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Your Cheap Wine Find — Chilean Reds Under $22 That Will Impress

Thirty Miles From Santiago and a Worldly Success

BY // 12.03.20

A recent tasting featured two wines from Chile that I’m making sure will be in my holiday rotation. I tasted them on their own, and drank them with a standing rib roast, with which they were ideal pairings.

The wines are made by Viña Baron Philippe de Rothschild in Buin-Maipo, about 30 miles south of Santiago. (Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA is, of course, behind the brand, and it was created in 1999 by the baron’s daughter, Philippine de Rothschild.)

Emmanuel Riffaud, an agricultural engineer and oenologist who joined the Rothschild concern in 1999, has been the managing director of the Chilean enterprise since 2015.

Chile, by way of France.

Escudo Rojo is the name of the wine — Red Shield in English — and I tasted the 2018 Gran Reserva (SRP $21.99) and the 2018 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $17.99).

We’ll begin with the Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon — this Escudo Rojo line also includes carmenere, syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc — which is the wine I sampled first in the tasting.

It’s 100 percent cabernet sauvignon — Chilean law requires at least 75 percent — and you would not likely mistake it for anything else. It’s deep red in the glass, veering into purple when viewed at certain angles in a certain type of light. (The sun was streaming brightly through a large window when I noted the wine’s color.) Tannins are smooth and succulent — you’ll enjoy this wine now, and feel free to hold it until 2024 or thereabouts.

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Blackcurrant and dark cherry make themselves known on the palate here, in a pleasing way, as does plum. Subtle spice and soil are also in the mix. If you like to serve approachable wines on a daily basis, bottles that drink far above their selling prices, this one will find a place in your repertoire. Aging is carried out in one-year-old barrels for six to eight months.

The Escudo Rojo Gran Riserva is a wine that punches well above its cost/weight.

The 2018 Gran Reserva is the Escudo Rojo flagship wine, and it’s an impressive blend of cabernet sauvignon (40 percent), carmenere (38 percent), syrah (20 percent) and cabernet franc (two percent). Half of the 2018 vintage was matured in one-year-old oak for 12 months.

As with the Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, color in the glass (in this case, a Schott Zwiesel “Pure” stem) is deep, dark red, captivating to the eye. As one might expect, black fruit dominates here — plum, cherry, a touch of brambly blackberry —accompanied by fleeting graphite and lightly roasted coffee bean. Refined tannins proclaim themselves early on.

As I wrote, you’ll be happy pouring theses wines at a meal featuring a standing rib roast, and duck breast is another protein I’d serve with them. Add Bill Blass’s meatloaf or a rib eye steak to this category as well.

This rib roast for two married well with the Escudo Rojo selections.

If you typically avoid Chilean wines in this price range, thinking their heat and sweetness will repel, give these two bottles a chance. If you don’t like them, call me.

For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his site Mise en Place.

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