"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Merlot Madness under Ten Dollars: Concha Y Toro presents Xplorador Wines

Their seems to be a  resurgence of the Merlot [as a single] varietal and for that my heart is very glad, because I do love this varietal very much, but there has just been so little of it that I've been impressed with over the years, which has had an impact on my 200 hundred bottle wine cellar, I recently removed the tag from the shelf where I use to store my Merlot [very sad state of affairs, indeed]. I have a pretty simple filing system in my personal wine vault, I label most of the shelves by varietal and mark the bottles with prices I paid and the date of purchase and if it's a sample I bust out my big black sharpie and write sample over the UPC code and the date.

Having recently visited Washington State and having had the opportunity to taste much of the great Merlot being made there, has rekindled my interest and passion for these wines. In the coming months you will continue to hear about other wonderful examples of this great varietal.

Funny the only Merlot I have in my wine vault are the samples I've been sent from different PR companies who work on behalf of many different wineries to get the word out about their wines. I've recently been sent a number of Merlot under the $10 price point, however I found many of the wines were undrinkable, flat out plonk. Sorry no other way to really put it, other than that.

You have to know that I sample and [sometimes drink] thousands of wines from all over the world in a years time, but mostly New World wines, likely a ratio of anywhere from seventy to thirty, New to Old. I travel to wine regions, I speak with wine makers, I go to wine trade shows and attend local tastings and spit or pour out lots of wine that will never see the light of day on this blog [and the majority of which is at my own expense]. So what I'm trying to say here, I think I've narrowed down a good majority of wine that is well made, tastes winetastic and the best part they have what I believe are reasonable prices. Why you may ask, because I am crazy about vino and love to bring these stories to you my readers and hopefully you can feel better about making an buying decision [an informed decision], on your next bottle of vino and maybe you don't have to ask "what's in the box?".

So when I tell I've come across this Merlot from a relatively new label [design], brought to you by Concha y Toro in partnership with Banfi Vintners, that I am this excited about, you just may want to pay attention. Because in my [not-always] humble opinion, this Merlot that was sent to me for the review process is just wine-tastic.

The Scoop: This wine currently is not on anyones radar [yet], nope I could not find another single review of this wine anywhere on the net, what does that mean to you? That means to you my readers that I just gave you "the scoop" on one of the best values in wine, that has come across this desk in quite a while. While I have not opened all the Xplorador series of wines which were sent  to the Cuvee Corner Wine Blog, as a sample for review purposes, this Merlot has really caught my attention the most amoung the samples I've opened and evaluated.

Goodbye Miles: Like in baseball, when the announcer says the guy touched all bases, meaning he knocked it out of the park and so did this Merlot. So my days of me yelling [not really] like Miles did in the movies Sideways, "I'm not drinking any focking Merlot" are over. To me Merlot can be very desirable and this Merlot is all of that for me, especially when you consider the price point, how can a wine this low in price deliver so much for so very little, I don't know and I don't care! Sorry Miles, but I will be drinking some focking Merlot!

The label you see on the picture I took above is new, but brand has been around awhile, I have seen the old labels and the wines before, but never tasted them. They could be just fine if there's still some laying about, but it won't have my seal of approval. However, this new label and the wines in the bottle are very good and at a price point under $10, you just can't go wrong.

Full Disclosure: Yes okay, I received this wine as sample that was sent to me for the review process. They also sent me the other wines below, that I've had an opportunity to review.

Other Wines in the Portfolio: Chardonnay 87 points, Carmenere 88 points, Malbec 87 points and the Sauvignon Blanc, well I have not opened it yet. But you can see a trend here, well made wines at very reasonable prices, what more could you ask for?

Wine in Focus: The 2009 Xplorador Merlot

First Swirl: After busting this wine of out of the cellar and popping the cork, I let it sit a half hour while I cooked dinner and poured it into my decanter [Riedel, don't settle] and small portion into my glass, holding up against the screen door with sunlight streaming in, I found a very polished core of ruby and a touch of garnet on the rim. No really!

