Food & Drink Value vino 

Enjoy the viu

Wine names are getting way too cute these days. I mean, Corq Dorq? Three Blind Moose? It’s refreshing to come across a label that’s straightforward, graphically neat, and succinct: Duo is a perfect case in point. Produced by Chile’s Veramonte, which is run by father-and-son pioneers Agustin and Agustin Francisco Huneeus, Duo is the ideal expression of two varietals, sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon, and two growing regions, the Casablanca and Maipo valleys.

The ’05 Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca epitomizes grassy gooseberry and citrus-peel crispness, yet it nicely warms to a mellow expression in the glass. The Maipo Cab, with its big black cherry flavor and suggestions of cedar buffered by soft tannins, is lush without being blowzy. I loved them both. Snap them up.

You should also consider buying cases (yes, cases) of the well-priced ’03 Carmenere from Viu Manent ($8 or less). All of the sampled Viu Manent wines are produced in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, and the carmenere, a varietal that thrives well in Chile, was my absolute favorite. Deep ruby in color, it has a lovely menthol-cedar nose and flavors that suggested black cherry, mint, plum, and cassis — all of which deepened with time to add leathery components in the glass. Ergo, decant it. And try to keep from slugging it down.

The 2003 Malbec, from a grape that is grown primarily in Argentina, began less impressively, with a nose hinting of bacon, mature blackberry, and smoke, but it evolved to add cassis, the desirable black currant whose apotheosis may be in the liqueur of the same name. Decant this one, too.

You should also consider decanting the 2002 reserve version of the malbec, tricked out with gold on the label and a real cork (the others are composite). The barnyard nose, bolstered by bacon and earth, presaged ripe blackberry, leather, black tea, and tar on the palate, and all the components mellowed nicely with time in the snobby Riedel glassware all the Viu Manent wines were tasted in. (With sizes and shapes tailored to each wine, the glassware emphasizes virtues and flaws.) This wine is in the $12-13 range, and the back label claims it will cellar for six years. Drink now regardless.

Initially, I also was underwhelmed by Viu Manent’s 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, its meaty nose with black currant undertones not rising to the level of the reserve malbec or the seductive carmenere. But again, time pays off in smoky cedar on the palate with, believe it or not (and the winemakers won’t), intimations of Vanilla Coke — not the put-down you might imagine — mellowed by soft tannins and ripe blueberry.

Viu Manent’s whites, a 2004 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2004 Chardonnay, have their virtues as well. The sauvignon blanc presents a very appealing, grassy and citrus nose followed by fresh and bracing flavors that add green tea to the mix. At the price, it’s sensational. And so is the 2004 Chardonnay, suggesting the tropics with a nose that implies smoky, grilled pineapple and flavors that suggest guava, oak, and vanilla (and more piña on the palate with airing time) without the big bang that characterizes much California chard. Again, Chile proves it’s producing some of the world’s best value wine. As I said, buy cases.


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