The Rothschilds' Chilean Experiment

By Robert Parker

Almaviva Vineyards in Chile's Maipo Valley is a partnership between Viña Concha y Toro, one of the country's best wineries, and Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, proprietor of Bordeaux's famous Châteaux Mouton-Rothschild. The 11-year-old venture produces just 8,000 to 12,000 cases of wine annually, all from a single vineyard.

That alone makes it unique, since Chilean winemakers typically use grapes from multiple sources. The wine, mainly from cabernet sauvignon with some carmenère grapes, is pampered like a fine Bordeaux, spending 16 to 18 months aging in new French oak casks prior to bottling. By South American standards, Almaviva is not cheap. But it compares admirably to Bordeaux that command at least twice the price.

2004 Almaviva

92 points. This wine has a deep saturated ruby/purple color. It offers notes of melted licorice intermixed with espresso roast, black currants, cedar, and a bit of toasted Provençal herbs. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied and silky. The 2004 also exhibits a classic, almost Bordeaux-like aroma, but its greater richness and headiness suggest the wine is maturing relatively fast. That means it should be enjoyed in its first 10 to 12 years of life. $56-$80

2002 Almaviva

93 points. The 2002 comes across with plenty of new oak intermixed with hints of coconut, black currant, menthol, cedar, and spice. Rich, fleshy, voluptuously textured, and fruit-driven, it is almost a bit too modern in style to please traditionalists from Bordeaux. Still, the 2002 shows plenty of power and intensity. It should drink well for 12 to 15 years. $57-$99

2003 Almaviva

95 points. This is a blockbuster vintage. With an inky blue/purple color, the wine has a beautiful nose of camphor, charcoal, blueberry, blackberry, and some spicy but subtle new oak. The wine is full-bodied, powerful, and rich, but with silky tannins and loads of glycerin. This could turn out to be one of the all-time great wines released by this partnership and should continue to drink well for another two decades. $60-$80

2001 Almaviva

91 points. Starting to show some lightening at the edge of its dark ruby color, the wine exhibits plenty of plum, blackberry, and loamy soil notes intermixed with some new oak, dried herbs, and spice. The wine has beautiful fruit, medium body, and a soft, round finish, and it should drink nicely for 10 to 12 more years. $68-$93

2005 Almaviva

95 points. This dense ruby/purple-colored wine offers up notes of sweet black currants intermixed with some smoke, cedar, and roasted meat. The wine has fabulous texture, an opulent, fleshy mid-palate, and a long finish with sweet tannin and plenty of glycerin and richness. It can be drunk now or cellared for 15 to 20 years. This vintage has not yet been released for sale.

Wines rated from 96-100 are extraordinary; 90-95, excellent; 80-89, above average to very good.

Robert Parker is the world's most influential wine critic. Visit www.eRobertParker.com to see tens of thousands of tasting notes, buy his books, or subscribe to his newsletter, The Wine Advocate.

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