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Viña Los Vascos: Great Value Chilean Wines with a French Accent
By Ed McCarthy
Mar 24, 2020
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Among the Spanish immigrants that settled in Chile during the 18th an 19th centuries were the Basques.  The Echenique family, of Basque origin, were pioneers in planting grapes in Chile’s Colchagua Valley.  The grapes they and others planted were mainly French grapes, clearly the most renowned wine grapes at that time, with a proven track record. 

In 1988, Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild—the corporate name of the Lafite branch of the esteemed French Rothschild wine empire—decided to expand their wine estates into Chile.  After a careful search of more than 100 wineries, the Rothschild group acquired Los Vascos (which means “The Basques,” in honor of its Basque origins).  Los Vascos is located in the Caneten Valley of the Colchagua region, about 25 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  The Caneten Valley provides a perfect microclimate for quality wine production, with daily winds allowing average temperatures between 68° to 77°F.  Currently, 1,581 acres of the 5,000-acre estate are planted with wine grapes, making Los Vascos one of the largest vineyards in the Colchagua Valley.  About 85% of the grapes planted are Cabernet Sauvignon, with 5% Carmenère, 4% Syrah, 1% Malbec, and 5% Chardonnay.

Recently, I tasted through eight of Los Vascos’ current releases.  I was impressed with the high quality, freshness, and cleanness of the wines at value prices:

Los Vascos Rosé 2019 ($12):  Pale pink color, aged in stainless steel tanks only.  Made from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre.  Fresh and elegant, a perfect apéritif wine.  90

Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10):  Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc; grapes are sourced from the Casablanca Valley, on the coast, and from Colchagua Valley.  Classic Sauvignon Blanc aromas of citrus, peach, and pineapple.  The wine is a terrific value at this price.  91

Los Vascos Chardonnay 2019 ($10):  Made from 100% Chardonnay.  Because of the unusual heat of the growing season, grapes were picked nine days earlier than planned.  The wine was partially aged on its lees to enhance richness.    The wine has aromas of honeydew melon.  89             

Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($10):  Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; aged in stainless steel tanks only.  It’s refreshing to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon without oaky flavors; intense ruby in color; flavors of cherry, plum, and hints of black pepper.  A fine value.  91

Los Vascos Grande Rèserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($17):   Made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 5% Carmenère; 50% of the fermented juice was aged in oak barrels for 12 months.  Aromas of red and black berries, graphite, cedar, and white pepper.  Soft tannins, well-balanced, with a lasting finish.  93

Los Vascos Grande Rèserve Carmenère 2018 ($19):  Made from 100% Carmenère; the late-ripening Carmenère variety developed slowly but fully.  It shows aromas of ripe blackberries and grilled eggplant, with flavors of green peppers and green olives.  Wine was aged in stainless steel; round, ripe tannins on the palate, with good structure and balance.  92

Los Vascos Le Dix de Los Vascos 2015 ($57):  Made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenère, and 5% Syrah; grapes are carefully selected and hand harvested.  Wine is aged in oak barrels (50% new) for 18 months.  Raspberry and ripe cherry aromas, with hints of black pepper and cedar.  An elegant wine, really well-balanced, with refined tannins.  It can be enjoyed now, but should fully mature in 8 to 10 years.  This is Los Vascos’ premium wine.  95

Los Vascos Le Dix de Ls Vascos 2008 ($53):  Made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Carmenère, and 7% Syrah; a fine vintage in the region.  Wine was aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak barrels; very deep purple-red color; fresh, ripe, red fruit aromas and flavors.  The wine is well-integrated and ready to drink; supple tannins.  94

Viña Los Vascos wines presents something like, “A Tale of Two Wines”:  Great value wines that retail for $10 to $12, and premium wines (Le Dix) that show their elegance and class.  They are a tribute to Les Domaines Barons de Rothschild and to the winemakers of Los Vascos.  And to the vineyards of Chile for producing these excellent wines. 

More wine columns:     Ed McCarthy