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Discovering Chile's Awesome 2015s

by Sylvain Lepeltier (Spain & New World Buyer)

Yesterday I attended the UK launch tasting of two of the leading lights of Chile – Sena and Vinedo Chadwick, the top wines of Eduardo Chadwick, scion of the Errazuriz estates in Chile. These two wines have already booked their place in history, being two of the first wines of their native country to be scored 100 points, in this case by James Suckling. Vinedo Chadwick was actually the first with their phenomenal 2014, but having scraped the ceiling with 99 points in 2013,  Sena has now joined the club as one of the headline stories in James’ Great Wines of the Andes report (subscription required).

So being the conscientious New World Buyer I am, I hustled down to 67 Pall Mall to see what the 2015s had in store for us.

An exceptional blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Sena has been championed by British wine trade legend Steven Spurrier and has gained a global following in the past decade. Originally a joint project between Eduardo Chadwick and the Robert Mondavi empire, the story is one of a shared passion for excellence. They sought out a unique terroir with a climate where the grapes could ripen fully and yet offer maximum finesse and elegance; their aim was to create a wine to compete with the very best in the world, which could express the power and potential of Chile balanced with the classical stylings of the great wines from Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley. Since the sad death of Robert Mondavi, Eduardo has been in full control of the estate and has travelled the world evangelising about the immense quality he has found in his corner of the stunning Aconcagua Valley.

Sena 2015

The 2015 Sena underwent unusually early picking (10 days earlier – a lifetime in ripening terms!) to retain freshness as Feb and March were very hot. The result is a pure, red fruit style. Crisp, precise and elegant with cherries and wild raspberry; it has real ripeness counterbalanced by good structure. The texture and length are superb, definitely showing increased finesse and lightness of touch – the early harvest has made a big difference to the style. If one had to compare to Bordeaux (of course there’s no reason why you should!) it is more of a “Right Bank” style, although it still has that distinctive spice aroma so unique to Chile’s terroir. This is stylish, idiosyncratic, expressive... and above all  impressive. Delicious now but with real ageing potential for 10-20 years at least.

Whilst Eduardo has been the brains behind the revolutionary Seña and the superb Burgundy-alike Las Pizzaras Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the wine he puts his name to is Viñedo Chadwick, a wine considered by many to be Chile’s greatest. Indeed, not only did James Suckling describe the 2012 as ‘the La Mission Haut Brion of Chile’, but as mentioned before, he also awarded the 2014 vintage 100 points, making it Chile’s first perfect score.

However, Vinedo Chadwick’s reputation crossed the borders of Chile a long time ago; in 2004, at a blind tasting in Berlin organised by trade legend Steven Spurrier (the man behind the great Judgment of Paris), Vinedo Chadwick was judged the best wine by a panel of forty of Europe’s most respected palates, beating the likes of Lafite, Margaux, and Latour. Eduardo has recently admitted that he took on this epic challenge because he simply couldn’t get top critics and writers to come to Chile to find out what he was so excited about – hard to imagine now! Produced from Cabernet Sauvignon grown in the Maipo Valley, Viñedo Chadwick typicallyhas a great balance between power and elegance. The concentration and the length suggest a wine with superb ageing potential, plus it has the attraction of scarcity: they only produce around 800 cases - 20 times less than Lafite or Latour – making it a very collectible wine.

Vinedo Chadwick 2015

Intense, darker fruit style than Sena with cedar, spice, violet perfume. This is Margaux to the Sena’s La Conseillante... The tannins are quite robust but it’s still very approachable for 2 year old wine! There is a stylistic thread between this and the Sena, with a focus on precision not power, which in the same way as Bordeaux 2016 makes them feel almost drinkable now but with certain capacity to age and improve further. Winemaker Francisco Baettig says he has been working towards this style, away from the ‘fruit bomb’ type which Chile was perhaps once associated with, and these 2015s feel like the culmination of that. 

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