Looking for unbeatable value? We asked six Decanter experts to choose the region or wine they feel is seriously underrated, and recommend the 12 bargains that you should snap up.
Maule – Patricio Tapia
Maule is definitely not Chile’s most in-vogue wine region. Although it has some very old vines and a long and venerable tradition of winemaking, it is also the largest wine region in Chile by some distance. Maule has 50,000 hectares out of 130,000ha planted up and down Pablo Neruda’s long thin country. Despite this, Maipo and Casablanca have been far more in the spotlight of late.
It may be a symptom of distances from the capital. While Maipo is located in the outskirts of Santiago, Maule is about four hours’ drive away. In our modern times that sounds like a pretty short distance. But 100 years ago – without cars or highways – it was a very long trip.
Of course, Maule’s low visibility is also partly due to its reputation for being the main source of bulk wines in Chile. For instance, a kilo of Cabernet or Carmenere grapes can cost five or six times more in Maipo than in Maule. And the same is reflected in the cost of Maule wines, which are generally much cheaper than their equivalents elsewhere. So you can find some deliciously lush and rustic Cabernet Sauvignons or spicy Carmeneres at low, low prices.
Meanwhile, change has been afoot. In recent years, Maule has also undergone a major revival, first thanks to the exciting rediscovery of Carignan – a grape of real personality, texture and perfume. Today, producers like Morande, Gillmore, Undurruga and De Martino are making great Maule Carignan for less than £20 a bottle. Some even cost less than £10 – a ridiculous price for the quality.
Another rediscovery, which has shifted attention to Maule, has been the País grape, originally brought by the Spanish conquistadores. For a long time, it remained in the shadow of French varieties, such as Cabernet or Merlot, which arrived in the mid-19th century. Today, however, País – which gives firm tannins, but also seductive, red fruit flavours – is on the rise thanks to Louis Antoine Luyt, Miguel Torres, Concha y Toro and others. The wines are often brilliant bargains.
- Undurraga, TH Carignan, Loncomilla, Cauquenes, Maule 2011
- Miguel Torres, Reserva del Pueblo Pais, Cauquenes, Maule 2013