As most readers know, I have been visiting wineries in Chile and Argentina for the past eight days. I can honestly say that it a long time since I came across such an array of wines that offer both very high quality and incredible value. First up is a range of four varietal wines that you may already be familiar with called Root:1. Suggested retail price is $12 but you often find the wines for less. Here's what I am enjoying about them.
The name Root:1 stands for the fact that the vines used to make these wines are all very old vines and planted on their own roots. This is actually very rare in the world of grape growing. Phylloxera, a root feeding louse, devastated European vineyards in the late 1860s and has since spread almost worldwide. It is an ever-present threat in most vineyards, and has forced vine growers to graft their vines onto phylloxera resistant American rootstocks. (See my post on rootstocks). Pre-phylloxera vines arrived in Chile in 1853 - ten years before the outbreak.
Note: Chile, Argentina, South Australia and the Greek island of Santorini are among the few wine regions spared from Phylloxera.
Root 1: A Wine Brand Developed for the U.S. Market
The Root:1 wine project is a joint venture between Chilean winery Viña Ventisquero and U.S. wine importer Winebow. Root:1 was initially produced just for the U.S market, but the wines have become so successful and sought after that they are now also sold domestically in Chile as well as in other export markets.
The Root:1 range of wines includes four different varietal wines, namely Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Carmenère and Cabernet Sauvignon – all grape varieties that Chile is well regarded for producing.
While I was in Chile we visited Viña Ventisquero. We tasted through the range of Root:1 wines with energetic winemaker, Sergio Hormazábal. Sergio explained the workings of the project, and how, with their many vineyards locations, from the warmer inland areas toward the Andes to the cooler coastal areas nearer the Pacific Ocean, they are able to make a range of wines that includes both cool and warm climate fruit.
Later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère are sourced from the warmer inland Colchagua Valley, while Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot noir come form the cooler, coastal area of Casablanca. For more information on Chile’s different wine producing regions see my Chilean wine 101 post from last week.
Tasting the Root:1 Wines
And now to the fun part of tasting the wines. I was among a group of five North American bloggers. We were all quite bowled over by the price to quality ratio of all these wines.
2013 Root: 1 Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile, $12: Tangy, zesty with intense aromas and flavors of exotic citrus – think clementine and tangerine, tropical fruit with notes of fresh herbs and celery seed. Crisp and refreshing on the palate, with racy acidity, a mouthwateringly juicy mouth feel and a bright clean finish. A great wine for seafood, salads or just to sip on its own while nibbling a few salty nuts.
2012 Root: 1 Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, $12: I was so impressed with this wine - very balanced, charming and tasted like Pinot Noir (It is very hard to find a $12 Pinot that actually tastes like one!). Lovely bright cherry aromas on the nose – gentle but pure. Packed with bright well-defined juicy cherry and wild strawberry flavors with hints of leather and earth. Tannins are silky with just enough framing structure. Not a complex wine but one with a lot of purity and integrity. Nice savory note on the finish. This would make a superb house wine. Enjoy with traditional roast chicken, duck breast with a cherry sauce or with a wild mushroom salad.
2012 Root: 1 Carmenère, Colchagua Valley, $12: Carmenère – Chile signature grape. Once mistaken for Merlot, Carmenère is a very late ripener and needs a warm site to ensure no green vegetal flavors, which you can find in lesser Carmenère wines. Not so here. This wine has a real inviting ripe nose of plums and bramble fruit with earthy undertones and nuances of soy, bouquet garni, crushed green peppercorns and spice. Ripe, juicy flavors continue on the palate. Not as fleshy as Merlot but certainly mouth filling with refreshing acidity and supple open-knit tannins that add just enough structure to the fruit. This is a great go-to wine to serve with fall and winter casseroles.
2012 Root: 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, $12: Root:1 Cabernet is the top selling imported Cabernet Sauvignons in the $10-$15 price range in the United States (according to AC Nielsen) . On tasting the wine I can see how it could be. Deeply colored (there is actually a little Syrah – circa 15% - in the blend) with intense bright aromas of cassis, blackberry, plum, black pepper and toasty spice. A fairly full-bodied wine, but also very juicy and nimble on the palate with a noticeable seductive creaminess mid-palate (the Syrah contribution perhaps?). Supple, fine-grained tannins add the perfect firmness. It has a moderately long, juicy finish. Enjoy with a juicy char-grilled skirt or flank steak.
I dislike being asked to pick a favorite, as I can see a time and a place for each of these four wines, But if I had to pick just one, I think it would have to be the Pinot Noir — for its simplicity, typicity, charm and elegance — and all for $12.
All these wines are widely available in the United States.
(Images: Courtesy of Alfredo Bartholomaus, Winebow Brand Ambassador)