is very close to being a great wine. There's some good depth to it and it's not a completely one-dimensional wine. But the lack of balance knocks this one back a few notches. Future vintages are likely worth trying as Viña Maquis develops its viticultural techniques. I'd bet that right now at least some of their grapes are reaching sugar ripeness before phenolic ripeness, leading to some of the rough edges like herbaceousness, hard tannins and heat. If they're overcropping or not managing the vine canopies properly, these are issues they'll likely address over time.

Score: 81-84
Price: $14 at Cost Plus World Market

For a superior alternative for roughly the same price, I'd recommend the Marques de Casa Concha 2005 Merlot. It has some earthy, herbal notes and a hint of tar to complement ripe dark fruit as well as a healthy dose of oak aging. And, most importantly, it is balanced. It's a Merlot that absolutely blows away fruit-bomb California Merlots (i.e. the sort of Merlots that Miles was bashing in Sideways) at the same price point. Just give it some time in a decanter first to let it breath and it'll drink like a wine that costs twice as much.


Tim said...

I LOVE the Venn diagram. Sorry you didn't end up with a more enjoyable pick for this one.

CabFrancoPhile said...

If I'd paid $8 or $9 for this wine, I'd have been psyched. It was decent (a low 80's score is a good wine in my book), but didn't bring the QPR thunder like I'd hoped for $14.