You may or may not know that Chile has the perfect environment for growing grapes. On the eastern border, the north/south-running Andes Mountain range separates Chile from Argentina, acting as a barrier from the interior heat and providing cool mountain air. While on the western side, the coastal influence from the Pacific Ocean and the Humboldt Current also act as mitigating factors, bringing in cool ocean breezes that run through the Chile's river valleys. While Chile has a warm, Mediterranean climate, these influences bring coolness, balancing the heat and providing a suitable climate for growing a range of grapes across the terroirs of this long strip of land.
In Chile’s Central Valley wine-growing region, there are four sub-appellations, one of which is the Maule Valley—and it is one of the largest and most historical appellations in all of Chile. While the Central Valley has an overall warm climate, the Maule Valley tends to be a bit cooler than the other more northerly sub-appellations in this region, giving Maule Valley wines more acidity and freshness. Such is the case for the wines of Alcance.
Alcance was established in the early 1990s when Jackson Family Wines first came to Chile. Spearheaded by Jess Jackson, Randy Ullom was brought on board to help oversee the wine portfolio in 1993 (later promoted to Winemaster in 1997), and Chilean-born Winemaker Andres Sanchez joined the team in 1994. You may know of Sanchez through his work with Vigno—an organization dedicated to promoting old vine Carignan in Chile.
Speaking of Vigno, Alcance’s 2013 Vigno Carignan from old vines that are dry farmed was the most interesting wine that I tasted from the Alcance collection. I enjoy the meaty and savory quality of the aromatics that are so evident right away, hovering above the glass. Deep and complex, the nose unfolds with floral aromas, peppered meat, black pepper, plum and raspberry. In the mouth, the wine expresses a lot of structure and freshness, with gentle tannin. It is soft on entry, though becomes more angular and dry on the mid-palate; then, it finishes dry with tannin, spice-filled fruit and a ton of black pepper that lingers on the finish. In the glass, dried cherries abound and the fruit feels lively, expansive and open. This is a well-made Vigno and simply put, a very enjoyable wine.
Carmenère is a grape you may already likely associate with Chile, as it has sort of transformed itself from the frumpy stepchild of Bordeaux to the beautiful Cinderella of Chile. In the Maule Valley, Carmenère has certainly found a true home in its expressive and spice-filled profile. Alcance’s 2014 Carmenère shows soft and gentle aromatics of spiced red fruit, white pepper and a touch of meatiness; there are also some aromas of vanilla and cocoa, alongside gravel and warm soil. This wine certainly has a complex aromatic profile… one that keeps unfolding as the wine sees air. On the palate, this Carmenère enters the mouth softly, but still with a tannic grip that keeps your palate on its toes. Spiced plums and red fruit lead to a meaty finish, with some notes of dark chocolate. There is a lot of structure here, with some noticeable angles, but those characteristics begin to soften up after an hour or two open. I recommend decanting this wine for about an hour to let the wine soften and fully shine in its red-fruited and spiced profile.
The 2014 Merlot is a different, but equally as enjoyable wine. Aromas of vanilla, sweet baking spice, red cherry, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco leaf and wet clay make for an enchanting aromatic profile. As expected, this Merlot is very silky, but still shows medium tannin and freshness. There are soft red cherry and black plum flavors, in addition to barrel-aged characteristics like vanilla and sweet baking spices. This wine has a very easygoing texture and soft drinkability to it, with that sweet tobacco flavor lingering nicely on the finish. This is a classy Merlot from Chile.