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story.lead_photo.caption Illustration by Kelly Brant

It's all too easy to get caught in our comfort zones when it comes to buying wine. We tend to start treating wine purchases the same as any other commodity once we find a brand and style we enjoy. We thoughtlessly grab it in the wine shop just as we would a gallon of milk or a can of coffee.

In other words, we fall into a rut.

A few weeks ago, I rediscovered a wine region I sometimes forget and after noticing the value price tag, I realize I've been missing out.

For a long time, Chile was dismissed for producing mediocre wines. But today Chile is reinventing its image to get the U.S. wine drinker to take notice. I guess it's working because I sure noticed.

Far from being just a great value, Chile has come a long way in its progression with its unique blend of old-world philosophy and modern innovation. Chile is considered a viticulture paradise with ample sunshine, a dry climate and one of the few wine regions free of phylloxera. (A tiny insect that attacks the roots of grapevines depleting nutrients and slowly starving the vine.)

Chile has undergone some of the most dramatic technological changes in the wine world. In the past, local consumers demanded simple oxidized whites or faded red wines so that's what Chilean winemakers focused on. But in the late '80s growers and producers made a commitment to the long-term future of a successful export market. They invested in their vineyards, overhauling and replacing outdated and tired equipment, adding oak barrels, stainless steel vats and practicing modern winemaking techniques.

With Chile's transformation came wines at their best, packed with youthful vibrant fruit. Cabernet sauvignon, merlot, carmenere and the emerging syrah are the most widely planted reds while chardonnay and sauvignon blanc remain the country's best examples of whites. All are at value prices.

THE VALUES

2018 Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon (about $13 retail)

2018 Prisma Pinot Noir (about $14 retail)

2018 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc (about $13 retail)

2018 Lapostolle Casa Merlot (about $14 retail)

2018 The Seeker Cabernet Sauvignon (about $14 retail)

2018 Bodega Norton Barrel Chardonnay (about $14 retail)

2018 Apaltagua Rose of Carmenere (about $13 retail)

2018 Concha y Toro Frontera Sauvignon Blanc (about $11 retail, 1.5L)

2018 Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon (about $13 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 09/04/2019

Print Headline: Chilean wine offers a great value and quality

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