The neon Valdivieso sign - a larger-than-life bottle of sparkling wine being poured into two flutes - is so beloved a fixture in Santiago that it was declared a national monument in 1954. The winery was the first sparkling wine producer in the Americas, having produced its popular bubbly since 1879.
And while the historic winery still enjoys wide popularity for its sparkling wine, it is also exploring Chilean terroir to create a range of still wines for both domestic and export markets.
I had the opportunity to meet Valdivieso winemaker Brett Jackson in New York recently at a media event. Brett began making wine in his native New Zealand, and -- in a career that has spanned decades -- he also has made wine in Napa, Stellenbosch, and Southwest France. Brett brought this world-wide experience with him when he joined the winery, and he's made great strides in strengthening its still wine program. We tasted through some of the winery's current releases of red wines, and I was impressed by their overall elegance and balance.
Valdivieso Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2015, Curico Valley - A gorgeous, rich rendition of Cab Franc with ripe red berries and minerality.
Eclat Cinsault 2017 - A delicate wine, with a translucent ruby color. This wine also had red berries on the palate and a crisp light weight. Brett told us it is dry farmed from vines on their own rootstock and fermented in stainless steel to preserve its freshness.
Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta 2014, Colchuagua Valley - Brett informed us that the "crazy horse" reference in the name was from one of the winery owners who was a larger than life character. He explained that the Caballo Loco wines are meant to reflect the "essence" of where they come from. This wine from Apalta is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. The rich, full-bodied wine has ripe red and black fruits and a mineral finish - a bold wine for steaks, chops, and hearty stews.
Caballo Loco Grand Cru Limari 2014, Limari Valley - This wine showcases Syrah from the Limari Valley, where its proximity to the coast produces a cool influence but there is also plenty of sunshine. The vineyard soils contain calcium as well as salt. This was another big wine, with full mouthfeel, and it exhibited fully ripe black fruits, spice, good acidity, slight minerality and a long finish.
Valdivieso Eclat Old Vines Blend Vigno 2010 - This project blends old vine Carignan and Mourvedre from the Maule Valley with at least 40 to 60 years of age. All of the grapes are from bush vines that are dry farmed. The resulting wine has a delightful freshness, with sweet bing cherry flavor -- and a high acidity that makes it ageworthy.
The still red wines from Valdivieso that we tasted were high quality and well-balanced, and all sell at appealing price points between $25-$35. For lighter style reds, reach for the Cinsault or Cabernet Franc. And for a bold red pour, the Caballo Loco line delivers.