Wine Time

Dennis Sodomka is a guest columnist | Contact Dennis

Wine Time: Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay Reserva 2011, Chile

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COST: $11-13

WHAT: I love it when I can find a great wine at an inexpensive price. Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo brand has been producing wines like that for 60 years.

Because it is so inexpensive and has been around so long, we sometimes forget how good it is.

This Chardonnay is full of ripe, delicious fruit, particularly pineapple, citrus and apple. A medium-bodied wine, it is bright and fresh and intense with just enough acidity to make it a great food wine.

The mouthfeel is silky with a long, sweet finish.

The grapes are 100 percent Chardonnay, with 30 percent fermented in French oak and aged eight months on the lees. The remaining 70 percent spends eight months in stainless steel, giving the wine its crispness. About 10 percent of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, giving it the rich mouthfeel.

There is just enough oak to give the wine some character and substance, and enough stainless to make it sharp and bracing, a terrific expression of Chardonnay.

A sommelier at a recent wine writers conference said drinkers get too carried away with descriptors of what they drink. He said the only thing we should ask is “Is this delicious?” The Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay is delicious.

Serve it slightly chilled.

WINERY: Concha y Toro probably is the best-known wine producer in Chile. It led the way with imports to the United States back in the 1960s. One of the first cases of wine I ever received as a gift from a friend was Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon when it cost about $5 a bottle.

The firm now sells more than 29 million cases a year in more than 135 countries. It would be difficult to find a wine drinker not familiar with Concha y Toro.

The company traces its history back to Don Melchor de Concha y Toro, a Chilean statesman, entrepreneur and vineyard owner in the late 1800s. He complained when he found his best wines were being stolen from the cellar beneath his home.

To discourage thefts, Don Melchor spread a rumor that his deepest, darkest cellars, where he put his best wine, were haunted by the devil. The thefts stopped. Today Casillero del Diablo is Chile’s best-selling wine worldwide. Each bottle has a devil’s mask stamped into the glass.

Other varietals from Casillero del Diablo include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Shiraz, Shiraz Rose, Malbec, Pinot Noir and Late Harvest. All are the same price, and all are well-made and delicious.

Other Concha y Toro brands include Gran Reserva, Don Melchor, the Terrunyo line and Marqués de Casa Concha.

Its principal subsidiaries are Viña Cono Sur, Viña Maipo, Viña Palo Alto, Viña Maycas del Limarí, Trivento Bodegas y Viñedos, which operates in Argentina, and the Joint Venture with the prestigious winery, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, which produces the Almaviva brand.

GOES WITH: It’s fun to pair wine with food from the same or nearby regions. I brought back a couple of recipes from a recent trip to Cuba and knew I had to pair them with a Chilean wine. Cuban wine is not very good and we can’t buy them here, so Chile is the next best thing for Cuban food.

My wife, Teri, and I had this with bacon-wrapped lobster tail cooked on the grill with black beans and rice, a daily Cuban staple. We also had a tossed salad.

The pairing was sublime, with the subtle fruit flavors of the wine bringing out the sweet and salty combination of the lobster and bacon. The wine was equally good with the beans, with neither the food nor the wine overpowering the other. It also would go well with other seafood, poultry, pastas with a medium sauce and most cheeses.

WINE EVENTS

THURSDAY, JUNE 13

Wine and tapas tasting, 5-6:30 p.m., La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $19.99; (706) 722-4805

FRIDAY, JUNE 14

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

Wine tasting, 6-8 p.m., Evans Towne Market, 4460 Washington Road, Evans; wines, cheese and crackers and live music most Fridays; $5; (706) 303-8591

SATURDAY, JUNE 15

Wine and beer tasting, 2-6 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19

Wine tasting, 7-9 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; Mediterranean wines including Spanish, French and Italian; $25; reservations (706) 922-9463

THURSDAY, JUNE 20

Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; three whites and three reds and several cheeses; $5 with rebate on purchase of one bottle of the featured wines; (803) 279-9522

FRIDAY, JUNE 27

Wine tasting, 7-9 p.m., Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; wines of Michael David; $30; reservations (706) 922-9463


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