Region/Appellation: Aconcagua Valley
Country Hierarchy: Chile
Grape/Blend: Bordeaux Blend Red
Food Suggestion: Beef and Venison
Wine Style: Red – Bold and Structured
Alcohol Content: 12 – 14%
Notes: Ownership: Founded by Eduardo Chadwick and Robert Mondavi, Sena is now owned by Vina Errazuriz. Indicative blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Aconcagua Valley Wine
The Aconcagua Valley is a wine-producing region of Chile, located 60 miles (100km) north of the capital, Santiago. It was long thought that this hot, dry valley was not suitable for growing wine grapes – the Chilean wine pioneer Don Maximiano Errazuriz was ridiculed when he planted his first vines here – but the quality of the region’s modern-day Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot has robustly reversed this opinion.
Vines and cactus in the Aconcagua Valley ©Jonathan Reeve
The winery started by Errazuriz dominates the area but has been joined by other producers of note. ‘Sena’, a wine produced as a joint venture between Vina Errazuriz and Robert Mondavi, came second at the 2004 Berlin Tasting, ahead of wines from Italy and France. It is grown in a single vineyard with a unique mesoclimate at the heart of the Aconcagua Valley.
The Aconcagua Valley takes its name from the eponymous river flowing through it, which in turn is named after the 22841ft (6962m) Mt. Aconcagua at its eastern edge. This Andean giant, whose name means ‘stone sentinel’, is the highest mountain in the Americas and directly contributes to the terroirs found in the valley below.
Measuring around 60 miles (100km) in length, the valley runs between the slopes of the Andes in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. Many wine-growing areas are closely linked to the river and follow its course as it brings fresh meltwater (and mineral-laden silt) down from the Andean peaks to the valley floor. This topography, common to many of Chile’s wine-growing areas, means that vineyard altitude in Aconcagua varies from 3300ft (1000m) in the east to 160ft (50m) in the west. It also creates a distinctive climatic characteristic: as the warm, dry land of the region heats up during the afternoon, the hot air in the east rises rapidly upwards, sucking in cooler air from the Pacific Ocean to the west. This process is reversed as the land cools down in the evening. These daily breezes moderate the otherwise high temperatures found in the Aconcagua Valley and reduce the risk of vine disease. The Antarctic ‘Humboldt Current’ which flows up the west coast of Chile helps to maintain this effect.
The Aconcagua Valley lies at a latitude of 32°S (the equivalent latitude in the northern hemisphere crosses through northern Africa and the Middle East), and it is thanks to the climatic and geographical conditions described above that quality wine can be produced in the Aconcagua Valley.
A Bordeaux Blend, at its most basic, is any combination of those grape varieties typically used to make the red wines of Bordeaux. The phrase, which seems to have originated with British wine merchants in the 19th Century, relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself (© Copyright material, Wine-Searcher.com). Far from being an officially defined or legal term, it is almost never used for wine-labeling purposes (although it occasionally appears on back labels). Its equivalent in the United States is Meritage, which is not only legally defined, but also a registered trademark.
Red Bordeaux Blends are known for their powerful structure and deep flavors. Dark fruits and berries such as plum and blackcurrant are commonly used to describe the flavors of red Bordeaux, although there is an unlimited range of terms that have been ascribed to them. Tannins tend to be relatively high in these wines, giving them a firm structure.
Blending red Bordeaux wine
Cabernet Sauvignon is widely accepted as a compulsory component of any Bordeaux Blend, with Merlot following close behind. In fact, the majority of Bordeaux Blend wines are often made exclusively from a blend of these two varieties. The remaining components are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, used in varying combinations and proportions. Even Carmenere is on the list of possible ingredients, despite being rarely used by modern Bordeaux vineyards (notable exceptions include Haut-Bailly, Brane-Cantenac and Clerc-Milon).
With the global wine industry expanding and developing at pace, the use of the term “Bordeaux Blend” is changing. Although a product of the Old World, it remains a useful concept, allowing the wine industry and enthusiasts everywhere to talk about Bordeaux-style red wines as an international group, irrespective of regionality.
Flexibility and a useful vagueness are key assets of the term “Bordeaux Blend”, but are also its Achilles’ heel; if it becomes too broad or too widely used it will lose its meaning. Is a Bordeaux Blend still a Bordeaux Blend if it contains Zinfandel, Sangiovese or Syrah? Without a formal definition to go by, the answer to that question lies entirely in the collective consciousness of those who use the phrase. Provided that Bordeaux’s vignerons don’t discover a new grape variety (Cabernet Sauvignon is only a few hundred years old), the term’s definition remains relatively clear.
The red Bordeaux style has reached almost every winegrowing country, with new candidates looking to emulate Bordeaux’s success. North and South America, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all have their own expressions of the Bordeaux Blend. Even countries in North Africa and the Middle East produce their own interpretations of the style.
For more information on the various permutations of the Bordeaux Blend, please see Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot, Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc – Merlot.
Food matches for Bordeaux Blend wines include:
- Steak entrecôte marchand de vin (red-wine sauce and shallots)
- Grass-fed wagyu rib-eye fillet
- Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic
(sources : wine-searcher)