OK, so I don’t REALLY think that the good folks at Cono Sur have been reading our reviews and have altered their wine making methods just because we’ve been critical of the excessive oak treatment they’ve given to their reds in the past. What I DO know is that every one of the red samples in this latest batch sent to us for review has impressed us; I mean, if Kim says “I like this,” it can’t be an oaky mess, can it? We’ve always liked their whites, and now they seem to have found their way with their Cabs, Carmeneres, Merlots and Syrahs in that they are using a much more deft touch with the wood. And, BONUS, there’s a bubbly in this box to boot!
2010 Cono Sur Bicycle Riesling Valle Central, 13.5% alc., $10.00 SRP: Clean, medium color, with tart green apple and mineral flavors and aromas, shaded with a hint o’ pine; just the slightest note of sweet fruit here, not even reaching Kabinett sugar levels. Medium-to-medium-full bodied, with very good acids and intensity and excellent varietal character. Eminently drinkable and very versatile with a variety of foods; I can’t help but want some grilled or pan-fried trout to go with this. 3 to 10 months in stainless steel tanks. Find this wine
2009 Cono Sur Bicycle Carmenere Colchagua, 85% Carmenere, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Syrah2% Malbec, 1% Carignan, 1% Aspiran Bouchet, 13.5% alc., $10.00 SRP: Finally, a red Bordeaux varietal wine from this producer that isn’t ruined with excessive oak! It’s there, to be sure, but it’s in good proportion to the attractive blackberry and black currant fruit, gracing, rather than dominating or worse. Medium-full bodied, with clean, dark color, good structure for at least a few years in the cellar and good length. Nice earthy undertones add interest and appeal for this taster. An ever-so-subtle note of chocolate also make itself known, but never intrudes. Hand Picked 50%, Mechanical 50%; 20% in French oak barrels for 7 months, 7 months in stainless steel. Find this wine
2009 Cono Sur Bicycle Merlot Valle Central, 13.5% alc., $10.00 SRP: Clean, dark color, and like the Carmenere, the oak is in balance with the pretty black and red currant and berry fruit, paying little compliments rather than overwhelming. Smooth creamy, almost chocolaty texture, but no chocolate in flavor or aroma; full bodied and structured for a few years at most, this is meant for near term consumption and performs in that regard very nicely indeed! Find this wine
2009 Cono Sur Bicycle Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Central, 85% Cabernet Sauvgnon, 6% Carmenere, 2% Merlot, 3% Syrah, 2% Malbec, 1% Carignan, 1% Aspiran Bouchet, 13% alc., $10.00 SRP: Deep, dark color; sweet oak, black currant and blackberry on the nose follows through on the palate, with the perfumed wood coming to the fore and setting the tone to the character of the wine. Full bodied, with good structure and length. The sweet oak and bright fruit create an almost Napa-like quality, and if it’s not really my style of red, I’ll be damned if I don’t admire it for what it is, that being a very pretty wine. Find this wine
2009 Cono Sur Vision Riesling Bio-bio Valley Quiltraman Block, 14% alc., $15.00 SRP: Clean, medium color; lovely Riesling nose of petrol and tart green apple, following through very nicely on the palate with some lime citrus and mineral. Medium bodied and more, with racy acidity, excellent intensity and very good length, this is dry Riesling that would do any region in the world proud. Almost astonishingly good for a country with such a relatively short history with this variety, and yet it’s not the first time that we’ve enjoyed REALLY GOOD Riesling from Cono Sur. Too bad their Michigan distributor doesn’t even bring it into the state. I know, it’s all about dollars and sense, but I could sell the hell out of this delicious wine. Find this wine
2010 Cono Sur Vision Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Loma Roja Block, 13% alc., $15.00 SRP: Clean pale-to-medium color; an immediate hit of boxwood-cat spray on the nose carries over onto the palate, gracing a solid core of gooseberry and grapefruit, with subtle mineral in support. Rich and fairly ripe, yet aggressive with the feline characteristic that I really like, but it’s probably not for everybody; medium-to-medium-full bodied, with great acidity and intensity. Lovers of New Zealand Sauvignon will likely find this quite attractive, but it has something for just about every fan of the variety. Very nice indeed, and very much in keeping with our impressions of previous vintages. Cono Sur has Sauvignon DOWN, folks! 5 months in stainless steel tanks. Find this wine
2010 Cono Sur Vision Chardonnay Casablanca Block Tio Leo, 13% alc., $15.00 SRP: Clean, medium color, with ripe, intense apple, pear, pineapple and green bean flavors and aromas; full bodied and nicely balanced, with good acids and length. I like the concentration of flavor that stops just short of going over the top, and it works well with grilled, smoked chicken. Find this wine
2008 Cono Sur Vision Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo El Recurso Block, 14% alc., $15.00 SRP: Clean, dark color, with creamy balsa-like oak over bone dry cassis and black currant flavors and aromas; full bodied and very smooth in texture, yet deceptively well structured. As it opens with air, more sweet fruit emerges, and the wine has a very elegant air to it. The oak doesn’t overwhelm and perhaps it’ll fully integrate with a few more years in the bottle. Find this wine
2009 Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir Colchagua Block 68 Old Vine, 14% alc., $15.00 SRP: Clean, medium color; varietally correct black cherry and plum, underscored with a subtle earth and underbrush base and an equally subtle overlay of oak. Medium-to-medium-full bodied, with medium structure and good length. Nothing to criticize here, it does everything it’s supposed to and does it nicely, but at first, lacks that certain something to make it more than just solid, but unexceptional. However, with extended air, the more I taste this, the more I find to like, not in a superficial way, but in a deeper, more subtle manner, making it a very good value for the suggested retail price. The wine spends 6 months in 100% French, medium toasted oak and 1 month in stainless steel tanks. Find this wine
2008 Cono Sur 20 Barrels Syrah Limari Valley, 93% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alc., $25.00 SRP: Inky dark color, with a kiss of balsa-like oak over rich, ripe plum and berry on the nose that fleshes out on the palate, with the oak taking on a slightly creamy character, but never overwhelming. Full-bodied, very smooth in texture, with ample structure for 3-5 years in the cellar. The oak casts an almost-patina-like aspect to this, and if it’s not my preferred style of Syrah, neither is it a bad glass of wine. It’s certainly much more to our liking than many of the Cono Sur reds that we’ve tasted in past vintages. 16 months in new French oak, medium toast barrels (Seguin Moreau, Taransaud, Sylvain, Doreau, Mercier, Quintessence), 1 month in stainless steel tanks. Find this wine
Cono Sur Sparkling Brut NV Bio-bio Valley, 95% Chardonnay, 4% Riesling, 1% Pinot Noir, 12% alc., $18.00 SRP: Medium color, with a very active bead and ample mousse; bone dry flavors remind me of nothing so much as 7-Up without sugar, along with subtle smoke, yeast and mineral. With great acids, good intensity and length, this gets better as it opens and warms in the glass. A solid, satisfying sparkler for this bubblehead. 8 months in barrel, 4 months in stainless steel tanks. Find this wine
This collection is a strong followup to the three from Cono Sur’s Organic Range that we reviewed last month, giving further evidence that this is a producer that’s doing a lot of things right these days. If you run into any of these, I strongly recommend that you buy, try and see for yourself.
Cono Sur imported by Vineyard Brands, Inc., Birmingham, AL
Reporting from Day-twah,