The Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile is listed at $157 on Americas wine list. That might considered a deal only if find that it is sold at retail at Spec’s for $105. And, that also the wine is at least as well made as those cult Cabs from Napa at a fraction of the price, available, and likely a lot more food-friendly, to boot.
Americas, the flagship of the Cordua restaurants, is a fitting place to enjoy one of the very best wines of South America. It was sister restaurant Churrascos, beginning nearly a quarter century ago, introduced both the tastes and dishes of Central and South American, and also the flavorful, bold, but readily accessible red wines from Chile. Churrascos and Americas helped make a name for Chilean labels like Cousiño Macul and Concha Toro among Houston-area diners.
I was fortunate to attend an event the other day with the winemaker from Don Melchor, Enrique Tirado, who presented wines from four vintages: 1989, 1993, 2006 and 2009. It is a treat to drink wines that old. During my last two trips to Italy to visit producers I rarely tasted wines a decade old, and the oldest was from the 1997 vintage. What was even more of a treat, and somewhat of a surprise to me, was how well the older wine had held up. Both were vibrant, with fairly good acidity and still evident fruit and nicely structured. The 1989, about which I scribbled, “very young,” still seemingly had a long life ahead it. The 1993, I enjoyed more with its rich notes of plum and cassis, very well integrated tannins and a long, silky finish, all making this an elegant wine.
You will have a hard time finding either of these vintages at the wine store or on a wine list, but we also tasted two that should still be around, the 2006 and 2009. The firm tannins of the 2006 made a better match for the steak at lunch than the smoother and more fruit-evident 2009, but I enjoyed the silkier younger wine more. The 2009 balanced its fruit with an acidity and freshness often lacking in New World Cabernets. It was interesting to taste the fairly significant difference between the two more recent vintages when both share the same makeup – 96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc – the same vineyards, and the same winemaker who had not changed his philosophy or style.
That is something to note about Don Melchor. It is meant to be an expression of Cabernet Sauvignon grown in a particular well-suited site in Chile. Its sibling at Concha y Toro, Almaviva, which is made in partnership with Château Mouton-Rothschild is meant to be a Bordeaux-style wine. Don Melchor might change your mind about South American Cabs. Long-lived, balanced, vibrant, surprisingly subtle, often multi-layered and sometimes even quite elegant, it can make for a special occasion wine with nice steak or lamb preparation. Or even congrio with an older vintage as Tirado informed me.