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Neyen, The Spirit Of Apalta

December 23, 2022 Leave a comment

What do you think of Chilean wines? Have you had Chilean wines which took your breath away?

While you ponder that, let’s talk about Chilean wines.

Nobody can question today’s grandstanding of the Chilean wines in the world. According to Wikipedia, Chile is 7th largest wine producer in the world and 5th largest exporter – the ranking positions change every year, but there is a clear growth trend for Chilean wines, both in terms of volume and value. And Chile is one of the worldwide leaders in sustainable and organic viticulture, setting a clear example for the rest of the wine-producing world.

Not changing the subject, but what do you think of organic wines? I remember that 10-12 years ago, organic wines were few far and between, and those proudly displaying “organic” on the labels were largely undrinkable. The situation changed, mostly unnoticeably, and I can say that today at least 25% of the wines I get to drink during a year are made with organic grapes, and this number is definitely higher if we are talking about the samples I receive for the reviews.

If we are touching memory lane, who remembers Chilean flagships, Fronterra and Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay available for around $10 in 1.5L size? Those were the stars of any party, taste being much less important than the price. And again, slowly but surely this all changed, and Chilean wines now commend the full respect of wine lovers around the world, on the level of prized Bordeaux, Napa Cabs, and Brunellos.

Now, the reason behind this little Chilean wine excerpt is my recent encounter with pure pleasure – you know how much I value that element of wine drinking – the wine should give pleasure, otherwise, what is the point of drinking it. The wine I want to share with you today is the 2017 Neyen Apalta Estate Chile (13.5% ABV, $64.99, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Carmenere, 14 months in 225L French oak barrels, 6 months in 3,000L foudres).

Neyen is a unique estate, a parcel of land situated between the Andes Mountains and the Coastal Range. Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted there in 1889, joined by Carmenere in 1936. Soils at this organically farmed, low-intervention vineyard provide good drainage, and the semi-arid climate allows for the slow ripening of the grapes, maybe with the assistance of the Neyen, the Spirit of Apalta. Grapes are harvested by hand at the first light, sorted, destemmed, and subjected to the magic of winemaking. In most of the years, the blend stays at a consistent 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Carmenere, even though in some of the years different proportions are used.

When I opened the bottle and poured the first glass, I was really unconvinced. The wine was drinkable but didn’t incite any “oh my god” reactions which I expected at least based on the price. I pumped the air out and put the bottle aside for the evening.

The next day, I pulled the stopper out, poured a glass and the very first whiff brought the sacred “oh wow”. The cassis and eucalyptus were enveloping the senses, making it impossible to put the glass down and promising a lot more to come with the sip. Wine requires time to be enjoyed, you can’t hurry it. Finally, after a minute or so of just enjoying the aroma, I went for a sip. To my delight, the aromatic experience continued in full force on the palate. More cassis, more eucalyptus, layers of dark fruit, and silky, soft tannins were making the taste buds dance. The experience was taking me precisely between the worlds – the precision and structure of the old world Bordeaux was perfectly coupled with the youthful exuberance of the new world Napa Cab. Don’t get me wrong – this wine doesn’t need Bordeaux or Napa references, this wine perfectly exists in a class of its own, a perfect combination of ungrafted French Cabernet Sauvignon from 130 years old vines and Chile’s own Carmenere. (Drinkability 9-)

Here you are, my friends.  A superb Chilean wine that is sure to bring a smile to your face. With holidays or without, winter or summer – this wine has a lot to give. Magic of the Neyen, the Spirit of Apalta? I will let you find the bottle and decide on your own.

By the way, how about the question I asked you at the beginning? Can you name some Chilean wines that took your breath away?

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