the oldest family-owned winery in Chile, is celebrating its
sesquecentennial this year. Since its founding in 1856, the winery has
emphasized Bordeaux varietals and European style. And, impressively,
value pricing. The Finis Terrae, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend, is
an annual bargain at $20, easily the match of many a more expensive
wine. And those of jaded by nondescript $15 California appellation Cabs
treasure our bottles of Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas.
Arturo Cousino, the sixth
generation to head the winery, came to the United States recently to
mark the anniversary. He brought with him a new wine, Lota,
which will now become the winery’s flagship, the family’s first entry
into Chile’s high-priced wine sweepstakes. (It should sell for about
$60.) Named for the seaside mining town where the Cousino family made
its fortune in the 1850s, Lota is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot.
About 40% of the grapes come from the winery’s historic vineyard in
Santiago, with the rest coming from the new estate in Buin, further
south in the Maipo Valley.
The disappointing thing about Lota is that only a little more than 700
six packs were produced. The wine offers stunning Bordeaux aromas of
cigar, currant and blackberry, with some woodspice mixed in.
The palate is full and long, and the flavors linger like a favored
friend at a dinner party. Crafted by winemaker Matias Rivera with French
consultant Pascal Marty, Lota is the grandest expression yet of the
Cousino-Macul style: European elegance matched with New World ripeness.
For the past two decades, Cousino-Macul wines have been imported into
the United States by Billington Imports, the company created by Alfredo Bartholomaus, who
has been credited by no less than Robert Parker with popularizing the
wines of Chile and Argentina here in the States. My profile of Alfredo
in DC magazine can be found here.
(The photo shows, from left to right,
winemaker Matias Rivera, Arturo Cousino and Alfredo Bartholomaus.
Photographed at Cousino-Macul estate in Santiago, March 2005.)
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