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The Price Is Right
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Aug 10, 2010
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Viña Casa Silva Colchagua Valley (Chile) Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, 2009 (Vin DiVino, $12)

This column is for those of you who don’t want to spend a fortune on good wine.  It’s for wine lovers who are struggling with the heat and humidity, and feeling frustrated that the weather seems to make “serious” wines taste disappointing.  It’s for anyone who is a bit disillusioned with the style of many Sauvignon Blancs from California today.  Here is a wine that you can afford, that you can enjoy in the summer and beyond, that’s dry, and that’s food-friendly.

I encountered the Casa Silva Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009 in a blind tasting of several Sauvignon Blancs from the New World.   It was the most delicate and understated wine in the tasting and also one of the driest — not the kind of wine that triumphs in blind tastings, frankly.  But it seemed authentic and it held its ground as time passed.  Ultimately, it was the wine that I most wanted to drink. And then I learned its price.

Viña Casa Silva is a winery that dates back to the late nineteenth century, when founder Emile Bouchon emigrated from France; the Silva family, now in its fifth generation in Chile, are descendants of Bouchon.  The Silvas sold their juice in bulk to larger wineries until 1997, when they began producing, bottling and selling wines from their own estate vineyards exclusively.  The winery and vineyards are situated in Colchagua, one of Chile’s  heartland wine regions.  The winery owns 1,977 acres of vines there and produces 450,000 cases of wine each year. 

The merit of this Sauvignon Blanc for me lies in the raw material of the wine.  I say that because the winemaking is fairly straightforward — 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in stainless steel, no malolactic fermentation, no lees-aging.  Nothing in that regard to make the wine special or unusual.  And yet it has lovely aromas and flavors; fresh herbal notes are the first to emerge, then lime, and then a suggestion of a tropical fruit.  The wine is dry and medium-bodied with high acidity to give it freshness and depth, but the balance of alcohol (13 percent) to acidity is such that the wine comes across as round and almost creamy rather than taut or austere.  The aromas and flavors are delicate but they persist across the mouth, through the finish, and over time in the glass.

This wine derives half from grapes grown in a coastal vineyard called Paredones planted in 2006, and half from grapes grown in Angostura, a narrow band of estate vineyards situated between the Andes and the coastal mountains.  The Angostura vineyard was planted in 1912, and has not been replanted subsequently.  The Sauvignon Blanc cuttings for that vineyard came from Bordeaux.  (Casa Silva makes a second Sauvignon Blanc called “Cool Coast,” $23, exclusively from the coastal vineyard.)

This is maybe more information than you need about a $12 Sauvignon Blanc made for drinking now.  But it’s an exceptionally good $12 Sauvignon Blanc and it deserves a moment of respect.

89 points