First Sniff: It took some time to ferret out the nose, but after the wine warmed a little it started to release a fresh mix of berries, toast and mocha. Even after the wine was gone, the nose just kept giving and giving.

First Sip: The moment you've all been waiting for, it showed excellent depth of fruit [in a word, plush], mixing dark fruits, black cherry and cassis, with a subtle smokiness. It rounded out nicely in the mid-palate tapering off to a crisp, pleasing finish.

With/With-out Food: I first evaluated this wine before dinner and also had it during dinner, I took a risk and paired it with a "Beef" Teriyaki Stir Fry and this wine shone through like a champ. It will most likely pair with just about anything in my estimation.

The Winemaker: From the Xplorador website, "Over the past 20 years Hector “Tito” Urzua, Chief Winemaker for Xplorador, has dedicated his life to searching out the absolute best vineyard sites for his wines. Having studied vineyard practices and winemaking in some of the world’s leading countries including France, Australia and of course Chile, Tito now merges excellence of tradition with today’s fresh, fruit-forward character."

Fruit Source: The creation of Xplorador Wines starts from sourcing the fruit in the Central Zone of Chile from the blocks in Villa Alegre.

Aging and ABV: Ninety percent of this wine spent four months in stainless steel and 10 percent in French Oak barrels for another four months. Many of you, myself included  won't believe this wine is only 13.1% abv, normally to achieve this much extraction in a fruit forward wine, you see much higher ABV's but not in this case.

My Recommendation: Okay folks, not sure how much of this wine will be available on the market, however because of its small price point and the fact that distribution of this wine is being sold to large retailers, I believe you can safely assume that there is a large amount of it available. That said, I'm still giving this wine my, "run don't walk recommendation"! Believe when I tell you, the folks at WS and WE, the big wine pub's will have this featured on their top ten wines under $10 next month or as one of their wines featured in the "Buying Guide" listed as a "BEST-BUY".  You saw it here first, no one else has the scoop on this wine like I do and now so do you, so what the bleep are you waiting for get your buns over to your favorite wine store and buy a few cases.

Price and Where to Find: Okay this is perhaps the best part, because what you find on this blog is exactly what you will never find in the "big boys" Vino Publications or many other blogs for that matter. So what's that you may ask, everyone wants to know where can you find the juice? This is one of the key points many forget to tell you, as you maybe reading about it on those other wine publications, so instead of searching for a wine you just read about, with this blog ya don't have to google it, I've already done that for you and or taken the next step and called the distributor directly to get the skinny on a particulars wines status.

Now many of you're saying, ok so this wine is fan-freaking-tastic, so how much does it cost and where the bleep do I find it? Great questions, are you ready for this? This wine will mostly likely sell for between $7.99 and $9.99.  Now I have it on very good authority, that this wine and it's companions are being sold into Bev-Mo, Cost Plus, Henry's [in East Lake] and The San Diego Wine Company. If they don't have it already, it's available through the distributor, just tell them to order it. Don't let them give ya the run-around, I did my due diligence, meaning I did my homework and this wine will be hitting store shelves soon. For you Military folks this wine will be available in the PX and or Exchanges near you. Oh by the way, please tell them that the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog sent ya, just so they know why they're getting all this business.

Cuvée Corner Wine Blog Score: Hey point seekers here's my score if your interested: This wine scored 92 points on the Cuvée Corner 100 point scale and is a top performer on the QPR side of the equation. If you are at all curious how I come up with a score, please take a look over to your right and click on the tab review process.

Other Voices: Okay just in case you need a second opinion, a certain "wine~guru" who lives right here in San Diego, has his own highly rated wine-talk-show and is a wine judge, had this to say on twitter in response to my post about Xplorador wines in general, "Xplorador is very good for the price and at those prices they should be everybody's favorite tailgate & bbq wines". Robert Whitley of Whitley on Wine

If you have not seen this movie yet, I highly recommend it to you, cheers! Please take a look at the trailer, I just love it and I'm sure you will as well!




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