Chile’s icon wines vs. the rest

It’s now several years since Eduardo Chadwick of Viña Errázuriz in Chile organised a tasting in Berlin, modelled on the ‘Judgement of Paris’, Steven Spurrier’s 1976 tasting were some of France’s best châteaux were defeated by Californian wines in a blind tasting. Chadwick’s version pitted his own top wines against the likes of Châteaux Lafite and Latour in a head-to-head challenge which inevitably was tagged ‘The Judgement of Berlin’. Thirty expert judges tasted and ranked the 12 wines blind, and when the scores were totted up, two of Chadwick’s wines – Vinedo Chadwick and Seña – had taken the top two spots. The event was so successful for Eduardo Chadwick, and generated so many column inches, that he has since repeated similar tastings around the world, most recently in London in May.

Unfortunately I could not attend the tasting (where the Chadwick wines were pipped by Margaux 2005, Lafite 2005 and Solaia 2005) but Eduardo generously sent me a set of his top wines so that I could taste them at my leisure. These were the Don Maxiamo 2006 (£29.99 – see all stockists on wine-searcher), the Kai 2006 (£29.99 – see all stockists on wine-searcher) and the Vinedo Chadwick 2006 (£45.00 – see all stockists on wine-searcher), all Bordeaux-esque blends of one configuration or another. Also included was La Cumbre 2006, Chadwick’s top Shiraz wine (£29.99 – see all stockists on wine-searcher).

Rather than simply open and taste these, I decided to spice things up a little by holding my own little blind tasting challenge with the four wines plus a few ‘ringers’ (Sadly, the consignment from Señor Chadwick did not include a set of first growths too!).

xInto the mix I slipped the 2005 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet (Around £22.00 – see all stockists on wine-searcher) which was a perfect shadow for the all-Cabernet Viñedos Chadwick, the 2005 Margaux from, a blend similar to the Don Maxiamo (in fact, this is declassified wine from Château Palmer at £18.45). To compete with La Cumbre Shiraz I included Patrick Lesec’s Gigondas Cuvée Romaines 2005 from Waitrose at £15 and which The Wine Gang awarded 93-points for the 2006.

The wines were poured (not by me) into identical ISO glasses which had been ‘secretly’ numbered with a little sticker beneath the foot and presented to me in a randomised line-up. I then tasted each wine in turn, writing a tasting note for it (which appears exactly as written below) and compared them with each other, eventually ranking the seven wines from 1 to 7 in terms not just of my perception of their quality, but on the enjoyment I got from them.

Who knows, perhaps this ‘Judgement of Glasgow’ will go down in history too!

the blind tasting

ranked #1

Kai Carmenère 2006, Chile
(order of my tasting = 6) Vivid, dark crimson. Distinctly aromatic – quite different from five wines tasted so far. This must be the Carmenère I think. Fragrant, lighter notes with floral character and kirsch-like fruit. The palate is super, super sweet with a flood of coffeeish, seductive oak and a great depth of fruit. This is a deeply delicious style of wine, with a keen edge to the fruit of supple tannin and acidity, and a long, warming, spice and cocoa finish. It’s not all flash however, as this has balance and staying power too. 94/100

ranked #2

Viñedos Chadwick 2006, Chile
(order of my tasting = 4) Almost black, deep opaque crimson. Little touch of saddle leather. Deep-set plum and black berry fruit, with a suggestion of jammy blackcurrant ripeness. Massively sweet attack on the palate: loads of deep, delightful fruit that flows across the tongue. Tannins and acids are quite brisk, with lots of coffee and toast new oak adding the warmth of the finish. Perhaps not as complex as some here, but deeply sensuous and delicious with very good length and focus. I think this is the Chadwick or possibly Mondavi. 94/100

ranked #3

La Cumbre Shiraz 2006, Chile
(order of my tasting = 7) Slightly baked quality. Not a lot of upfront, flattering fruit here, but a composed, dense character of subtle olive and black fruit. The palate has real structure: there’s a broad-shouldered framework of blackcurrant and plum, with supple coffee and spice oak and a rich, chocolaty density to the tannins. This is a well-balanced wine, though there is not huge complexity – it powers through impressively with spicy depth and sheer presence and is a terrific, bold, tour-de-force wine, but perhaps lacks just a touch of complexity. Not sure which wine it is. 93/100

ranked #4

Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, USA
(order of my tasting = 3) Even darker and more inky in colour, there’s lots of cassis and blueberry depth to this, with a hint of fudge-like warmth and fruit ripeness. On the palate super-sweet fruit is black and chocolaty, with very fine but warm and supple tannins adding plenty of backbone, and good acidity matching against the fruit and smooth, creamy oak in the finish. Has structure, but in an overall softer, more approachable mould. This seems very opulent and New Worldy in style, and seems to be Cabernet dominated, so guessing the Mondavi or possibly Viñedos Chadwick. 93

ranked = #5

De-classified Margaux 2005, France
(order of my tasting = 5) Another inky-dark wine, with a similar leathery Cabernet nose to wines 1 and 4 (editorial note: refers to my order of tasting, not rank). Blueberry and black cherry fruit, with plenty of depth. There’s some polished wood and coffee in here too that’s distinctly Old World. On the palate dry and with a quite earthy, roughening character. There’s a bittersweetness at the core of this, like plum skins or cherry skins, and although it is not hugely complex, it is long and balanced, with a warming, spicy finish that is delicious. Guessing Margaux. 92/100

ranked = #5

Errazuriz Don Maxiamo 2006, Chile
(order of my tasting = 1) Deep, solid colour; almost opaque. Cassis on the nose, a touch of prune or stewed cherry, coffee and a tiny floral aromatic. Sweet fruit on the palate, with a little red cherry brightness but otherwise solid black fruit. Nice tannins – very creamy and smooth, with a nice quality of charry oak filling in and good balance. Long and quite fine this. Guessing Margaux/Don Maxiamo. 92/100

ranked #7

Patrick Lesec Gigondas Cuvée Romaines 2005, France
(order of my tasting = 2) Again very dark and opaque. Nose is quite closed and quite ‘serious’, with a touch of leather and spice and some older wood, and suggesting a dark, muscular character. On the palate this is really quite lean and taut. There is solid black fruit that is ripe and glossy, but it is tightly-wound around a big structural framework that is rather ungiving at this stage, with a hefty, spicy finish. Needs time. Very old world and more Syrah than Cab. Could this be the Gigondas? 91/100

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